Climate change is slowly disrupting the subsistence lifestyle in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, and some of its younger residents are documenting the changes they’re seeing through film.
In a two week workshop in Bethel, hosted by the Lower Kuskokwim School District, four high school students composed a short documentary about the climate change impacts to their communities and subsistence lifestyle. The film opens with Nicolai Fisher, one of the filmmakers who is from Napaskiak, narrating the importance of subsistence in Western Alaska.
“Yup’ik and Cup’ik people have subsisted off the land and sea for thousands of years. What our ancestors taught us is our way of life.”
The film explores the shifting weather patterns that they are seeing in their short lifetimes. Changing animal migratory patterns and less snow on the ground are key themes in the piece, and in subsequent interviews with KYUK.
“I’ve noticed the moose going to the coast, and the geese heading more and more out of our villages,” Fisher said.
Erosion is another issue. Sam Tinker, a high school student who lives in Akula, has witnessed erosion worsening in his 16 years.
“The land was starting to fall apart into the water, and the river was almost high enough that it’s around your knees and waist area,” Tinker said.
For Katie Demientieff of Akiuk, the youngest of the filmmakers at 14, making the documentary was a way to learn about what the climate was like decades ago.
“I chose climate change because I wanted to know how it was in the past and how it is now,” Demientieff said.
All four students see the film as a wakeup call to their communities.
“I want to spark the mind of the people on why climate change is so important and the subsistence way of living off our land is so important to the Yup’ik and Cup’ik people,” Tinker said.
A total of 12 students completed three films on different topics during the workshop. The videos can be found online at the YouTube channel LKSDMedia.