It’s already day four here in Alaska, and each day continues to teach me something new about myself, the Yup’ik people and their culture. We have been shown such hospitality and kindness in the short amount of time that we’ve been here.
When we first arrived in Bethel, I had a certain image in my mind of what we were going to see. We had been preparing for our trip months before through articles, videos, photos, and stories, but nothing could prepare me for what we’d actually be encountering.
As we’ve progressed through interviews, and heard a variety of different testimonials, I’ve noticed a common theme amongst many of the people here. We as journalists, as a group here to film a documentary and create and share a story, we’ve been asking a lot of the hard questions. We came here to address the issues facing Bethel; issues of historical trauma, institutional racism, depression, disconnection, and climate change. Yet it’s in situations like these that we forget to look at the positive side as well.
In high school, I remember that when a hard or sad situation was depicted in an area, those feelings of sadness and hardship are all I would associate that area with afterwards. It wasn’t until I got to college, and I got out into the world and heard stories of life, happiness, and positive assets to those communities. It gave me a new perspective and a better understanding. It opened my eyes to seeing both sides of a community, that a place will always been more than its negative qualities.
Bethel is so much more than its issues. It’s about its people; Their dedication to their culture, their tradition, their way of life. It is a society founded on connections, and family, trudging through the struggles of life together, on a beautifully simple path.
During my time here, as I continued to be reminded of this through my experiences and the people I meet and listen to, it helps me to see Bethel as an even greater place. This society is not one that needs me or anyone else to fix it, or address its problems, but instead is a good place.
As we’ve heard so many times in the last few days, from so many amazing people, Bethel is a place with so much to offer. It’s a place rich in culture, values, and love; and I’m falling more and more in love with it.