For this week’s discussion, I chose to focus on our very own UAF Museum of the North. Having been there so many times, I really have never paid attention to the digital media – turns out that I focus on the artifacts in the museum and not the videos or music! And there’s a lot of it, so I decided to focus not so much on physical documents for this post, but the more interactive stuff.

The exhibit I chose for this post is a database called PoLAR Voices, a podcast that focuses on climate change in the polar regions. It conducts interviews with Alaska Native tribal members, Canadian First Peoples tribal members, scientists, and communities affected by polar climate change. It focuses on a variety of subjects, using “traditional knowledge, personal experiences, and scientific findings” to try to bring attention to the topic of climate change, how it affects the Arctic and Antarctic, and how communities are dealing with the realities of the quickly warming poles.

I listened to a few episodes, and it took me by surprise on just how engaging the stories were. It definitely got me thinking about all the different factors I hadn’t thought about – entire communities having to move from the locations they’d been at for thousands of years, moving not only their homes but graveyards as well. I can’t really imagine anything more devastating than having to not only move from your ancestral home, but having to make the difficult decision about whether or not to move your ancestors’ remains. Do you leave them in their ancestral homeland? Or do you rebury them so their bones aren’t lost forever to the ocean? It would be heartbreaking either way.

The stories about how the climate used to be, as told by elders from several different tribes, is fascinating to listen to. You get to hear about a world that seems to have a completely different, and fairly predictable, weather cycle. These days, you never know what kind of winter or summer you’ll see from year to year. The elders say it didn’t used to be that way, for example, one elder told a story about ice skating on frozen rivers and lakes, and how it’s too unsafe to do now that the climate has warmed so much. It made me a little sad to realize that even my own kids can’t experience the kind of fun I had as a kid, even though it was only 25 years ago. The warming world has made the summers and winters totally different.

Alaska Native elder Roy David Sr. of Tetlin

Question: what memories do you have of winter activities as a child, and are they still possible for the younger generation to experience?

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