What drew you to the Caleb Scholars Program?
What drew me to this program was everything it stands for and supports, from the person who first inspired it to the many people who keep it going, to students just like me who seek opportunities and resources while on their academic journey. I was also touched hearing the personal stories and connections from the students this program invests in. I first learned about Caleb Scholars through a poster and thought “it would be so cool to be a part of that program!”, and here I am, a first-generation student who, with honor, is now a part of the Caleb Scholar Legacy.
What does Inuit-led environmental conservation mean to you?
When I think of Inuit-led environmental conservation, I think of Inuit people in rural communities who care for the land, water, natural resources, and environment. It’s all our people have known for years and since we live a survival-based traditional lifestyle, we are accustomed to protect it as it continuously provides and nourishes. I also think of our elders who hold so much knowledge about our way of life and impart their wisdom onto us, so we can continue in our Inupiat culture and live in our unique heritage. The topic of conservation and the environment will always bring me back to my cultural roots and remind me of the great responsibility I have to preserve and protect our lands, heritage, traditions, and most importantly, our subsistence way of life, just as our ancestors did.
How do you engage with environmental conservation in school and/ or at home?
I engage with environmental conservation by continually reflecting on how I was raised and the values of Inupiat culture, and living by that each day. When out on the land or the waters, we are encouraged to take our trash with us, to take only what we need, and not to leave anything behind, especially when fish and game are involved. And this applies not only in subsistence activities but daily, at home or wherever you may be. We can do something every day to contribute to less pollution and advocate for that which we inhabit and what surrounds us through our actions and in our daily lives.
What are your educational and career goals? How do your goals relate to environmental conservation?
My educational goal is to obtain my double major bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Inupiaq Language from UAF. I would also like to go for my master’s once I complete my undergrad. I am passionate about language and wellness efforts, especially on the university level. My career goal is to become an academic advisor, wellness counselor, and to support students who come from rural communities. What inspired me to pursue these goals is my own journey, upbringing, and the many challenges I faced (and overcame!).
From a wellness perspective, I believe these goals relate to environmental conservation because to care for our land, water, and environment is to care for the well-being of the people who reside in our communities. How can we sustain our culture, heritage, and traditional way of life without healthy people who make it up, live in its values, and protect all that it encompasses? Subsistence activities are a big part of our Inupiat culture and finding ways to ensure we can continue in that is vital.
Please share a reflection of when have you have felt a connection to the ocean or the land.
One memory that comes to mind is a fishing and hunting trip I went on with my parents, a family friend, and my siblings. I forgot how young I was at the time. We went to Selawik Lake and then further out to some other areas to fish and look around. We had a successful day fishing and scouting, and it was getting dark, so we started heading back. I noticed we stopped and was wondering what had happened. “Something wrong with the boat?” I asked. “No…I think we’re lost.” the adults said. I remember feeling a bit scared because it’s a natural instinct to feel that way when you’re lost, not knowing what will happen next or how long you will be out there. But as I watched them observe the land with binoculars, there was also this reassuring feeling that everything would be okay. We had fresh fish to eat, enough gas, a GPS, a partly working staticky radio, and supplies to camp out if needed. After driving for a couple hours, we made it home. On this trip, I got to see firsthand how effective and important the passed down knowledge is from our elders and how important it is to listen. The reassurance I had being out there connected me more with my culture, land, water, and surroundings like it never had before, and as frightening as it was, I’m grateful for this experience.