In the middle of May, I packed up my truck, slid a kayak on top, and left my dad’s home on Puget Island in Washington to pick up Bethany in Seattle and head for Baranof Island in Alaska! First leg of the trip: driving 1,100 miles to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, the departure point for the ferry to Sitka.
We cruised from the green Pacific Northwest into wide, golden, sagebrushed hills of southern British Columbia. I’ve made the summer pilgrimage to Alaska nearly all my life, but always in an airplane. The long, gradual experience of watching the landscape change over the course of a thousand miles was new for me, much less abrupt. We slept in the back of my truck for three nights on our way up, and boarding the M/V Matanuska to Sitka early one morning.
I’m an anthropologist, so I love people watching. The ferry is a rich place for observation. There were older tourists toting behemoth RVs, young Alaskan high school sports teams, fishermen, welders, and many other diverse folk. We met a hand troller/opera singer/pianist from Ketchikan, and a Finnish dentist.
I remember sitting in the ferry’s cocktail lounge sipping Alaskan craft beer, listening to the troller/musician effortlessly improv classical piano. I drank in the mountains and the sea, completely content, with a feeling of possibility. I’ve been dreaming of coming back to Alaska for two years, since the last time I was in Kodiak. This trip up, for me, represents a long-awaited pilgrimage back to a familiar place, but with a new purpose and perspective. I’ve always been a part of the family crew, adhering to family rules, living under family infrastructure. Now that that infrastructure is gone, I am starting new work in a new place with new people, with a new college degree. I’m both excited to venture outside of Alaskan commercial fishing culture, and to see what that culture looks like here in Sitka.
Bethany has never been to Alaska, but recently spent five months working as a research assistant in Antarctica, and is no stranger to cold, wild places. Here’s to a summer of discovery for us both!
Welcome! We are Natalia Povelite and Bethany Goodrich, and are interning at the Sitka Conservation Society this summer! We are here to explore and convey the ways that people here in Sitka and Southeast Alaska live within this wild place. From salmon fishing to spruce tip harvest, we will show how and why the Tongass is an incredible and vital place for people to live, and an absolute necessity to protect.
A little more about Natalia
I was born in Kodiak, Alaska and have spent nearly every summer of my life commercial fishing with my family in Alaska. My love for Alaskan wilderness and natural bounty stems from this lifelong experience. I grew up in Boise, Idaho, and graduated from Willamette University in December 2011 with a B.A. in Anthropology.
My family no longer fishes in Alaska, and while I nearly pursued commercial fishing as a career, I ultimately decided that what I really wanted was to work in Alaska to protect the wild places and unique lifestyles I have grown to love and respect, which led me to the Sitka Conservation Society.
While studying anthropology, I focused on socio-environmental relations, specifically among Native Alaskans. I am interested in the connections between people and land, and the ways that people engage with their surrounding environment. I believe that these relationships are inextricably tied to community and culture, and that collective experiences guide conservation ethics.
A core theme for me in my life currently as well as in this work is that of home. I’ve lived in several states and towns, and my idea of home is getting ever fuzzier. One thing I know for sure is that Alaska is where I’ve felt my most authentic, true self, and perhaps that is what makes it my home for now. I’m looking forward to exploring what makes the Tongass home for those who live here and breathe this misty forest air every day. I want to know what makes people grow their roots here, and how the experience of living within the Tongass builds upon itself to create the specific community of Sitka.
Hello readers! I am ecstatic that you are interested in following the summer interns and SCS staff as we explore how Southeast Alaska ‘lives with the land’. Before I start filling this blog with adventures, research, thoughts, opinions, and discoveries, I figured it appropriate to provide you all with a brief introduction of myself.
I grew up in a small town about forty minutes outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I can’t really say where I currently ‘live’ anymore as I’ve been pretty uprooted since I left Massachusetts for California in 2007. A year ago I lived in San Francisco, five months ago Antarctica was home, five weeks ago I sheltered in a dome shaped home nestled in the New Hampshire woods, three weeks ago I lived in Natalia’s truck, and today my head hits the pillow in Sitka, Alaska.
Although my location is constantly shifting, my love for nature and the arts has remained unchanged since day one. The majority of my childhood was spent accumulating bruises of varying degrees and sorts- jumping out of trees, snagging my home-sewn dresses (thanks mom) on barbed wire fences and falling…a lot- often into marshes while in pursuit of pollywogs. During inclement New England weather, I passed the time creating artistic messes that I humbly referred to as masterpieces. New England is truly beautiful and I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to grow up surrounded by a wild asylum (Sadly, a lot of which now has been sold off and mutated into ‘modern-colonial’ New England homes).
This early love affair with art and nature has since begun a long drawn-out transformation into a profession. I graduated last spring from the University of San Francisco with a BS in Biology, emphasis in Ecology, and minors in Fine Arts and Neuroscience. In past years I have worked with captive animals ranging from chimpanzees to cockroaches, rehabbed and cared for many sick and injured wide-eyed elephant seal pups and sea lions, and interned for a wild cat conservation non-profit. Upon graduation, I headed to Palmer Station, Antarctica to work as a field and lab assistant on a polar phytoplankton project studying genetic and ecological seasonal shifts of diatoms. I enjoy combining my creativity and love for science and conservation through the development of informative, useful, and entertaining media for the public. I hope to keep you all informed and amused during my next three months here in Sitka, Alaska.
Please stay tuned!
In the Tongass, people live with the land. We are constantly learning from it–learning how to build communities that are part of the landscape rather than a place away from it. In this blog we want to share with you some of those lessons we’ve learned and the experience of learning them first hand.
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