BY HOLLY FISHER
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong
November is Alaska Native History month, an important time to explore and learn about the culture and history of Alaska’s own people. A part of this month on the UAS campus has been an ongoing film series documenting different elements of Native lives. Though members of the Whalesong staff have not been able to attend all of them, I was able to attend the screening for the new documentary Hunting in Wartime.
This film explores the lives of Vietnam veterans from Hoonah, 28 of whom either enlisted or were drafted during the sixties and seventies. Of those 28, 17 of them saw active combat with the Viet Cong. The stories they brought back to their hometown were harrowing, and challenged each of them as they struggled to re-adjust to civilian life. Government ordinances put in place during their time away were complex enough to bar many from keeping their fishing vessels, the work they had counted on retuning to when they got home. Between the loss of work and rights, and the after-effects of combat stress, many of the veterans fell into substance abuse, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Some were lost this way, but many pulled themselves back out and have gone on to lead full, productive lives filled with family, work, and involvement with their Native community.
The film’s screening in the Glacier View room on November 8 was attended by multiple Native veterans, some of who had participated in the documentary’s production. They were on-hand to speak to the small crowd after the showing and had many insightful comments on the after-effects of their time overseas, and on the long-reaching nature of service during wartime.
The documentary has received multiple awards for its work as a social justice work, and its dedication to telling the true stories of these too-little remembered men. It has been screened in multiple locations across the country, a list of which are available on the official website, huntinginwartime.com. If any more showings become available in accessible locations, please consider seeing it. These men deserve our utmost respect and consideration, both as veterans and as sons of Southeast Alaska. The experiences they have had should be known and acknowledged by all who considered by all, especially those who consider Southeast Alaska home.
I offer a sincere and heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all of our veterans and soldiers, those who are currently deployed, and those who have given their lives for this country and everyone in it.