Malani Towle, Cordova, Alaska, Born 1984

My parents had bought into seining the year of the oil spill . . . they had to sell out for basically nothing, you know.  So it financially affected our lives; my mom started a real estate business to keep us from going bankrupt.  She worked my whole childhood and my dad fished for other people because when I was in second grade, our boat burned down.  He seined with other people but it really just wasn’t a very lucrative business at the time.  It was kind of more of a hobby really after the spill, there just wasn’t any way to make it work. 

Right before the tenth anniversary of the spill, there was kind of a community meeting ...and I was really kind of shocked at how traumatic it was for so many people to talk about still, ten years later.  I went home and I wrote a song about it, perhaps from the perspective of my mother or other people her age when the spill happened.  The song is called “What Exxon Means” and it was just sort of talking about what it must have felt like for them to see this happen to their community and wonder, “that is my whole livelihood, how am I going to raise a family now?” So I wrote that song, and then I actually ended up going up to Anchorage for the candlelight vigil and the press meetings and everything and played the song there. 

My Godmother is Riki Ott, who has been super involved with the aftermath of the spill and all sorts of the damages and effects and all of that, so it was a very big part of my childhood growing up.  Whenever Riki would come back to town, we would hear all sorts of stories. Because Riki was so involved, I felt like we were doing something about it.  It wasn’t this sort of victim’s stance where “it just happened to us and now our whole lives are ruined.” It was this battle that was being fought, and we were I guess David.

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