Thomasina Andersen, Cordova, Alaska, Born 1981

Money’s not going to go back and undo the oil spill, it’s not going to go back and put the seals back and put the fish back.  So why do we really need it?  The best we can just do is just do for ourselves, like we’ve always done. 

One thing that did come out good from the oil spill was that ... there was a lot of money for educating the young people.  I remember in elementary school, they’d have us all trek over to the Science Center ... teach us how to identify local plants and animals and they’d do cute little puppet shows with animals and teach us ...  They also tried to incorporate some of the Native culture stuff in there ... I think that it did, in retrospect, raise awareness that people need to understand nature and understand what we have so we can help better defend it, which I think was really a very positive thing. 

We used to get gumboots, which are little chitons, and certain kinds of sea snails and stuff like that.  It’s hard to find clean beaches in this region even to this day ... But actually, I think that in some ways one positive affect of the oil spill is that people suddenly did become more concerned that the youth knew how to do this stuff.                                      Thomasina Andersen circa 1989 (Photo Courtesy Thomasina Andersen)

I’ve just gotten back to town after being in Anchorage for a couple years, but my goal is I want to participate in as many cultural activities as possible with the Native Village and I want to participate in any of the things that are involved with stewardship of our ecology and trying to keep things here healthy and trying not to let our guard down, as it were.

Advice to the Gulf Coast:

I think that if kids could get together or just in classrooms, if teachers could just devote some time ... to educate the kids about, like we kind of did here, stewardship of their environment and realizing that they’re part of it.  That would be very, I think, beneficial.  And even just families, just listening to each other, there’s just so much power in listening. 

If you’re hurting inside because of it, you can’t just bottle all that up and take it all inside yourself and carry it all on your shoulders.  You have to realize that everybody around you is hurting too and that we can’t let it tear us down.  We have to build each other up and we have to take this, the pain and the guilt and make it our strength instead.

Thomasina's Full Interview