Letters to the community and younger generation of Bethel

Youth participants Madison Alirkar, Katya Carl and Aqualena Carl interview elder Julia Kanuk while KYUK Staff assists with the recording at the Cultural Center. Phtoto courtesy of Mary Matthias/ONC

by the ONC Environmental Youth Litter Patrol Participants

The following are letters to Promote Intergenerational Knowledge Transmission of Environmental Changes, Traditional and Cultural Lifestyles in The Regional Climate and Environment from Elder interviews by ONC Environmental Youth Litter Patrol Participants: Katya Carl, Madison Alirkar, and Aqualena Carl


Julia Kanuk

by Aqualena Carl

What I learned from interviewing Julia Kanuk was to respect everyone even though they didn’t respect you and helping other people like families and friends. Julia spoke about times when she was young, that they did outdoor stuff like playing “Kick the Can” also known as “Hide and Seek”, hopscotch which people no longer play anymore, and other fun games.

In today’s date people barely play those types of games with each other. The teenagers stay at home and are on their phones or play Nintendo games all day and barely get any chores done. They don’t help people who need help, and over the years people have become stingy about little things that can provide much abundance if those little things could be set aside.

Back then in her younger days, she said people helped each other on a lot of things like hunting and fishing. People took care of each other and didn’t wait to be told what to do. They worked as a whole community together.

Her message to the younger generation is:

Don’t expect someone else to do what you’re supposed to do. Listen to what our elders are talking about. Listen to the elders right away, when they tell you to do this or that. Do not expect to receive money from parents or elders after doing something for them. Treat each other nicely. Respect people even if you know they did something bad in the past. Respect family members and help others who need help.


What I learned from Julia Kanuk

by Katya Carl

I learned that the land has changed very much, and the attitudes from the people. Julia said that people back then were nice to everyone but these days they expect money when they do something for others. Treat others how you want to be treated. Julia’s message to the younger generation is this:

Don’t expect money from elders, and respect elders’ ways. We should start teaching the younger generation how to be kind, nice and respectful. To this day people should start being nice to other people instead of just being nice to their ilaqs.

We are connected to the land somehow by studying it so you won’t get lost. She spoke about the language of the lands and waterways. With water, we have to study the ripples and waves so that while traveling by boat we can be safe. The water speaks to us by the waves, if the waves are pointy with white caps it becomes dangerous to travel and can flip the boat. Then there are waves that roll far apart. Then there are small ripples that tell us that the area is very shallow and not to go that way. We are connected to the land and water like how we are to our language and all we have to do is learn how to listen.


Julia Kanuk’s story

by Madison Alirkar

I am writing about Julia Kanuk’s story to see what we have lost from generation to generation. What she said in her interview is that the community in her hometown, which is no longer there (found between Kipnuk and Chefornak called Cicing) was very caring and helpful to everyone whether it was family or not. They still helped and cared for them.

In today’s date people have become or grown selfish, greedy, arrogant, and expect something in return from the people they help. Most want money. And parents don’t really teach their children what equipment or tools to use to help around family and or relatives to be exact.

Julia also spoke about how everyone back then used to communicate by going to fish camp with different families around Alaska or near areas and they communicated or had someone who was able to run to a different village to tell others a message.

I thought that it was very interesting to give a friend or another a message and run back with another message.


The stories we collected from the elders we interviewed will be shared in links found on our ONC’s webpage soon. This year we decided to implement something new with our Youth Litter Patrol in which we connected them with elders. The elders were excitingly happy to meet and sit down with our young workers.

We wanted our youth group to learn about stewardship, climate change, implement leadership and to promote acknowledgement of pollution prevention and recycling with the whole community and most importantly with the younger children from Kindergarten to 6th grade (also known as the “younger” generation).

Our youth litter patrol (YLP) have shared stories about the different types of pollution they’ve seen while gathering subsistence foods from the lands and waterways and have come to understand that plastics and other items that people toss onto the ground don’t belong out there where we gather our berries, our fish, and other subsistence foods.

They want people who are living within the Y-K Delta to start taking their trash home; while berry picking please don’t leave pop cans or candy wrappers or other plastics/TRASH out on the tundra. Please stop burying trash a couple inches under the tundra because the trash will come back out.

When a couple of our youth participants gathered kapukaqs this spring time, they found pop cans and plastics in the ponds. Here we thought those areas were clean because we never heard anyone complain about finding “trash” while gathering greens from the open resources we harvest from during the spring season.

Our YLP have also learned about groundwater contamination caused by fuel spills and how inevitable the cycle of pollution comes back to us all whether it is through the foods we eat or years later finding out about cancer.

They have also learned that when we go out hunting or berry picking, we enter into the wildlife home where animals and birds live, and when we go fishing, we know that the waters should be clean and healthy.

One thing that the younger children asked for was to get recycling bins stationed all around town for the community to start recycling and to put candy wrappers and other trash in the right designated spots at home or at a nearby trash can.

-Mary C. Matthias, Environmental Program Coordinator, Orutsararmiut Native Council Natural Resources Dept.