Patrick Anderson ’75: Breaking the Cycle [Princeton Alumni Weekly]


How a troubled childhood led to bettering outcomes for Alaskan Native children

If only for a short time, there was some happiness in Patrick Anderson ’75’s childhood: swimming in a slough off Alaska’s Prince William Sound, eating fresh herring eggs, and picking berries for his large extended family and placing them into empty 3-quart cans. It was a traditional life of Tlingit and Aleut peoples in Cordova, Alaska, in the early 1960s. But when Anderson was 8, his family moved to Seattle, where his stepfather expected to find work. When that didn’t happen, the couple split, leaving Anderson’s mother destitute.

She picked strawberries and vegetables and gathered ferns for a florist, but couldn’t balance the work and child care, and Patrick and his four sisters were removed by authorities. Without a foster-care placement available, Anderson was held at a youth-detention center over a winter at age 10, where he slept on a cot in a huge room and was marched to meals.

“I cried for the first week that I was there. I didn’t want to eat or talk to the social worker,” Anderson says. “You’ve got to survive. You were surrounded by kids who were there for a reason, and you were just there because you didn’t have a home.”

In a sparse office in Anchorage, Anderson tells his story slowly and precisely in a deep voice. The issue of childhood trauma has become a driving force in his life’s work.

To read the full article written by Charles Wohlforth, click HERE

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