Part 2 of my Interview with Kate Zuray of YukonMen.
You can follow Kate @:
Below is part 1 of my interview with Kate Zuray:
I’d like to thank all of the families associated with YukonMen who have shown me nothing but patience and kindness in our interactions. I hope that all who read this will support them in all of their projects and passions, including Stan’s amazing book above!
I hope that everyone that has enjoyed the show and read my articles will feel the great sense of family that these fine people show us week after week. I hope that it also teaches us that even though we all have different backgrounds, races and beliefs, what truly makes us a great nation is the respect and sense of kindness that we show one another. We all count, and our importance in our families and social circles are most felt when we are giving of ourselves unconditionally with a pure heart and an open mind.
Jim Jax: What is the coldest temperature you’ve been in and what did it physically feel like?
The coldest temperature recorded in Tanana was -76 F on January 27, 1989. From my memory I have experienced -60 F in the month of January. I was getting ready to drive somewhere in my car and it would not start even though it was plugged in. I didn’t want to push the car’s limit so I just let it sit until it warmed up and then the car started. My friend didn’t turn his car off, and just let it run for a whole week. Yes, even during the night, because he knew it wouldn’t start again if he turned it off.
I walked outside to take an iPhone picture of the frozen frosted trees and my phone immediately shut off and froze. It physically starts to cause pain and your skin starts to hurt and you run back inside. I basically wear ski pants for the entire month of January even when I’m inside because I like to dress up and keep myself warm. During this time you don’t go outside often unless you really have to, like to go get water from the Laundromat. You spend a lot of time inside with friends and family when it’s this cold.
Jim Jax: How difficult was it to go from living in Alaska and then all of a sudden being in the public eye?
I don’t consider myself being in the public eye; now Joey and Stan; my brother and dad are more in the public eye. When my dad leaves Tanana and goes to any city, he constantly has people coming up to him wanting a picture or just to meet the Yukon Man. If someone knows who I am, I’ll say “wow you must be a very big fan”. My name Zuray is more recognizable than my face, which is completely okay with me though. For example, if I go to the post office and they see my name on the mail they know who I am and usually ask “how’s your dad doing?” or “I love Joey”. I kind of got scared during season 1 of YukonMen. I remember going on my Facebook and I had 500 friend requests in just a couple days. It kind of scared me and I ended up deleting my Facebook for 3 years or more. But I love when people come up to me and talk to me about my family or the show. I’m always friendly and open to conversation.
Jim Jax: What part of your life living in Alaska isn’t shown on the show?
So much isn’t on the show, we do a lot of cool fun things as a family and with friends. However it shouldn’t be on TV, because it wouldn’t be entertaining or shocking enough. I’m presently a student. I have been a water treatment operator for the past three years. I am an activist for subsistence hunting & fishing and attend meetings about the health of the salmon run on the Yukon River, I’ll be going to Canada soon to learn about the salmon communities on the upper Yukon River. I am a member of the Tanana Traditional Dance group where we wear our native regalia and sing traditional Athabascan songs. It was filmed a couple times but never went on the episodes, which is fine. I totally get that the viewers want to see guns and wild game.
Jim Jax: I’ve enjoyed watching your brother mature on the show; what type of relationship do you have with him?
Joey and I are very close. We are two years and two days apart in age, so we spent a lot of time growing up side by side together. I sometimes say when he is happy I’m happy and when he is sad I’m sad. We always text and keep up with happenings in each other’s lives. We have similar personalities, beliefs and political views so sometimes I’ll just speak to him about frustrating things and we back each other up because we think the same.
As children I was the boss, but as adults he has acted like an older brother to me and even corrected some mistakes I’ve made. Once he even heard I was dating a certain person and put a stop to it because he didn’t believe the person deserved me and I’m thanking him now. Joey is courageous and I learned this through hard times in our family. Sometimes I will keep my mouth shut and not tell people to be better because I don’t like confrontation, but if Joey loves you, he will tell you to be better and to stop bad habits, be a better parent, and to me that’s courage.
He will also stick up for himself or his family at any time. He has taught me to be stronger and not just hide in the dark when things get hard.
It seems like many people in the show have very deep relationships with their family. It must feel good knowing what a familial bond you have especially in times of trouble and need. I’m a very independent person and I like to spend time by myself, but I need my family and I appreciate their support & love.
My parents did a lot of things to keep us close. A simple thing was, we always ate dinner together sitting down at the table every night. It takes a lot of work to make any relationship or family unit work though. It’s not always perfect and we have disagreements but work through them. Another way we stay close is communication. We are always contacting each other to see how everything is going and we tell each other I love you. I’m very grateful for my family and I have to remind myself to not take them for granted. In Tanana, everyone belongs to a family, and if you don’t have a family, someone will adopt you into their family.
Jim Jax: What would you like people to know about you that isn’t portrayed on the show?
That I’m a happy fun outgoing person who loves to laugh with my family and make jokes. We are not constantly in turmoil and pain. Yes it’s a hard life, but it’s also healthy and a lifestyle we choose to live. I’m really excited for summer because we all head up to camp and in the morning we make a huge pancake breakfast while talking about our ancestor’s oral history and traditions. We will work all day and then eat a big salad from our many gardens and a salmon dinner, usually grilled by Joey.
Jim Jax: What are some of your future aspirations?
I haven’t filmed a lot because I’ve been going to school and working. I’ve been very focused on my goals. It didn’t happen over night and its been many years of staying motivated and I want to continue reaching my goals. I recently got a great job that will allow me to be in Tanana more so that’s really exciting. I want to repair our fish camp, because a lot of things are aging. I also want to build a huge kitchen shack, and eventually build my own house in Tanana. I feel like it’s been so much hard work to get where I am today and now I just want to start enjoying life, doing things that make me happy. I want to do things like buying a four wheeler, boat & motor and spending time on the river and mountains. Some hobbies/aspirations I am interested in is film and continue concentration of the health of the salmon run in the rivers.
Jim Jax: What are you most proud of in regards to your family being on Yukon Men.
When this show first came out there was a lot of backlash and jealousy. I even told my dad that I didn’t want to associate myself with the name, but we learned to not let that bother us and just kept working & filming. When people come up to me and tell me “your dad is my hero” or “you’re brother is an amazing young man who takes care of his family”, it almost brings me to tears because everyone is seeing what I’ve seen all my life. I’m so proud to be their sister/daughter. So I’m most proud of the strong family values that people can see because it’s something we work hard on to have.