Carter Price (top row, 3rd from right), with Arctic Youth Ambassadors, pose for a photo. Photo By Arctic Youth Ambassadors

Fighting Climate Change and Discovering a Deeper Connection to My Aleut Culture

By Carter Price, Arctic Youth Ambassador

My name is Carter Price. I am of Aleut descent (the Aleuts are the indigenous people from the Aleutian Islands), and I’ve lived in Unalaska, Alaska for 18 years now. As I’ve grown older, I have been able to appreciate where I come from and what it means to be Aleut. Sharing my heritage is important to me, so it’s great that I get to share it with people as an Arctic Youth Ambassador.

Being a part of the Arctic Youth Ambassador Program has helped me understand and connect with my community and my culture on a deeper level. This program has opened my horizons, and I couldn’t be more proud to represent my culture and community on a state-wide, and even national, level. I have spoke at forums, conferences and seminars about the changing Arctic, trying to make sense of how climate change will affect my community and the world. The program has allowed me to use my passion to help people better understand what life is like in the Arctic.

On the last Arctic Youth Ambassadors trip to Washington, D.C., this question was brought up. “If you are so directly impacted by climate change, why don’t you just move?”

At first, my response was hard to put into words. Our Native culture is slowly fading. All we have left is the food, the language and the land that we live on. Moving to a completely different environment wouldn’t seem like a big problem for me, but I know my grandma and other elders would have a harder time adapting to a different way of life. Who would want to completely disconnect from everything that makes them who they are?

Climate change has had serious impacts on the Arctic and these changes have really affected my Aleut culture. Warming in the Arctic creates melting icecaps. Because we live on an island in the Pacific Ocean, we are forced to ask many questions about our future. How will sea level rise and warming temperatures affect our home? What happens to the crab and fish that we depend on as sea temperatures rise?

Carter Price after a fishing trip in Alaska. Photo by Carter Price.

Because our community is shrinking and we are slowly losing our language, our resources are very important to our culture and economy. If we can hold on to our resources and economy, there is still a chance that our language can survive. But without these natural resources to promote a healthy economy, and a healthy community, it will be difficult for our Aleut language to make a comeback.

Growing up in my Aleut traditions, it is my responsibility as a young person to take care and provide for the elders. This responsibility has become woven into my mission as an Arctic Youth Ambassador. It’s a mission I will carry with me throughout my life, and, I hope, pass along to many generations to come.

The Arctic Youth Ambassadors program was established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Alaska Region, U.S. Department of the Interior, and U.S. Department of State in partnership with nonprofit partner Alaska Geographic.

This was cross-posted from Interior’s blog.

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