Stacey Fritz, PhD Candidate in Cultural Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks
I first came to Alaska when I was 17 years old to work at a salmon cannery in Naknek. Having finished my freshman year at the University of Montana in Missoula (where I was born and raised), I wanted to earn money to continue traveling around Europe. Bristol Bay and the fishing scene fascinated me, and after working at Naknek and Petersburg the following summer I had to see the rest of the state. I drove up in the spring of 1993, ten days after graduating with a double bachelor’s degree in History and French. Though I have traveled since, the North staked a claim on my soul and I am unsatisfied with everywhere else.
I coaxed my old truck up to Fairbanks in the fall of 1994, where I started taking creative writing classes and working odd jobs. Various cabins in the woods outside of town have been home ever since and I believe that I am the luckiest person in the world to be here, especially when I gather gallons of berries, put up a freezer full of salmon, cook moose stew, or revel in the company of my fellow Alaskans.
My curiosity for all things Alaskan and Arctic was partly inherited from my father, a history professor who drove up the AlCan in 1958 and celebrated statehood while he was here. A great book collector, he has been passing on his Alaskana collection to me over the years. I discovered that I wanted to pursue a master’s degree when I learned that UAF has an interdisciplinary Northern Studies Program. Subsequently able to develop my interests in the North to my heart’s content, I chose as thesis subject an exploration of WWII and Cold War militarization of Alaska as a background for the then-proposed (and seemingly improbable) missile defense system.
This research became relevant when the Bush administration pushed to build the system, and I was concerned that many people did not understand its implications – both for the Alaskan environment and for global non-proliferation and nuclear stability efforts. Outside of school, I was working as spokesperson and webmaster for a local environmental organization, so it was natural for me to put information on missile defense on a website to share with others (No Nukes North). This effort grew into an educational 501(c)3 non-profit organization with over 500 members and I have since also served on the board of an international anti-nuclear organization (Global Network).
Another result of my master’s research was learning about the Distant Early Warning Line, a series of Cold War radars built across the arctic coast in the 1950s. As a PhD candidate in Anthropology and as a fellow in the RAP (IGERT) Program, I’ve developed an interdisciplinary proposal for a cultural and environmental study of the DEW Line that integrates anthropological theories on militarization with Inuit oral history and arctic environmental policy studies. My goals are to teach and to increase my participation in transnational institutions which promote democracy and equitable and environmentally sustainable solutions to world problems.