We recently participated in a photoshoot in Alaska’s Knik Glacier with Danielle Stickman (She/Her) and other local artists and activists who bring awareness to local climate issues. For Danielle, who is of Dena’ina and Koyukon Athabascan descent, this resulted in the creation of a beautiful dreamcatcher. We invited Danielle to share in her own words what beading, the land and advocacy means to her. Here’s what she wrote.
“Why do you go up mountains and come down empty handed?” my great uncle asked me years ago when I told him I was preparing to do the Everest Basecamp Trek in Nepal. “You’re not even hunting or picking berries. What’s the purpose?” He asked the same question when I walked 500 miles in Spain and when I would wander around the mountains of Alaska. My answer to him was, “Because it’s beautiful, it’s good exercise and it’s where I feel most alive.”
My great uncle is of the generation that knows the land. He knows where the animals will be, how to navigate the lake waters, how to read the weather, how to set snares and traps, how to make snowshoes and sleds and how to live completely in reciprocal relationship with the land, waters and animals. He learned everything, not from books, but by experience and by living out on the ełnena (land) all his life. His learning and actions were for the survival of his family. To go up a mountain without thinking of community and reciprocity does not make sense to my uncle.
The values of reciprocity and community have guided the major decisions in my life. I earned a degree in environmental science because I wanted to protect animals, lands and waters. I became a vegetarian because I did not want to support animal mistreatment in the meat industry. I advocate for Indigenous rights, salmon rights and environmental rights because there is an underlying stream fueling my passion to support the survival of the interdependent community that I was raised in.