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RITs Coming Together to Communicate for Conservation
Alaska Region, December 10, 2004
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An airplane ticket from rural Alaska to Anchorage = $750. Five nights at an Anchorage hotel = $375. The work Refuge Information Technicians do in rural Alaska = Priceless.

Over 20 Refuge Information Technicians (RITs) from around Alaska traveled to Anchorage to participate in the Second (biannual) US Fish and Wildlife Service's Alaska Regional Communication Workshop held December 6 through 10. Refuge information technicians are Alaska Natives who work as refuge liaisons, educators, and interpreters in dozens of remote communities that are adjacent to the 16 national wildlife refuges within Alaska.

The workshop outcomes, in the words of Refuge Information Technicians:

Orville Huntington-Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge, Huslia, AK "The best part of the communications training for me was to listen to other RITs from around the State and hear what they do at their refuge, who they communicate with in their jobs, what their experiences have been and where their concerns are. It was a pleasure to network with a group of people who also know what conservation concerns are, know what the Service mission is, how to communicate with those who can make a difference where there are conservation concerns, and getting the best out of each member of the refuge staff to get the job done. The others who know and shared what subsistence is to the Native people of rural Alaska were a special treat, and it was an honor and privilege to listen to those who were willing to share with everyone at the meeting. None of the information of old ways of subsistence can be taught or learned from a book, but when told in a oral story as it was meant to be, the conservation message can be heard by all and remembered and passed on to the next generation. Even the non-Native audience gets something out of old ways of knowing that were shared long before our time on this earth."

Tonya Lee- Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, Kodiak, Alaska "Native cultures in Alaska make up the RITs for the USFWS. We represent the voice of rural Alaska when it comes to subsistence issues. Often rural and urban Alaska clash but in the Kuskokwim Ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel in Anchorage remarkable similarities were seen through our eyes and ears. If Alaskans agree on 95% of our conservation issues, what is it in the 5% that cause division? During this outreach workshop, cross-cultural gaps were bridged and that 5% was finally understood for a brief moment in history. Understand rural Alaska: Time is seasonal; actions show who you are; ears have eyes and you will see clearly with your ears when you are able; knowledge is nothing without the wisdom to use it; listen first then speak; think in terms of everyone versus individually as in western cultures. Whether you?re an introvert or extrovert, male or female, native or non-native one conservation message was clearly understood: ?Relationships are everything; without relationships we can do nothing, with them we can do much.?

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov



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