Jinx? Hope Not.
by George Pletnikoff
July 3, 2007
I hope I will not invite a jinx on us, as since we have come on our tour, everyone from Homer to Port Graham and now in Kodiak, everyone has been so receptive and kind. We found this to be oh so true with the Tribes of Kodiak and Afognak Island. They opened not only their doors to us, but also their arms, and for that we are so grateful.
First, lets recap the visit to Port Graham. As I mentioned in my earlier blog, the people and I have a long history. And from the reception I received, we all received, it appears our relationship is going towards a more wonderful working relationship that only can get better and better as time goes on. Something very interesting happened while in Port Graham. Remember we have been talking about PEST (Post Environmental Stress Trauma). Well, while we were interviewing an elderly person there, a woman with a long history of working in the health field with her people, she mentioned some really stressful issues which were caused by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. She lamented that a generation or two of young people, as well as parents and others, missed out on customary and traditional teachings and sharings. Meaning, due to the disaster, there was no time to allow traditional transfer of information because of the environmental mess, and that this allowed communities to suffer. The suffering is on going to this day, and at levels we have yet to understand. While there, the community was having a workshop with a prominent psychologist discussing deeply buried and held oppressions from situations such as this. We talked and he commented that we may have finally put a name to an issue that is so devastaing in many ways to our people, and thus, PEST got its first trial run in the profession.
Then we arrived in Kodiak. I was a bit worried that I may have not prepared enough with their tribes, and that the welcome might not go too well. How mistaken I was. From the time I made my first phone call to the offices until we left Kodiak just this morning, the people have been so open and so interested. One elder of the tribal council commented to me, following an on camera interview we did with him. "George," he said. "Your idea about the heritage zones just might be what will enable our people to survive." Wow. I don’t know if this will be the case, but we must do something, be creative and involved in our desires to find solutions to the things people all over Alaska, in coastal communities are facing. From one community to the next, the story seems to be the same. Big changes are happening, big problems are coming. Localized depletions of dependent resources are growing with nary an end in sight. And so, we are more than encouraged as we continue our tour. To the people of Kodiak, Port Graham and Homer, we thank you for your gifts of food and your openess. I hope to be returning again in the near future to bring you an update and a report of our findings.
And now we are on our way to Old Harbor. The thing that makes Old Harbor stand out in my mind so much is that without question, after we first sent the proposed resolution to the Tribes for consideration, they passed it and returned it to my office. How caring, I thought, for their people and environment. Because, I believe in our concept. It has a chance to bring good results to the villages.
Life on the vessel is now becoming a routine. Wake up at 6 AM and go to work. It is heartening to be working with an entire crew who seem, well, not just seem, but who feel so strongly about what we are doing. Everyday someone comments to me about how great this tour is and how good its goals are. I only hope that I am up to the challenge of sustaining our efforts to work with the people, encourage growth and protections on this planet we call Earth.
Until next time.