In the Words of the People

For the past week, I have spent every night writing and rewriting a blog that I have decided can never be written. I searched through my mental thesaurus for the perfect words to describe the great culture and wisdom that is present in this off-the grid town and discussed my ideas with anyone who was willing to listen. However, the more I wrote, the more I erased.

I then came to realize that my words would never be sufficient when attempting to explain the powerful relationship the Yup’ik people have between their identity and the landscape or when trying to emote the heart-brokenness displayed by the natives when they see the effects of climate change in their homeland. The only words that can create this impact, are the words of those who first spoke these truths to me.

Michelle Dewitt explained the complexity of the Yup’ik way of life.

“Cultural identity, language, and lands are interconnected in inseparable ways.”

Patrick Tam told of the unique difference between the Yup’ik subsistence lifestyle and the mainstream American food culture.

“A white man’s food has no memory.”

A man named Fritz warned of the danger tied to the looming king salmon regulations

“Lives could be lost…that’s a guarantee.”

A woman named Rose warned of the danger tied to our mistreatment of the land.

“If the world starts making noise, so will Mother Nature.”

And a boy named Nelson tearily explained that the noise of Mother Nature can already be heard.

“We’re living climate change; this is ground zero for us…We need to find a way to say sorry to the land”

The stories I have heard throughout my time in Bethel are not only important for the people of Bethel, but also for the people of the earth for generations and generations to come.

In the Yup’ik culture, stories are told from generation to generation and carry with them an important lesson or a moral. In continuation of this tradition, I hope that our backpack journalism program will be able to pass on the story of the Yup’ik culture, tradition, and land while promoting the idea that the land is a gift, and we need to treat it well.

The fish I cut and ate for lunch on my last day in Bethel. The Yup'ik people rely on fish such as these every day as part of their subsistence lifestyle.
The fish I cut and ate for lunch on my last day in Bethel. The Yup’ik people rely on fish such as these every day as part of their subsistence lifestyle.

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