Erica Thompson, Kodiak & Cordova, Alaska, Born 1983

I was six [at the time of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill].  At six years old, I don’t think you really understand what is happening around you so much as see the activities, but the feeling is different.  I definitely remember that there was a feeling of sadness and anxiety during that time.  Kodiak wasn’t nearly as badly impacted as Prince William Sound, and the areas that were touched by oil were not very close to where the main population on Kodiak Island lived, so you didn’t actually see it rolling up on the beach.  But everyone was gone and they weren’t out herring fishing, they were contracted in to do clean up activities.  

But when the spill happened, my mom got a job working as an expediter to get clean up gear out to the recovery sites all across the Island.  [Instead of] being outside and playing in the woods while she worked at the garden shop, I had to go with her to her friend’s house who was also working as an expediter and hang out there all day while she ran the radio channels.  I remember sitting underneath the stairwell while she worked at a desk on a landing that had all the sidebands and everything, the VHF all set up and that looked out over Chiniak Bay, and I would just sit underneath those stairs, bored, because her friend’s son wasn’t very nice to me and I wanted to be outside.  I didn’t really understand why we had to be indoors all day long and doing this new job, because it wasn’t very much fun for me as a kid.

I have a lot of hope for what this next generation of youth activists will do. And that some of the work I do through my graduate research may help someone else down the road.  And I have hope that Alaskans will put sustainable fisheries first over resource development that might have short-term economic benefits.  I hope that someday when I have children of my own, they’ll have the chance to fish too.

photo courtesy Erica Thompson

Erica's Full Interview