Stranger with a ‘Notepad’

Well, we have been in Kivalina now for about three days and although we are safe and warm, we are still strangers to this community. Our exploratory research into the everyday lives and afflictions of the people bring us to the dilemma of how to best make notes of the situation. Do we handwrite using a notepad? Or will breaking eye contact to take a note be disrespectful to the elder telling us amazing Inupiaq stories?

This is a dilemma that I am sure a lot of researchers have come across but the fact of the matter is that we need to put down our pads for a moment and just listen. Sure notes are important but missing any piece of the story to me is such a tragedy considering that these take decades in the making.

Talking to people is a vivid window into a culture of subsistence and dedication withstanding the harsh elements that are made even more unforgiving with the added pressures of climate change.

The people want their stories to be heard and to be shared with the world; however there is a sign of research fatigue emanating from them. The many documentary crews, engineers, and researchers that have come in the past just ask questions and leave without turning back. The people are looking for a reliable companion outside of their community who remembers their stories and want to share opportunities. They are not just looking for another stranger with a ‘notepad’.