From Classroom to Community: See Stories’ Journey in Angoon

Over the past several months, See Stories has continued to work in partnership with Angoon Schools to facilitate a variety of projects for Middle School and High School students. The end of the 2024 school year marks two years since our programs in Angoon began, and it’s incredible to reflect on how much has happened in that time. 

A key community partner and funder of our work in Angoon has been Kootznoowoo, the village tribal corporation in Angoon. Just this past winter, Kootznoowoo finalized securing ~35 million dollars in grant funding to complete a hydroelectric project, known as the Thayer Creek Hydroelectric Power Plant, that was promised to Angoon through ANILCA more than 40 years ago. Over the past 6 months, See Stories has worked with students to help tell the story of Turn Point and Stillwater Bay, two locations nearby Angoon that will be impacted by the Thayer Creek Hydro project development. In April/May, myself and See Stories’ new amazingly talented T’lingit filmmaker and film educator Connor Meyer worked on several projects with Angoon students to help explore and document the history of the Turn Point area. First, we worked with the 8th Graders in Angoon. These students, alongside their teacher Mr. Lopez, came on a field trip to Turn Point to explore and take videos and photos. The sun was shining, flowers were blooming, the skunk cabbage was starting to grow big- it was spring in Southeast Alaska! We spent a long day exploring the area- and found much, including lots of old fishing/trapping cabins, historic garden beds, and relics of life long ago. After returning to school, each student wrote a reflection about what they had seen and experienced, and bravely recorded a voiceover of their own voice- telling the story of Turn Point through their eyes, while sharing their photos and videos. Their short films are priceless!

Shortly after the Middle School project wrapped up, we began work with 12 High School students in a collaboration between See Stories, Angoon Schools, and the University of Alaska Southeast. We were thrilled to be joined by UAS Professors Kevin Meyer and Sanjay Pyare to support a dual-enrollment class for students called “Community Mapping”- focusing on using a variety of technologies to map important places in Angoon with a focus on stewardship. Through the class students gained several credits from UAS, and began to learn 3D mapping, LIDAR, film/ photography, drone, and basic GIS skills. This culminated in another trip to Turn Point for all 12 students, where students helped map and further document the history of the area. We are so appreciative to Professors Kevin and Sanjay and the University of Alaska for supporting Angoon students in their digital documentation pursuits! Gunalcheesh!

As we turned the calendar toward summer, we knew our work on the Turn Point project was close to finished, but not yet completed. See Stories hired two Angoon High School students to work as “Cultural Media Interns”, and support us in finishing a variety of interviews, photos, and film documentation needed to finish the Turn Point Project. During a week in June, myself and Connor spent time with our interns tying up these loose ends. Our time overlapped with a historic community event- Kootznoowoo hosted a community celebration to signify the successful beginning of the Thayer Hydro Project. See Stories hosted a live stream for the occasion, and our interns were instrumental in filming and photographing the event, as well as conducting key community interviews with Kootznoowoo leadership, as well as Angoon’s Representative for the Alaska State Legislature, Representative Rebecca Himschoot. 

All in all, the past months in Angoon have been busy, but steeped in the deeping of trust and relationships. We have worked hard to create meaningful relationships with youth in Angoon, and are always so thrilled to celebrate their successes. During the Thayer Hydro Celebration event, we encouraged one of our Cultural Media Interns, Nadine, to speak her mind. Nadine has visited Turn Point several times during See Stories project work over the past months and has come to understand and appreciate the value of this project in particular for Angoon. In front of the entire community she said “I think it’s important because we only have one planet and it’s best to protect it. If you look at the difference between towns in the Lower 48 and the towns here, it’s really drastic. This is our home and the longer we can protect it, we can keep it in the beautiful shape it’s been in for so long. I hope that this also encourages other towns to start something like this and help protect our home.” To read more about Nadine or this project, check out this recent Juneau Empire article. 

The amazing Connor now is working to synthesize all of the filming and interviews completed by Angoon youth into a longer form 15 minute documentary film about the history of Turn Point near Angoon. Stay tuned for its release, coming this fall! It is sure to be amazing!
See Stories’ Journey in Angoon 2024 by See Stories

(View more photos from our Angoon projects by clicking on the link above)

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