Norma AnaƗƗaq Ballot
Norma, a bilingual teacher, mom, sister, aunt, artist and jack of all trades, has lived on Selawik National Wildlife Refuge her entire life.
Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
(Photo: Steve Hillebrand)
How she fell in love with the refuge: “Probably before I was born! I remember going up with my dad, way upriver to Purcell Mountain, back in the ‘80s. I would go with him up there by boat, and as we're traveling he used to point out and tell me the names for every bend of the river, and who from our tribe had lived where. He had a mental map of every place to hunt, fish, and all the traditional place names. And that was when I really fell in love with the Selawik River area that's now Selawik National Wildlife Refuge.”
Coolest thing about the refuge: “When you go upriver, we have forested country right there. My camp, to me, is the prettiest place in the entire area. It has spruce and birch trees. That's why my dad chose that land [for an Alaska Native allotment]. He knew that, too.”
Favorite species: “For birds, it’s ducks. … For plants, it’s berries. The blueberries and cranberries that grow upriver on the hillsides are grape-size. And fish, it’s gotta be siulik [northern pike]. I just learned about cooking them a new way right over the open fire.”
Why refuges matter: “Protecting the land. If it weren't for the Fish and Wildlife Service, nobody would be there to protect the land, and monitor what's going on … I brag about the refuge and the staff to the other villages.”