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‘Children of the Arctic’: Glimpse into Complicated Life of Inupiat Teens

Children of the Arctic by director Nick Brandestini, is an amazing peek into the lives of children and teens in Barrow, Alaska.
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Being a teenager is tough wherever you live; but as shown in a documentary by filmmaker Nick Brandestini, living as a Native teen in rural Alaska is very complicated. Children of the Arctic tells the story of four Inupiat teens growing up in the small community of Barrow, Alaska.

The teens highlighted in the film include Josiah and Flora, a young couple in love who are trying their best to adhere to a traditional lifestyle at home while pursuing an education outside of their Native community. There is also Maaya, who gives suicide prevention presentations but craves simple teen activities like eating fast food and going to malls, and has dreams of moving to Arizona.

Photo Film Website

An image from Children of the Arctic by Director Nick Brandestini

Finally there is Ace Edwards, who is being groomed for a leadership role in the community but becomes overwhelmed by the plans his community has for him.

The film addresses the challenges young Indigenous youth face today, including the role youth play in the continuation of culture and some of the tough decisions youth have to make, such as moving away and getting an education or staying home and helping the family in whale harvesting.

Photo Film Website

An image from Children of the Arctic by Director Nick Brandestini

While Ace clearly has frustrations and thirsts for more traditional knowledge, Josiah and Flora fear that when they go away to college, they will be missing out on many events in the community, and valuable time with their elders.

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Flora states that her and Josiah’s decision to “put off college for a couple of years” is a joint decision between “wife, husband, and God.”

The community is heavily Christian and the influence of Christianity creates tension between religion and traditional Inupiat culture, a common theme in many Native communities.

The Inupiat and surrounding communities are also scarred by suicide. Ace’s brother committed suicide, and Maaya tries to help her community heal through her presentations on suicide prevention.

Photo Film Website

An image from Children of the Arctic by Director Nick Brandestini

The film also shows that the heart of the community is in the whale harvest. After the whale is hunted, traditional songs are played as the women butcher and meat is cooked.

Like the buffalo for the Plains tribes, the Inupiat use every part of the whale, from meat to blood.

“Children of the Arctic” premiered April 5th, as part of WORLD Channel’s America Reframed, series. The films streams free for 90 days after the premier and can be found here or on the film’s website.

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