Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.
Guest blog by Harold "Pete" Garrison, Official In Charge, National Weather Service, Bethel Alaska
As a NOAA employee, I am in charge of the weather service office in Bethel, Alaska, a hub for more than 50 communities and villages with about 25,000 native residents. It is located in the delta regions of the mighty Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. The office has a number of responsibilities that include upper-air and aviation observations, climate data collection, and the dissemination of weather products.
I am Inupiat Eskimo with some Russian, from the early explorers, on my mother’s side. After my father died in the US Air Force, My mother, three younger siblings and I moved to Unalakleet. I attended BIA school in Unalakleet and then went to a Native boarding school in Sitka until my high school graduation in 1968. Afterwards, I went to college in Fairbanks, Sitka, and Anchorage; however, I did not complete a degree because I decided I wanted to stay with NWS long-term.
Throughout the years, I have really enjoyed my time with NWS. I have trained many fellow employees and have been honored to be a part of this team. I am proud to say that my career has allowed me act as a mentor to other employees and several students.
The local communities around Bethel and my Inupiat Eskimo community observe our heritage in many ways. For example, we host potlucks and other events that showcase Alaskan Native way of life such as the Native Olympics and Eskimo dancing. While not specifically related to my Native Alaskan heritage, we do marvel at our beautiful scenery and wildlife. We enjoy the abundance of salmon; my family will sometimes smoke 80 to 100 king salmon a year into strips and slabs. We practice hunting and berry picking in amounts that are necessary in a subsistence life to remember our heritage.
My advice to young Native Americans who are interested in this line of work is to look into science and engineering jobs. They should also understand that no matter what career path they choose, it is vital to work hard and help others. They should also realize that although everyone has their differences, it is important to come together. I can only hope that the President’s “Winning the Future” vision will work out since the sciences and engineering fields are lacking in graduates – especially those with a Native American background.