“When I close my eyes, I can still hear my grandmother’s laughter. It’s sounds like Jingle-bells and the crackle of a fire all at once. She became a mother to many throughout her extraordinary life. Through that motherhood, she brought people to together, brought Leslie and I together. As matriarch of the Owl House, everything I learned about being human and being a Łingít woman was based in the ancestry I inherited from her… the bloodline of the Owl House. Leslie asked me to sketch a logo that represents what drives her narrative. The Owl represents the ancestry and the wisdom of intergenerational teachings. My grandmother continues to guide both of us to this day in spirit after her passing. She illuminates our path. Traces of her spirit laughter visit in the echo of jingle bells and the crackle of a fire.”
~Maka Monture of the Yéil Naa (Raven Moeity), K’ineix Kwáan (people of the Copper River Clan) from the Tsisk’w Hit (Owl House).
This web site connects you to Leslie Hsu Oh’s writing, photographs, gear reviews, and adventures in the natural world, the Hepatitis B Initiative (a nonprofit she founded that has been running for 21 years), and lessons learned from her exploration of the ecotone between indigenous knowledge and science, landscape and culture.
She has photographed whales from a helicopter (and flown one), kayaked into a melting ice cave in Iceland, glacier-hiked and paraglided in the Alps, ice-climbed in Alaska, combat fished with bears, and been invited by Elders to ceremonies or sacred landscapes that are not open to outsiders. Her education in biology, ethnobotany, public health from Harvard University, and a MFA allows her to move freely from academic to commercial endeavors, while contributing to literary works and outlets like Alpinist, Alaska Magazine, Backpacker Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, First Alaskans Magazine, Fourth Genre, Huffington Post, MIC, Outside Magazine, Parenting Magazine, Real Simple, Saveur, Smithsonian Magazine, Sierra Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Washington Post.
Leslie is the recipient of the Rasmuson Individual Artist Award, the first Julius B. Richmond Young Leader in Public Health Award, the first National Award for Excellence in Public Health Leadership, the Sun Memorial Award for exemplifying a commitment to improving the health and well-being of people in underserved populations, and the Schweitzer Award for reverence for life. Leslie is a silver and bronze medalist and three-time finalist of the North American Travel Journalist Association. She was also selected as an Adventure Travel Trade Association media delegate.
Her award-winning work has been named among the distinguished stories of the year by Best American Essays and earned awards in North American Travel Journalist Association Awards, the Solas Award from Travelers’ Tales, Best Magazine Feature Writing Award in Annual Writer’s Digest Competitions, and 1st place in Best Environmental Reporting from Alaska Press Club. Alaska Press Club judge said, “This piece is beautifully and sensitively written, and offers an inspiring story of science, understanding, cooperation and healing. It carefully navigates a deep cultural divide, taking readers to a spectacular natural setting that serves as a touchstone for exploring how people, place and natural resources are intimately connected.”
She is a Fellow for Life with the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. She served as Federal Liaison to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; Northeast Regional Director of the National Task Force on Hepatitis B: Focus on Asians and Pacific Islanders; Program Chair for the American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian Caucus of the American Public Health Association; Membership Chair for the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus of the American Public Health Association; and Board of Directors member of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable. She also designed user-centered web sites specifically for special populations at the Alaska Native Science Commission and healthfinder® for the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Surgeon General’s web site.
Renowned for extreme sports, adventure travel, and exploration with young kids, she’s written about her 10-month-old snowmobiling in Iceland (story published in Conde Nast Traveler). Her kids started snowboarding as soon as they learned how to walk (story published in Washington Post) and rock climbed at the age of two (story published in Alpinist Magazine). When her son was two and oldest daughter was five, a tour operator in Alaska outfitted both of them with crampons and they hiked a glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (story published in Backpacker). Now they are 9 and 12 and a few months ago both of them flew a helicopter (this story is forthcoming in Outside Magazine).
Losing her mother and brother to hepatitis B at the age of twenty-one inspired her to found the Hepatitis B Initiative in 1997, which she later expanded to the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. area with Thomas Oh. Today, this award-winning nonprofit continues to operate in several states offering free hepatitis B, hepatitis C, cholesterol, glucose screenings, and flu vaccinations to these communities: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burmese, Cambodian, Cameroon, Chinese, Egyptians, Ethiopian, Filipino, Ghanaian, Hmong, Indian, Indonesian, Korean, Laotian, Mongolian, Moroccan, Nepalese, Nigerian, Pakistani, Saudi Arabian, Sierra Leone, Somalian, Sudan, Syrian, Taiwanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and more.