Alumni Profile: Grant Jackson ('03)

Wintering With the Yup'ik Eskimos

Grant Jackson, a recent graduate of the Anthropology Program at SUNY Plattsburgh, is getting a taste of life in Dillingham, Alaska.

He took the time to send us some notes from the field, in the hopes that he can share his experiences with fellow students and would-be anthropologists.

Never Pass Up An Opportunity to Try Walrus Skin

"Hi, my name is Grant Jackson and I graduated from SUNY Plattsburghwith a degree in anthropology in the spring of 2003.

"Well it's only the second week of October and there is already snow in the mountains just north of Dillingham, Alaska. It won't be long from now that the vast expanses of tundra will be covered with white.

"The summer after my sophomore year I went to Alaska for the first time through the practicum program offered by the anthropology department through Hope Community Resources, Inc. It turned out to be a life changing experience for myself and the other students that I went with.

"During the practicum I was lucky enough to be placed in a rural village on Alaska's southwest coast called Dillingham. Dillingham is roughly 400 roadless miles west of Anchorage with a permanent population of around 2,000 half of which are native Yup'ik Eskimos. This blend of indigenous and Western cultures makes Dillingham a truly unique location. Much of this population relies on subsistence hunting and gathering to meet their basic nutritional needs. However, that's not to say that people here don't enjoy Ben & Jerry's and Pepsi because they most certainly do.

"During the fall of my senior year I received an offer from Hope Resources to return to Dillingham to run their program that provides supports to individuals who experience developmental disabilities in this region of Alaska (Bristol Bay Region). I have now been back in Dillingham since early July and I am in charge of services provided in a dozen mostly Native Yup'ik speaking villages. I now have the opportunity to travel to these villages and to immerse myself in ways of life that are all but forgotten in the lower 48 states.

"The populations of these villages vary from 20 people, being the smallest, to 2,000. Visiting families in these tiny villages has been an amazing anthropological learning experience. I was always told that I would learn the most when I am out in the field. This couldn't be any closer to the truth. Having to learn how to work with a language barrier, mostly in the smaller villages, and realizing that you may not always be welcome in certain place forces you to start thinking creatively. Gaining the trust of the family and the community is the most important and prevalent barrier to my job. It may only take a pleasant conversation in some cases or it may take sampling some traditional cuisine. Never pass up an opportunity to try Walrus skin. It's simply divine.

"I could not be more grateful to everyone in the Anthropology Department for giving me the opportunity to come to Alaska. The knowledge and skills that these professors offer us is more relevant and applicable in the job market than you may realize."

Contact Information

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Room 113 Hawkins Hall
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Plattsburgh, N.Y. 12901-2681

Phone: (518) 564-2090
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