Sealaska hosted an inaugural #SealaskaWayOfLife photo contest, inviting our social media audience to showcase their Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian way of life. Overwhelmingly, it was clear that “our way of life” revolves around our children, traditional foods, communities, and land, oceans and waterways. At Sealaska, we directly relate with this way of life and have committed to serving the twin goals of economic prosperity and environmental protection to ensure generations are able to continue to live this way.
Throughout the four-week campaign, we received more than 630 images and, by using the hashtag #SealaskaWayOfLife, we were able to connect with more than 17,000 people! Connection to our people from across the nation was the overall purpose and primary driver of this contest, and we could not have done that without your participation. Gunalchéesh, Haw’aa, Nt’oyaxsn from everyone at Sealaska!
Some of our most cherished messages include the following:
“#SealaskaWayOfLife is teaching my son what my father taught me when I was young.” — Michael Benson
“Teaching the next generation how to bead and to make baby moccasins — #SealaskaWayOfLife.”
— Kimberly Wait-Flores
“Our way of life and when we live traditionally — we live by the seasons, harvesting beach asparagus and cutting halibut cheeks. I have taken young ones and teach them the whole process beginning to end — be it berries, fish, or deer and seal meat. My ongoing saying with teaching: You learn to harvest, process and subsist, and you will never go hungry. #SealaskaWayOfLife” — Siouxbee (Sue Ann) Lindoff
“Thank you Sealaska for keeping our people connected and being supportive.” — Vivian Demmert, #SealaskaWayOfLife finalist
“We used Charley’s gift card from the first round and bought her the book “Picking Berries.” We had to call her Grandmama to help with the Sm’algyax berry names. Thank you for organizing this!” —Rayana White, #SealaskaWayOfLife finalist
The contest had eight weekly winners and from the weekly winners, one grand prize winner received the most Facebook votes and was dubbed the #SealaskaWayOfLife winner. There were also two judge’s choice winners selected based on their representation of Our Way of Life. Prizes included gift cards to Sealaska Heritage Institute and Barnacle Foods, and a cash prize for the grand prize winner.
The grand prize winner of the contest was Jeannette Kookesh, who submitted a photo of her granddaughter Avery berry picking. “We took her out to pick with us, knowing she’d probably just eat the berries. But she was so excited to find the berries and fill her bucket. We showed her the hard-white ones and told her not to eat them. She loved every minute out there,” explained Kookesh. “It was fun to see all the photos and see what everyone was up to in their hometowns — from Elders to the babies.”
“To me, living the Tlingit way of life is just something I’ve always done. I was taught this growing up and I taught my children and now my granddaughter is learning it as well. She loves to get her hands right into what we are doing — whether it’s working on fish, deer, berries. When we travel, we take our foods with us and cook it to eat as well because our stomachs can’t really handle fast foods. So, I guess the Tlingit way of life to me is living off the land — fishing, gathering, hunting — teaching our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews what we were taught so they can learn the process as well. And it’s not just about our foods, my children are taking a bigger step than us and they’re learning our language and they’re teaching us. They’re also learning songs from our house, our clans, learning about other clan forts, and learning their history.” — Jeannette Kookesh, #SealaskaWayOfLife grand prize winner
What made this contest a success was how uplifting, inspirational and authentic this experience was — to see how genuinely our people are living their lives. We hope to host another similar contest in the future, so make sure to continue to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.