Kuskokwim Sauna

Making a difference

Alexie Nicholai of Oscarville and his son-in-law Shorty Salzbrun of Bethel check on Alexie's new steambath house. The new maqivik was constructed in Bethel and brought to the village on skids.

by Greg Lincoln

Alexie Nicholai of Oscarville is the happy owner of a new steambath house or maqivik. Shorty Salzbrun, owner of Shorty’s Shop in Bethel, who is also Alexie’s son-in-law, had the steamhouse custom-built for him. All the work on the maqivik was done in Bethel by a team of dedicated workers. And when it was completed Shorty had it hauled over the river ice on a skid.

“My father-in-law is 87 years old and his steambath was in bad shape,” said Shorty.

Shorty himself built the skid for it and supplied all the materials for the project, including the stove. The carpentry work was done by Gonders Hoffman. Jamie Kelly completed the fire protection metalworks inside the steamhouse. The building was constructed at Took Laraux’s shop. And when the job was completed, Salzbrun Services towed the structure down to Oscarville where Shorty’s Shop set it in place.

It was a great project with good teamwork and all the designing and construction was done on it last spring, in fact. But by the time it was ready, mother nature had made the river ice unsafe for delivery.

So last week it make the trek to its new home in Oscarville, Kuiggayagaq.

“It got done last spring but the ice got bad and we couldn’t take it down so we took it down this year,” Shorty said.

It was smooth sailing at a nice pace on the Kuskokwim with the skidster.

“The other thing is, I was going to see if people were interested in these,” said Shorty, who is a skilled metalsmith and welder. “We can build them and I can get them down to the river and they could take over from there and pull them to their village.”

Alexie said that he is very pleased with his new maqivik. He said his old one was starting to deteriorate.

“Cangalkenritaqa quyakaqa taugaam. Una aruuq acia ak’allaurcami,” he said. “I’m very happy for my new steambath. The bottom of this one was starting to break down because it is so old.”

He had plans to move his old one when the ground thaws. He also has a fan to use with his new steambath in the summer to blow the mosquitoes away.

So if you’re thinking of a steambath of your very own that can be towed to your village or location this winter, please get a hold of Shorty at Shorty’s Shop in Bethel.