Laurel Hilts, Seldovia, Alaska, Born 1970


That was what was happening for the community of Seldovia, was that anybody and everybody who owned a boat, their boats were being rented for the purpose of the clean-up and then the men were going and working, and women I assume, were going and working.  There was a substantial financial gain for all the people that owned these boats and substantial income for the people who had the opportunity to go and work, but it was mingled with the grief and the sorrow of what they were seeing.

photo courtesy Laurel Hilts

So, no, they didn’t necessarily see a ton of oil come into Seldovia and impact Seldovia, but they were seeing their region devastated.  And then the great frustration that they had in the requirements of the clean-up and the futility of it, where they felt that they were just moving oil from one place to the other.  And they were constrained by the requirements and so the men were really frustrated.  I think that, if you could have taken a common-sense approach where you allowed the local experts, the local people to say, “This is what needs to be done,” I think that maybe the initial clean-ups would have been a little more effective. Not to say that the trauma of it wouldn’t have happened.

I think you can take any situation, the fact that in 1964 our ground dropped 4-6 feet, that changed forever those kids’ thinking about life in Seldovia. So, with each dramatic change you have to make that change in your own thinking, whether or not it’s tangible. 

Laurel's Full Interview