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Young People Look to Old Ways of Hunting and Gathering

Young Inupiaq girl cutting a fish she caught. Photo by Jenny Miller.
Young Inupiaq girl cutting a fish she caught, in the Sinuk River, Nome, Alaska. Photo by Jenny I. Miller.

National Geographic Young Explorers Charu Jaiswal, Sarah Robert and Jenny Miller are embarking on a one-month expedition to Alaska documenting food scarcity and a revival of hunting and gathering among young people. Follow team’s updates from the field on Explorers Journal.

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We are National Geographic Society’s newest Young Explorers grantees and we’re filming a documentary about young people in Alaska that, in an attempt to improve their food security, are relying on their cultural heritage to hunt and gather. We have also received funding from the Fulbright Foundation’s Killam Community Action Initiative Grant for this film.

The idea for the film started as a conversation between Charu and Jenny about the difficulty of getting healthy and affordable food in Nome, Jenny’s home town. Jenny is an Alaskan Native (Iñupiaq), and she noticed that a lot of her young friends and family were increasingly relying on subsistence to meet their food needs. This despite Alaska importing 90% of its food.

To understand why more and more young Alaskans are going back to hunting and gathering, and to understand what it means to their identities, we will be travelling across the state to interview youth, children, community elders, and activists.

We start off in Nome, where we will be staying with Jenny’s family. There we will accompany young Iñupiat individuals as they fish, process meat, and gather local wild plants. Then we travel to Sitka, where we will learn about the importance of salmon to Sitka’s community, and what parents are doing to teach their young children about how to live off the land. Finally, we end our trip in Anchorage where we will focus on families and the transferring of traditional knowledge between generations.

The three of us met less than a year ago through the Fulbright Foundation’s Killam Fellowship program, and we’re excited to go on this adventure together. You can stay updated on our journey through the Alaskan wilderness with our blogs or by following us on Twitter and Instagram.

 

NEXT: Indigenous Cultures Team Up to Apply Ancient Wisdom to Today’s World

 

Comments

  1. Amy Russell-Jamgochian
    Nome
    May 15, 3:59 pm

    Hi Jenny, if you have future interests in visual anthropology or video projects up in Nome, please let us know. Kawerak has the Beringia Center museum project, the Eskimo Heritage Program and the Social Science Program, who all hire videographers and researchers with a social science background when we have grant funded projects. Good Luck and Warm Regards, Amy

  2. Kacey Miller
    Nome!
    August 28, 2013, 10:12 pm

    Nice digs u guys landed, considering you were able to find a place to stay so easily in Nome during the summertime and also within the family!! (WTG Leah!) Interesting comment about Nome being expensive and remote… travel outside of this “hub” and you’ll really find shelf-stable food EXPENSIVE and it being remote. ( you probably understand this Jenny spending some of your youth here in this town) Many individuals who’ve lived in other villages in Western Alaska think Nome (with it’s movie theater, pool and 3 stores) is actually very very easy and affordable to live in.
    I look forward to reading about your other articles and viewpoints, are you going to other areas in Western Alaska- where subsistence foods are a large percentage of resident’s primary sustenance (where perhaps there’s only 1 ANICA/small village store)?!?!
    Question: How did you determine to go to Sitka to focus on salmon importance in a community? Considering the potential Pebble Mine operating in the headwaters of the world’s largest salmon run, you’d think Bristol Bay would be the “place to go” regarding salmon dependency…

    • alaskanfood
      August 28, 2013, 11:14 pm

      Thank you for your comment Kacey. With regards to your question why Sitka and not Bristol Bay, you’re absolutely right that BB is very relevant. We chose to go to Sitka however because the Sitka Conservation society is doing excellent work to conserve the environment and promote subsistence education.
      -CJ

  3. jerry
    August 28, 2013, 11:40 am

    I think thats fantastic! Become independent! When I last visited Alaska on a hunting trip, it was something else I have never experienced before. Something powerful about going out and hunting and spending that time outside in the wilderness. It changes people. I felt more connected by the end of my trip. Went through some great people at Ram Aviation Hunt and Fish Alaska. Thank you to them! Check them out if you plan on going to Alaska.
    http://www.huntandfishalaska.net

  4. Shadi
    August 27, 2013, 11:44 am

    Even though I’m vegetarian, part of me feels respect for those young people going back to hunting & gathering for their own and/or their families’ food (it’s perhaps better than passively watching silly action movies or playing video games… it gets boring after a while).

    Thinking about it, had man really beacome that more civilized–at least violence-wise–since we stopped living as hunter-gatherers? All that happened was that the act of killing living creatures for subsistence gradually got more remote and hidden from us; more impersonal; an increasing detachment between act and its immediate consequece, even though that consequece stays more or less the same.

    First, man and woman, old and young hunt and gather togther (I heard the hunter-gatherers were egalitarian in that regard); then perhaps woman stays at home while man goes out to hunt; then after we discovered agriculture perhaps man also stays in the field while somebody else–probably a family–hunts; then after division of labor and the emergence of classses the entire household relies on a neighbor or a laborer for the meat, an arrangement staying largely unchanged for thousands of years in the form of the friendly local butcher or fishmonger… now even that has been making place for mass-produced meat from 100s of miles away–even from another country or continent!–and which comes with 4 gastronomic options: stale – salt-ridden – contaminated – or all of the previous!

    And at the end of the he day, I’m not sure the modern individual is consuming less meat than his pre-historic predecessor; humanity as a whole is definitely conuming MUCH more.

    And I’ve to doubt if modren industralized mass-killig is a lot more merciful than the hunter-gatherer’s method.

    Mind you, as a vegatarian–and I wish more and more people to become likewise–I’m not unconditionally endorsing hunting-gathering, But if you’re going to eat meat anyway, its a lifestyle that has its merits, and I can undertsand why some people are “reverting” to it.

    I think I’ll be following this series!

  5. Leisha Rice
    Fairbanks, Alaska
    August 20, 2013, 6:29 pm

    I will create a Twitter account just to follow this story! Way to go Jenny Miller! I know you are making your mother and family very proud while bringing awareness to the importance of subsistence lifestyle no matter what your age!

  6. Zayin
    Australia
    August 18, 2013, 7:34 pm

    Looking forward to this!

  7. Julie
    http://www.lobaoutdoors.com
    August 16, 2013, 5:49 pm

    The trend toward hunting and gathering has been on the rise for sure. One of the things we’ve seen is that young people are getting more involved in hunting, fishing, and eating wild. Perhaps it’s that fruits have gone up almost 40% since the 80s, or that people understand the benefits of natural products with more media attention. If you think about it, with groceries going up in price, the economy struggling, it makes sense people would look more to explore these practices.