Elders are our Culture Bearers

by Peter Twitchell

I have gained knowledge of the old ways, Traditions of our People, the Culture of our People of Southwest Alaska. First and foremost from my parents David and Sarah Twitchell, my maternal grandmother Hannah Pitka, and my Auntie Annie Nansen, also from interacting with the Elders of the Yukon Kuskokwim Region and elsewhere.

Mainly from my 24 years at KYUK as Radio Operations Manager 1975 and on. I worked with many Elders interviewing on tape, studio and on air live. I worked with Dick Andrew (Apaqutak), Peter Jacobs, Wassillie B. Evan of Naparyaraq, Maggie Lind, Esther Green, Lucy Sparck, Anastasia Markham, Pepsi Nicori, Paul Gregory, Eddie Hoffman, Lucy Beaver, Nick & Elena Charles, Evon Waska and his dad Puglerkaq, Levi Lott, Ivan M. Ivan, Phil Guy, George Sam, William & Joe Lomack, Jackson Lomack, Moses Owen, Lillian Lliaban, Adam Japheth, Mary Samson, and Margaret Jackson.

These Elders were immersed and practiced the Yup’ik Ways of life. Some spoke exclusively Yugcetun.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of Elders we talk to. They shared the old ways, values and ways of living the subsistence life and the spirituality of the Ancients, and of animals, fish, birds, and every living thing, and plants of the tundra. And the weather patterns because it was the means of survival and knowing the environment and the harsh winters of long ago.

Native men and women of all ages contributed to our radio station KYUK on tape with live interviews and over the air. Through the years we were blessed with their wisdom and knowledge.

The words of wisdom of these Elders KYUK shared with the Lower Kuskokwim School District media library so that our children and grandsons and granddaughters could learn about the old ways in our schools.

I am myself qualified for a traditional counselors license that is good for the rest of my life because of what our Elders shared with me and others in our region.

I am forever grateful and happy and satisfied that I chose to work with our Elders and not go off and work somewhere where I would get a state pension or PERS. I was satisfied with my salary and right now I only collect Social Security each month but I am richer because of what our Elders taught me.

Back when Bethel money was circulating around Bethel we could pay our Elders an honorarium and give them that contribution for freely sharing the old ways of our people in southwestern Alaska.

So talk to our Elders, listen to them, they are old and wise and they possess knowledge long forgotten. Listen to the Words of Wisdom and learn. We are here today because our Elders survived the famine, the deadly tuberculosis and flu epidemics. Remember our Elders lived long before your time, you will be amazed to know about the beginnings of our existence as Yup’ik People.

Keep in mind our elderly Culture Bearers are moving on fast. They desire to share their story with you and will give you food for wisdom.