Interview with an Alum: Miska Alexia
By Emma Tomeo
See Stories focuses on building inclusive communities through film and story, introducing and giving resources to young Alaskans for them to pursue their interests. One such Alaskan youth the organization engaged is Miska Alexia, a See Stories worksop alum since the age of six. Personally, I know Miska Alexia from the “International Understanding in a Time of COVID-19” workshop that we both participated in in our 10th grade year. He has a passion for video and audio editing and is pursuing a future in media.
Miska, currently a seventeen year old high school senior, is from the village of Nikolai, land of the Dichinanek' Hwt'ana. Nikolai is located in interior Alaska in the Yukon-Koyukuk region and part of the upper Kuskokwim language group. He spent his early years there where his dad grew up, until the 1st grade, when he moved to Anchorage. Nikolai was where Miska first connected with See Stories.
In 2010, Miska was featured in a See Stories workshop’s final project of a film created in the fish camp at Nikolai. The video details life in Nikolai through the eyes of youth and elders, and you can watch it here. Miska shared while laughing that “we have it on a CD. My mom brings it up and tries to bring it back whenever we leave the village after visiting. I make sure she doesn’t because I don’t want to watch my six year old self talk about frying mushrooms. I take it out of the bags and put it back on the bookshelf every time.”
Since then, Miska has continued making films and podcasts, such as the one he made for the “International Understanding in a Time of COVID-19” workshop in 2020. Using Zoom and letter writing to connect Alaskan and Ugandan youth, the program enlightened all participants on just how alike we are, dealing with some of the same issues while still so far apart. “Despite being on the exact opposite ends of the world”, Miska reflects, “there was still a lot that we had in common with kids in Uganda. COVID was one. It wasn’t as big a deal there (in Uganda) as here (in Alaska). Having to deal with tech difficulties too. Political unrest as well, although they had to deal with it more close hand than us in Alaska.” While keeping in touch with those participants in Uganda was difficult, as many of them do not have access to the internet and mail from Alaska to Uganda takes months to deliver, the final projects from the workshop succeeded in maintaining some connection. An intricate log of not only the contents of the workshop, but the emotions and experiences behind it can be found in each project. View Miska’s podcast here, detailing the connections that jumped out between us in the workshop.
Other media projects that Miska has worked on independently include AI upscaling images (making a low resolution image larger by training AI to guess what an image is) and creating his own Youtube channel, which can be found here. When I inquired about how nerve-wracking it must be to start a Youtube channel, Miska shared that his experience with See Stories’ workshops helped. “See Stories has helped in learning baseline knowledge for some of the software. It has helped with editing videos. Doing audio editing with Adobe has supported workflow too. I have one subscriber and they watch every video! [laughter] For the first video I was definitely a bit nervous.”
In the 2020 workshop Miska learned to use Adobe Edition, which connects with Premiere Pro, the software he uses now. When asked what he wants to do in the future, Miska was unsure, the many different options available to him leaving an open canvas for what he will choose to do. “Leaving is coming up quickly.” He says. Being upper Kuskoquim Athabascan, and having experienced unique Alaska Native traditions, Miska definitely sees himself as keeping connected with the state and the village of Nikolai. As for future projects, “I have a lot of fun doing computer science and messing around with software...“I want to learn more about that and put those skills to use, but I have no idea beyond that. I don’t have an end goal. I just enjoy it.”