The focus of this year’s Tidelines journey was the 2016 and 2017 Our Alaskan Stories, films by past Mt. Edgecumbe High School students about their home communities in rural Alaska. Each of the films presented during this tour had its own unique story, but all touched in some way on themes of subsistence and cultural preservation. We wanted to engage communities in Southeast Alaska in dialogue about their own experiences with subsistence, climate change, and ways that cultures are adapting in a changing Alaska.
We traveled for one week to three communities in Southeast Alaska by ferry. Our first stop was Hoonah, followed by Juneau, then Gustavus. In each community we worked with middle and high school students as well as presenting in community spaces, like libraries, the University of Alaska Southeast, and local theaters.
The Tidelines Team
Four Mt. Edgecumbe High School graduates were a part of this tour, presenting the Our Alaskan Story films they created while still in high school. Michael Martin of Juneau presented his film, “Adapt” (2017); Haley Shervey of Craig presented “Predation” (2016); Alyssa Afcan of Nunam Iqua presented, “Yuuyaraq,” and Andrea Cook of Hydaburg, who was with us for the Juneau leg of the trip, presented her film, “Paddling to Shore.” In addition to these young, talented filmmakers, we were joined by Island Institute visiting writer, Gina Cole, from Auckland, New Zealand. Gina held creative writing workshops and gave readings from her collected short stories Black Ice Matter to open for our filmmakers.
Hoonah (Nov 15)
We arrived in the middle of the night in Hoonah, slept in the Presbyterian church, and spent the next day working with high school students at the school. We worked with two classes and had some amazing discussions with students about their own experiences with subsistence. Many of them noted that berries hadn’t been as plentiful or large in recent years due to a lack of snow and rainfall; others discussed the negative impacts of diminished salmon runs on subsistence and commercial fishing.
Juneau (Nov 15-19)
Juneau was our longest stop on the tour. Our first full day was spent at Yaakoosge Daakahidi High School where our filmmakers split up, each working with a separate group of students. After watching the films, students discussed the ways in which place informs identity and how Juneau and YDHS have impacted their sense of place and belonging. After the discussion, most groups did a creative writing exercise, working from an “I am From” poem template which asks writers to consider the specific smells, objects, surroundings, and expressions of a time and place in their childhood.
The next day, we worked with a group of young people from Juneau Youth Services at the downtown public library who shared their own stories of subsistence, noting again the ways that hunting and gathering have been affected by climate change. This group was particularly interested in learning more about the process of putting together a film and how you can tell your story through the medium.
While in Juneau the team was interviewed by KTOO’s Juneau Afternoon. The filmmakers discussed their work and what inspired them to tell a particular story from their home communities. Gina was interviewed, discussing her residency at the Island Institute and involvement in the Tidelines program. This radio event featured stories from the journey, including the thoughts and stories shared by people in the communities visited. In effect, the Tidelines journey becomes a story about stories, with new voices added to the narrative at each stop throughout the journey.
Finally, the Tidelines team put on two evening, public events. The first was held at the Gold Town Nickelodeon Theater and the second was held at University of Alaska Southeast. Discussion ranged from subsistence to cultivation of identity in a changing physical environment. We heard some strong perspectives on the ways that climate change has affected Native ways of being and existing on their own land and real fears for what this could mean for the future.
Gustavus (Nov 19-21)
In Gustavus we put on two evening events at the library: a screening of the Our Alaskan Stories films and a creative writing workshop and literary presentation led by Gina. Additionally, we spent one day working with middle and high school students at the Gustavus School, screening the OAS films and doing creative writing workshops. In addition to discussing subsistence, the students and staff at Gustavus School were very interested in the power of film to tell stories of place and change, and to integrate science in a way that is relatable and engaging to the public.
In addition, the Tidelines team was interviewed for two articles by the Juneau Empire!