Interview with an Alum: Rozlynn Dock

Coming from Akiak, Alaska, Rozlynn Dock has lived in a small village her whole life. From her home village, Rozlynn’s other homes expand to visiting a small coastal village for the summers and attending Mt. Edgecumbe High School boarding school in Sitka in the winters. She has never lived with access to Alaska’s highways, and she finds comfort and family within traditional and sustenance practices in her village and family. While she feels she belongs in rural Alaska, Rozlynn plans to go much further.

Limitations and barriers are more than prevalent in village life in Alaska. Rozlynn’s home of Akiak is removed from the main road systems in Alaska by the Tanana river. Although the river becomes the Tanana ice road in winter, it can be unreliable and dangerous. Rozlynn recalls when this past Christmas break the water was warm enough to break the ice road, preventing travel to and from her village. Even getting back to Mt. Edgecumbe after break was difficult. “The river got smooth” Rozlynn says, “and the truck kept swerving—scary.”

Limitations also come in the form of educational barriers. While she found an education and created many future plans through her high school career at Mt. Edgecumbe, not everyone from her village leaves for boarding school. “There’s a lot of people where I’m from who don’t go further than high school. Some don’t complete high school. Even though we all support each other I think they just feel stuck.” Being tied to the village has some limitations, but it can also be a good thing. Rozlynn experiences a deep connection that everyone in her village feels with one another like family. Encouragement from those close to her is one of the things that pushed her to where she is today.

“My mom always pushed me to do more… (she) always pushed me to be inspired.” Rozlynn takes inspiration from her village ties and uses it to pursue her future goals. She left boarding school for her Junior year because of the pandemic, going back to Akiak to attend school with her family for the first time since middle school. During that time she had a job at the school helping with elementary classes. This inspired her to pursue a career as an elementary teacher. “Seeing a kid’s face light up especially after they finally get a lesson or answer. I love that. They’re like ‘oh that’s how’.”

Rozlynn plans to further education to benefit both herself and her Alaskan community. “Being too far away from home isn’t for me. If I was out of Alaska I don’t think my mom would be able to send me care packages, frozen foods.” Her family ties her to the state of Alaska, motivating her to achieve and learn. She has a fondness for going on trips with her father: berry picking, blackfish trapping, getting wood and fishing. Her family’s history in Alaska and her connection to it are detailed even further in her podcast created with a See Stories workshop in 2021.

In the workshop, she interviewed her grandfather (his traditional name, as used by Rozlynn, is only verbal and is used in her podcast linked below) about his life growing up in rural Alaska. In the workshop Rozlynn found connection with people outside of her village and deeper connection with her village as well. Listen to Rozlynn’s podcast here

Before interviewing her grandfather, Rozlynn talked to another elder in her village, where she found that creating a podcast was more difficult than expected. Selecting and interviewing a person is hard to do, and nerves or the fear of not being heard can get the better of you. The other students from across Alaska in the virtual workshop helped her to conquer this fear and find an interview that spoke to the message she wanted to create. She says having people encouraging her and expecting her to create the podcast made her excited and helped her overcome her shyness about the interview. Not only did the workshop make her and her grandfather closer, but it also created connections between her and the students across Alaska.

Rozlynn says that she not only created friendships, some of which she still maintains regularly today, but that she also found a new way of interpreting connection from the experience. Glancing into someone else’s life and finding the differences in how they view things makes you rethink your own interpretations. Interviewing someone facilitates this, and Rozlynn found that in the workshop all the students gained knowledge and got closer with the person they interviewed. She thinks that doing something out of your comfort zone, like a workshop, is something everyone should try. “Don’t be afraid to try something new. It could open you up to more possibilities.”

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