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AK Natives on the Front Line: Behind the Story

This episode features a special behind-the-story interview with us, the creators of AK Natives on the Front Line! We took to some to time to have a conversation with Abigail Gipson from Pulitzer Center about our approach to the journalistic work done in Utqiagvik.

Alaska Natives on the Frontline is a special series of Coffee & Quaq highlighting the adaptability and resilience of the Iñupiat in the face of climate change, done in partnership with journalist Jenna Kunze. We travelled up to Utqiagvik early last year in 2020, at the peak of winter when the sun had just returned back to the Arctic after polar night and interviewed residents about the various aspects of how Iñupiat life has changed, but also how it has remained the same.

Jenna Kunze is a reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Kunze’s bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Smithsonian Magazine and Anchorage Daily News. In 2020, she was one of 16 U.S. journalists selected by the Pulitzer Center to report on the effects of climate change in the Alaskan Arctic region. Prior to that, she served as lead reporter at the Chilkat Valley News in Haines, Alaska. Kunze is based in New York.

"What I was impressed by and the biggest takeaway for me was adaptation. Once Alice and I started looking at the different ways that the Iñupiaq have adapted for thousands of years, it became all we saw. We're only seeing adaptation to live in this harsh climate. All of the simple ways that aren't simple, when you have limited resources, it's really rural, and it's really expensive to build or to get a lot of things going up there. So I think that I was interested in the story because I suspected that that was true, but I didn't know for sure. And I wanted to know. And just to do the story justice, to represent it from a more Iñupiaq-centered perspective." - Jenna Kunze

Check out the accompanying article for this project written by Jenna Kunze here: ‘What Choice Do We Have?’

"I think that one of the biggest parts of that approach was in creating the questions. We had one question that we really wanted to ask everyone and it was, "What kinds of things have remained the same?" You know, because everyone is always asking about what's changing. “How is this being affected?” “How is your life changing?” But nobody ever takes the time to think about what kinds of things are constant, what kinds of things have stayed with us for thousands of years and that we don't expect to change in thousands of years.
I don't think we set out to change the narrative. That wasn't my intention. I think people are always going to write what they want to write about wherever in the world. But for me personally, this isn't just a narrative. It's my life. It's my people. So I just wanted to represent that to the fullest. And for it to be something for Iñupiaq people to be proud of and for other people to be interested in. I'm only one person. I just felt like it was important for me as an Iñupiaq woman to represent my community and myself as best as I can." - Alice Qannik Glenn

To read the original article written by Abigail Gipson from the Pulitzer Center, click <here>

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