Crow is one of three Alaska Native students — along with Kaylee King and Ethan Lincoln — who made a podcast about their hunting tradition. The students are from different towns, but met as interns at NPR’s member station WUKY in their senior year of high school. Right before they graduated last spring, their podcast was chosen as a finalist in this year’s NPR Student Podcast Challenge.
The three students say hunting helped them get through the isolation of the pandemic, when their schools and many other activities, like sports, were shut down because of COVID-19.
In the podcast, Crow went hunting with his 17-year-old brother, Peter, but sometimes the whole family goes, including his father and grandmother. King and Lincoln — who are cousins — also go hunting with their families.
“Nowadays, you see everybody go out and hunt. Dads will take their daughters,” says Crow. “It doesn’t really matter what your gender is.”
COVID-19 did not hit Bethel until August of 2020 — when people started to travel to and from other cities. The virus quickly spread, closing schools through March of this year. Meanwhile, King’s village of about 250 people managed to make it through with very few cases, and she was allowed to finish out high school in person; she was the only graduating senior in her town this year.
The students explain that, as time goes by, fewer and fewer people are practicing subsistence hunting. King, especially, feels a pressure to keep the traditions alive.
“It makes me really sad because the way we used to do things is so different from how we do them now,” King says. “Even our language [Cup’ig] is slowly fading away.”