The Exxon oil spill that occurred in Valdez, Alaska in 1989 created significant trauma to thousands of Alaska Natives living in the coastal pathway. Alaska Native communities that were impacted had to modify their diet away from such traditional Native foods as cockles, clams, mussels, sea snails, seaweed, and bidarkas (gumboots). Many began eating canned and processed foods with corresponding increases in hypertension and diabetes.
Early studies indicated that individuals and families underwent varying degrees of stress, grief and loss issues, and depression. For many, the oil spill represented a loss of a way of life, which for some continues to this day.