“To Become A Person” is a documentary photography project that explores coming of age in indigenous rural Alaska. During this exciting time of rapid change in the personal lives of youths, there is also rapid change occurring within the landscape as climate change erodes away Alaska’s coasts and disrupts migration patterns, as well as widening cultural shifts in the age of social media and state-wide access to the Internet. Many adolescents in rural Alaska are growing up during a time when there is no running water in their hometown, but every home has a flat-screen television and Facebook that runs side-by-side with the CB radios that keep communities connected.
Many of these adolescents, the grandchildren of the boarding school generation, grapple daily with the social side effects of cultural trauma in their villages; these youths grow in places that top the nation’s rates for substance abuse, child sexual assault and sexual assault, domestic violence, and other issues, in addition to the impact of climate change. They are presented with the strength of cultural resilience while also watching their mentors live out the side effects of trauma.
Cultural hybridity is increasingly visible in the remote communities of Alaska, but the current adolescent population in Indigenous Alaska is living during a historical time of rapid changes to both technology and geography. This body of work seeks to highlight colonization’s influence on the Indigenous peoples of Alaska, explore the cultural resilience in these communities, and introduce the leaders of the next generation.