I have seen some beautiful landscapes in my life, but none may quite compare to what I saw during the flight from Minneapolis to Anchorage.
The Backpack Journalism team left the Minneapolis airport around 10 p.m. on Sunday in complete darkness, but our plane flew into glowing twilight as we moved west to Alaska. Even though my watch read 2 a.m., the sky was telling me it was 7 p.m. Despite the confusion I felt, the light allowed me to see the breathtaking sights beneath us.
My favorite part of flying is looking out the window at the clouds, water, mountains and towns below, and during this five-hour flight, I was lucky enough to have a window seat and witness the beauty of Canada and Alaska. Clouds covered the landscape during many parts of the flight, but at times you could see the rising mountains peaking out in the midst of the puffy whiteness. Because of the excitement I felt to finally be in Alaska and the stunning scenes, the flight was an experience I will never forget.
I noticed the change in landscape immediately the next day as we flew into Bethel. Although it doesn’t have mountains like Anchorage, the flat, damp tundra is beautiful in its own way, and more importantly, is integral to life in this area.
On Tuesday during our first day of filming, we talked to each of the three people we interviewed about the subsistence lifestyle of the Yup’ik culture and the challenges that the people face because of climate change and other environmental issues.
We asked a common question about the connection between landscape and identity in the Bethel and surrounding community. One of our interviewees explained that just as she has a connection to the place she is from in the Midwest, the Yup’ik people share this same experience but in an even deeper way. The land provides much of what they need to survive. Now that salmon fishing restrictions have been put in place, the huge stress with potentially devastating results is threatening the subsistence lifestyle and the Yup’ik culture.
In just three days in Bethel, I have learned so much and see an emerging storyline for our documentary. I am eager to hear from the Yup’ik people and other individuals who can share more about the importance of this beautiful landscape and life in the region.