Today I wrote the date, 06/15/14, and simply stared at it in amazement. I cannot believe that an entire week has already past since I first boarded the plane headed for Alaska. I have spent this time listening, learning, and experiencing all that the Yup’ik culture and Bethel community have been willing to share with me. Tears of sadness, tears of adventure, and tears of laughter have been shed as each day offers new insight to my Alaskan experience.
Tears of sadness were shed on Wednesday, the most emotionally heavy day of the trip. We spent a whopping eight hours getting a crash course on the way in which Native people were treated by religious and government institutions and learning of the cultural trauma this atrocious treatment has caused. Villages were destroyed, families were torn apart, and a great cultural divide was created between the generational gaps of the Yup’ik people. I shed tears for the Native Alaskan’s as I heard of their stories, but I also shed tears of shame for the actions of my country and my religion. This was such a recent trauma, occurring during my grandparents youth. My grandparents, in being citizens of the United States and parishioners of the Catholic Church, were directly associated with the parties responsible for the degradation of the Yup’ik people. I am fairly certain they did not know what was being done to the Yup’ik people, but the idea that they were living ordinary lives while people in Alaska were having their lives torn apart, makes me wonder what terrible things may currently be happening in the world, while I am simply living my ordinary life. Wednesdays events taught me of the wise healing powers of talking and forgiving, while also inspiring me to become a more informed and active citizen.
Tears of adventure came about every time the crisp Alaskan wind whipped past my face, causing my eyes to water. They watered as I trudged through the Alaskan tundra, sped across the Kuskokwim river, and ran about Bethel shooting B-roll in the rain (B-roll is the fancy term for the videos that play during a voice over). Throughout my various Bethel adventures, I have come to see that everything in Bethel is tied to nature. The fish of the river, the moose of the land, and the berries of the tundra are all essential to the subsistence lifestyle of the Yup’ik people. After eating a freshly caught salmon and smelling the relaxing aura of tundra tea, I now understand how the people of Bethel can survive completely isolated from the outside world. The beauty and peacefulness of the wilderness is captivating and the way in which the Yup’ik people live seems to be the way in which humans were originally intended to live.
Finally, my week has been filled with tears of laughter. Whether it be from Tim’s conniving banana gram tactics, “C-teams” kayaking adventures, or Tony’s unique input on every situation, there has never been a dull moment on this trip. As our time left in Bethel is slowly diminishing, I hope that a few more tears of laughter are shed and that I am able to soak in every last moment of this wonderful experience!
Claire Storey wrote a great blog highlighting some of the laughable moments of the trip- view it here!
Also, a quick shoutout to my dad on Father’s Day:)- Happy Fathers Day Daddyo! You da Bomb!