Place Where You Live:

Pribilof Islands, Alaska

On St. Paul Island with northern fur seals

Tanax Amix: Land Of Mothers Brother

I was raised on the mystical Pribilof Islands surrounded by the wild, rich Bering Sea. The islands are small and, geologically, young—two to four million years old. Though formed by volcanic activity, much of St. Paul Island, where I was born, is covered by lush tundra carpeted with wild grasses and flowers in summertime. Black sand beaches rim long stretches of the shore rising up to cliffs that provide the nesting habitat for millions of sea birds. The highly productive marine ecosystem surrounding the five Pribilof Islands lures intense concentrations of fur seals, sea lions, dozens of species of fish, shellfish, and seabirds that come to breed and bear their young. Summers are brief and abundant with new life. Winters are long and, often, before climate change, the islands were surrounded by Artic pack ice for months.

Two of the islands are home to 550 Unangan (Aleut), indigenous descendants of people who for thousands of years had one of the most sophisticated maritime cultures in the world, and who thrived in one of the most hostile atmospheric and oceanic regions on earth. The land and the sea taught them many things and at the center of all of the lessons came the profound understanding that all Life was interdependent and interconnected. My own upbringing was traditional: I was raised by the entire village, by elders, and by my Aachaa who taught me, among many other things, about the invisible magic that exists only on these islands. In time, I came to know and even feel this powerful, mysterious, magical force invisibly interacting with life on the island. There were other lessons: the ways of marine wildlife, navigating the always changing sea, acting from the heart with the right intent, being present in each moment, patience – cultural knowledge passed down through generations of highly accomplished Unangan. Surely, my ancestors knew of the invisible magic: it was threaded through all my lessons.

Though I travel all over the world now, St. Paul remains my home. It is the Birthplace of the Winds, the Galapagos of the North. It is the heart of who I am.