Sitting in what can only be described as an oblong shape, (why do groups always suck at making circles?) we all began our last reflection as a group.  It was quite the experience. We laughed, we cried, we did it all.  We all echoed the same sentiment: gratitude. We were all grateful for the community that we had formed together as a group and the ties that we had formed with the community in Bethel. When we started this trip, I wasn’t really sure how everything would go. Everyone I had heard from who went on previous backpack journalism trips said that it would change my life. They were right. As dramatic as it sounds, I know that I cannot go back to being the same person that I was before I went to Bethel, Alaska. Bethel taught me about many things. It taught me about climate change on a personal level, about subsistence living, historical trauma, and native american– specifically Yup’ik– traditions in comparison to the Western way of life. I have long been a believer in the dangers of climate change. However, it was completely different to see how it was affecting individual people. I learned of the struggles that the people in Alaska are facing to hunt and gather what they need to survive because of the effects that global warming has on the habitats around them and also because of the pressures of Western society. When the missionaries brought modernity to the villages in Alaska, they tried to sever the ties that the people had to their native cultures. Rose Dominic– a Yup’ik woman who teaches about historical trauma– gave us a workshop that changed my views on the Western way of life vs. the native traditional life. Coming back to the “lower 48,” I know that I cannot continue to contribute to climate change. I have to be conscious of my effect on the world and my views on the people in it. There are so many cultures like the Yup’iks that deserve a chance to uphold their traditions, but cannot do so if the rest of the world fails to take them into account and to respect their way of life and their beliefs.  It is my responsibility to share Bethel with the world and to hope that they will love it, and that it will touch them as much as I have.

Claire Storey

About Claire Storey

My Name is Claire Storey. I am a Journalism and Graphic Design double major with a minor in English. I have always had a passion for travel and for sharing in the life experience. I aim to help convey the human experience by expanding my world view and revealing it to others.

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