Thoughts and Quotes from a Week in Anchorage

My students, co-teachers and I in the Tribal Scholars Program spent a week in Anchorage attending the First Alaskans' Institute Elders and Youth Conference and the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Convention.

Here are some striking quotes I recorded from speakers during the conference and convention:
"We believe in subsistence. That's a word that means our way of live, our tradition. ... I don't want our children to look back over their shoulders and think someone is going to take that away from them." —Fred John, son of Katie John, the famous subsistence advocate 
Devlin Anderstrom
"Our language connects us to our land, to our past. ... What is haa ḵusteeyí, our culture? It is everything." —Devlin Anderstrom, Tlingit language apprentice 
"It took fifty years to get this dysfunctional [in our villages]. Seven girls getting on stage won't change everything overnight." —Cynthia Erickson, reassuring the girls in her Tanana 4-H group after they spoke up about village problems 
"If we don't speak about this now, then what is our future going to look like?" —Cynthia Erickson 
"What isn't fair is being treated different. I don't ask you to move down the road because the firetruck can't get there. It's not fair." —commenter at a public safety workshop 
"We owe you better  than this. You deserve better than this. ... Every village deserves a full-time law enforcement presence." —Lisa Murkowski 
"May our language live. May our language live." Don't let personality conflicts or anything else stand in the way. —Evon Peter (Later he tweeted the quote in the Tanana language: "Diginjik yeendaa gwiheendaii.")
Here are just two of my thoughts on history and education sparked by the trip:

witnessing the signing of the bill
making Alaska's 20 Native languages
official languages of the state
One of the major undercurrents I saw at the convention was struggle between Native Alaskans and Alaska's state government. Thinking back to history, White Alaskans tend to celebrate statehood in 1959 as an unmitigated success for all Alaskans. In fact, for Natives it led to whole new conflicts with a new governmental entity seeking power and control over resources.

An education in U.S. law and government from a Native perspective would be far more advanced and challenging than any American Government curriculum that ignores Native issues. Just a brief examination of the treaties, legal precedents, and governmental agencies that directly impact Native politics confirms as much. Every American high schooler should study Native law and government.

Comments