What drew you to the Caleb Scholars Program? Do you have a personal story about meeting Caleb, connection to his legacy, or family connection?
Because of Covid, I couldn’t get a regular job and had to help my mom take care of my two younger brothers, who couldn’t attend daycare and I was looking for additional scholarships to help pay for school when I found a Facebook post advertising for this scholarship. I thought the scholarship was only for students studying marine biology, but I decided to read more about it and I was glad I did.
My mom told me that Caleb Pungowiyi was from St. Lawrence Island, like her mother’s family is and that he was not only a marine advocate, but an advocate for Alaska Native culture, subsistence, language and art. I want to use art to advocate for our way of life and our cultures like he did.
What does marine conservation mean to you? How do you engage with marine conservation at school and/or at home?
For me, marine conservation means protecting the marine environment by using what I’ve learned from my culture, my family and what I have observed from nature. Conserving the marine environment is important to life itself, it’s about conserving indigenous culture and saving the world, as all life depends on our oceans being healthy. Without a healthy marine environment, we cannot truly live our subsistence based lives and our indigenous cultures would suffer from the lack of harvested marine foods and thousands of years of traditions, beliefs and values would also be affected.
What are your future educational and career goals? What are the top three things that are moving you toward those goals?
I choose to pursue a degree in art because I want to restore, preserve and analyze artifacts and works of art to preserve history and culture. A career in art conservation will allow me to use my artistic skills and knowledge of both art and science to advocate for the marine and arctic environment. While attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks, I will be pursuing an undergraduate degree in studio arts which will give me a background in painting, sculpting, ceramics, printing, graphic design, and photography. I plan on minoring in Alaskan Native Studies and art history. Art will always be a part of any community, especially the Alaska Native community. Art can be created any time, and even the smallest works can have the biggest impact and conservation of art helps to preserve and protect our culture.
The top three things that are moving me to my goals are wanting to do art for a living and making a career out of it, and Doing what makes me happy and art is what makes me happy. Lastly, being able to give back to the world one day and advocate for Alaska Native culture and preservation through art.
Can you share a memorable story from your past when you felt a relationship to the ocean or waterways?
I don’t have one specific memory that stands out, all the times I took my younger brothers beach combing are special to me. We would walk up and down the beach searching for anything that caught our attention. Trying to stay away from the stinky things that were washed ashore. Educated them on marine life and how it’s important to pick up trash. Telling them what is rare to find and watching their faces light up when finding a blue glasses rock, a dried starfish, or a piece of pottery made our walks fun and educational.