Yup'ik Dance Festival Offers Opportunity for Community Engagement

Chris Pike and Leif Albertson talk electric vehicles with Tina Harness at Cama-i in Bethel in March. Photo by Michelle Wilber.
Photo by Michelle Wilber.
Chris Pike and Leif Albertson talk electric vehicles with Tina Harness at Cama-i in Bethel in March.

April 12, 2023

Michelle Wilber and Chris Pike of ACEP, and Leif Albertson of UAF Cooperative Extension Service traveled to Bethel last month for the 2023 Cama-i Dance Festival. The festival, an annual event that has been going on for over 30 years is a celebration of dance and Yup’ik culture that brings performers and artists together from across the world.

The festival, back in full force for the first time since COVID, draws large crowds of people from Bethel and the surrounding communities. Using the draw of a large crowd to the festival to reach more people, Wilber and Pike set up a table with information on the National Science Foundation’s Navigating the New Arctic-funded Electric Vehicles in the Arctic, or EVITA, planning grant. They talked with people about the results of two prior public meetings and interviews with stakeholders in the community, as well as similar meetings in Kotzebue and Galena.

The planning grant research team, a joint effort among UAA’s Institute of Social and Economic Research and the UAA College of Engineering, as well as UAF’s Alaska Center for Energy and Power, the International Arctic Research Center, and Cooperative Extension Service, has been building relationships and discussing electric vehicles with communities.

Table visitors could vote to pick a top barrier to and a benefit of electric vehicles in their community. Three choices of each had been chosen from the top barriers and benefits identified by community members in previous community visits. Around 80 visitors to the table placed a vote. See the graph for the results.

Materials at the table presented sample results from a model that uses EV energy use data collected in Alaska and vehicle use profiles shared during these community meetings to calculate the effects on climate emissions and fueling costs of switching from a gas to a fully electric vehicle.

In the case of Bethel, these preliminary modeling results indicate that an electric errand truck may provide few benefits over a fuel-efficient gas truck, but that electrifying taxis and other high mileage vehicles may offer large climate and financial benefits, if fast chargers were available for a quick ‘fill-up’ during a long day of driving. Decarbonizing electricity generation and providing incentives for charging (perhaps at times or in ways that benefit the electricity grid for all) could increase benefits further.

For more information on this research, please contact Michelle Wilber at mmwilber@alaska.edu.