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Essays About Alaska

The difficult and painful topic of sexual assault and the trauma that follows will be the discussion tomorrow evening at the Anchorage museum. The conversation be held after a staged reading of a personal essay called White Horse, about a campus rape and the aftermath, written by Elise Goldbach and featured in the current issue of The Alaska Quarterly Review. English Professor Dr Heather Adams of the University of Alaska Anchorage will moderate the panel discussion. She says the idea is to provide a space for an audience to really listen to what is a terrifying event.

Listen Now

ADAMS: It is a very traumatic experience that we’ll be talking about as we then transition into a panel of experts who are coming from a variety of perspectives. There are people from UAA who will be speaking from their professional standpoint. There’s someone who’s an expertin law. There are people who have experienced this trauma themselves, so we’re having tohave a balanced perspective and show our support that way so that our panel really reflects a variety of perspectives. And of course, we’re inviting support from the UAA community and reaching out to some community partners to ensure that hopefully there will be support at the event that night because this is a really sensitive topic. And of course we know that holding an event like this means that we have to be prepared to give support. Not just to talk about the ideas but to deal with the emotional piece of it, the emotions that are raised.

TOWNSEND: Dr. Adams, you have written about the legacy of shame, secrecy, silence and part of that is dealing with the shame that surrounds rape or unwanted pregnancies. Why do you think it is shame still surrounds so much of what happens when there is a sexual assault? Why can’t we change that?

ADAMS: There’s both the silence that comes with not talking that we see in systematic under-reporting of rape. And there’s also what we do talk about, which I would call messages of shame and messages of blame. It’s really hard to understand why those messages are so persistent. When I, years ago, learned about women who had to give a child away for adoption because they had that child out of wedlock, it was news to me. I didn’t know about that and I was horrified. And it’s been really interesting as I continue my research to make this argument, develop this argument through my research that actually, what seems like it happened a long time ago… yes the practices are a little bit different, we don’t have homes for unwed mothers, but you’re exactly right. This legacy of messages of shame and messages of blame, they really persist. I would say that one of the root causes is that we don’t have models, we don’t have support for women, especially young women, to talk about their sexuality. To understand sexuality and sex as a normal part of life. We have a lot of cultural taboo around that. We know in Alaska there’s been a lot of effort to be really almost draconian about how sex education is delivered to our young people and I just feel strongly that until we can really talk about these things openly, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Another is consent. Consent is something that we talk about that sounds like it’s a yes or a no. It’s really more complicated. And I think that this White Horse event is one small way our community can come together and I really hope our community comes together to just have a conversation around these really difficult topics. No one really likes to talk about these things, but we really have to if we want to shift that culture of silence and shame and blame.

Dr Heather Adams is the moderator for a panel discussion of the essay, White Horse at the Anchorage Museum Thursday evening, beginning at 7 pm.

Lori Townsend, Alaska Public Media

Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori

by Erin McKittrick:  

Essays in the Alaska Dispatch News and other publications

It was the middle of March, nearly a year ago. My family of four had flown into Nome around the time a lot of people fly to Nome. Iditarod fans filled the streets. But I was a hundred yards offshore of downtown.Erin McKittrick

February 28, 2016

Umnak Island is part of the Fox Islands in the Aleutian chain, one step farther west than Unalaska. Population: 22 humans, 7,500 cows.Erin McKittrick

November 1, 2015

This is the most remote run the Alaska ferry system makes. Every two weeks between May and September, the 51-year-old Tustemena leaves Seldovia for the 900-or-so-mile run to Dutch Harbor, stopping at Homer, Kodiak, Chignik, Sand Point, King Cove, Cold Bay, False Pass and Akutan along the way.Erin McKittrick

August 9, 2015


Tidepool wonder: Kachemak Bay low tide reveals richness in color, life

Claws scuttle across pearly pink ground. Crimson tufts erupt from the ends of tangled white tubes. A wavering tentacle probes from behind a thicket of brown. Then — a monstrous crash...Erin McKittrick, Jul 5, 2015 

Visiting where the first Americans may have tread 

The winds died. The craggy cliffs disappeared. The world turned flat and white. Sometimes, heading down the beach in the morning, when it looked just the same as yesterday and the kids wanted to play “Pooh and Piglet and the Sabertooth Tiger” and “Pretend Easter Egg Hunt in the Mud Melt Holes” -- just the same as yesterday -- the world seemed endless...Erin McKittrick, May 31, 2015 

Walking a windswept 500 miles to Kotzebue with 2 kids

Bryan Weyauvanna stepped off his snowmachine, gulped the last of his thermos of coffee, and gestured at one of the mountains behind Cape Woolley, pastel pink in the setting sun. “That mountain? It’s 3870 on the map, but in my language, it’s Singatook. And when you see a cloud up there, that means it’s going to be windy.”...Erin McKittrick, Apr 12, 2015

Getting up close and personal with Alaska's coastline

By some measures, Alaska has more than 49,000 miles of coastline, more than the Lower 48 states combined. The closer you look, the longer the shore gets. With ShoreZone, it's almost possible to zoom in until every barnacle and pebble stands out in sharp relief.Erin McKittrick

February 20, 2015

Mesmerized by maps: Dreaming of Alaska adventures

Spread out the maps and start dreaming. In winter, Alaska explorers pore over maps, imagining the possibilities of next year's trip. Erin McKittrick

December 7, 2014

Perhaps we just have nothing else to talk about out here in the sticks. But weather is fascinating. Inescapable. I always seem to be plunging myself right into it, skating down a trail-turned-mudslide with a gaggle of gooey children, stumbling into the sting of driving snow, or holding a tent against the shuddering wind. Even getting sunburned.

September 6, 2014

A 10-day journey with four young children in tow shows the beauty of Alaska's oldest state park.Erin McKittrick

August 9, 2014

Two and Two Halves to the Malaspina

Despite storms flooding their tent, high winds pelting them with sea spray and a continuous stream of dirty nappies, Erin McKittrick has nothing but good memories of crossing Alaska’s Malaspina Glacier with her husband and two small children

UK Geographical, August 2014

Thousands of Alaskans live without indoor plumbing; for some, it's due to a lack of alternatives. But for others, it's a lifestyle choice, a chance to commune with nature on the walk down the path, with a view of the mountains and the woods.Erin McKittrick

June 10, 2014

I miss pavement more often than I'd like to admit. I fantasize about a beautiful paved bike trail winding through the hills, far from the dust clouds of the gravel road. Erin McKittrick

May 16, 2014

Spring in Alaska is the season of sea stars, sunglasses, seedlings and skis. Sometimes finding jaw-dropping wonder is as simple as a change in elevation.Erin McKittrick

April 29, 2014

We build Alaska out of what we bring in from Washington state on four container ships a week. And then we send Alaska back -- but 80 percent of those containers return to Tacoma empty.Erin McKittrick

December 14, 2013

For someone accustomed to traveling by foot and raft, at a pace of 200 miles per month, even taking the ferry in Southeast Alaska can feel blisteringly fast. But there's certainly time enough to contemplate the surroundings. Erin McKittrick

November 3, 2013

Television people making reality shows toss around words "grid" and "off-grid," but they don't really care about electricity, which is what connects us. They concentrate on pieces of disconnection evident in rural or rustic Alaska lives.Erin McKittrick

September 21, 2013

Now vs. Never vs. Later

Natural Gas in Cook Inlet and the pitfalls of short-term planning.  The Case for Leaving Wealth in the Ground. (2012)

As the Beaches Wash Away

Global warming and its impacts on coastal erosion, as explored through an journey to Alaska's Malaspina Glacier. (2012)

Running with Red Dog

As we traveled through the region, I tried to discover whether Red Dog Mine was a godsend to the local economy, a disaster waiting to happen, or maybe all of the above? (2010)

Reflections on Glacier Bay

- by Erin McKittrick.  From the Journey on the Wild Coast, originally published in National Parks Magazine (Winter 2010).

The Dead and the Dying

A journey through the diminishing glaciers of the southern Kenai Peninsula with three generations of family. (2009)

Lost Forests on the Lost Coast

A short expedition to explore remediation, rebirth, and the aftermath of logging on the Gulf of Alaska coast (2009).

A Long Trek Home photoessay

- by Erin McKittrick.  Published in Wend Magazine (Summer 2009).

The Fruits of Insanity

A cold and windy February odyssey in the Kenai Fjords. Or how a pair of unusual people feed off eachother to produce something a little bit wonderful, and a little bit insane. (2007)

Where Threatened Waters Flow

A journey through the watersheds downstream of the proposed Pebble Mine, through wilderness, communities, and an uncertain future.(2006)

Proposed Mine Endangers Bristol Bay

- by Erin McKittrick.  From the Alaska Wilderness League Newsletter (February 2007, page 6.)

Site of the Proposed Pebble Mine

- by Erin McKittrick.  A photo essay on my 2005 trip to the Pebble Mine site in Environment News Service. Or read it on my page


And read trip journals from over a dozen older trips on our old AK Trekking website.


by David Coil

Metals Recycling: A Necessary Start

A discussion on the complexity and necessity of metals recycling, focusing on aluminum as an example. (2010)

Reconsidering the "Value" of Gold

Thoughts on the arbitrary value of gold, as contrasted with the environmental destruction caused by mining it. (2010)

by Others


Walking on Oil

-by Andrew Mattox (2012).  Modern day backpacking, synthetic gear, and the realization that we are all made of oil.

New Eyes, Old Ice: My First Glacier Experience

-by Mike Borden (2012).  An account of a photojournalism trek to Grewingk Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula.

Circling the sound

- by Bjorn Olson and Kim McNett (2011).  A journey essay describing an environmentally-focused circumnavigation of Prince William Sound in a homemade kayak during summer 2010.

Close Encounter with a Grizzly Bear

- by Mike Borden (2010). A detailed account of a dangerous grizzly encounter in southcentral Alaska, along with practical information about bear safety and bear spray.







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