by Elena Aluskak
Waqaa! I remember when my quiet moments were gently filled with what I thought then as “lecture”. On-going repeated lecture. Sometimes, persuasively but never harsh, other times just seem to flow with normal, ordinary but never a dull, superficial tone, the underlying intent always existing. Then, I would sometimes think… “again?” and then yet again?
It almost always seemed to occur in the morning when my whole being seemed to be fresh and ready for the day… sitting down at her kitchen table, sipping on my breakfast, whatever it may be; juice, cocoa…and then coffee. But it was almost always at that same time.
She found that time to grab the moment, steal it and mark it… to be ingrained (in me) as it was for her. For her, it had been passed down from her father… she grew up without a mother, passed on when she was about 4 years old. It was ingrained in her, enough to interpret and pass onto me… us.
Many times she would end with, ”qanrutenrirngaitamken, qiilingyaaqsartuten taugaam taqngaitamken, taklareskuma taugaam taqciqamken”. (I will not stop instructing you… you may begin to mature (as in graying hair) but I will not stop until I lie in death).
Many of you out there know exactly what I am talking about. Moments of eloquent, influential instruction and admonishment were a daily part of our lives.
It was not just any idle talk; it was based on the values of our identity as Yup’ik people and those that included the whole lifestyle teachings of our human existence. And many of their instruction included essential, experienced, endured encouragements to understand, utilize and build on; everything from bad to good, negative to positive. Nothing was left out. Nothing was sugar-coated.
Today, we are still striving (as instructed) to pass on our values. It may seem non-existent to some people, but we are faithfully still at it. Our values, to some people may seem outlandish or even bizarre, but to us who grew up hearing them and living on them with the best of our ability have total understanding. It is very real for many, many families to have similar experience I had, once upon a time. And then it is still very real for our children and now our grandchildren to have the similar if not exact same experience we had.
We are continuing the cycle of teaching today to our children and grandchildren; instructing and guiding them as our forefathers did way back then. It will not cease. It will continue as long as our race is in existence.
Qigcikiyaraq; the ability to respect. Kenkiyaraq; the ability to love. Kencikiyaraq; the ability to honor or revere. Augariciyaraq; the ability to forgive. Our values are based on these aspects of traditional and cultural abilities.
My work at the Irniamta Ikayurviat is working with children and their families who have experienced abuse and namely child sexual abuse. Unfortunately, many of us have experienced it and so have our children or grandchildren. Someone we know and care for has experienced this.
And many times, we will hear or will be told that this type of abuse is higher in number in our Yup’ik culture than anywhere else. I will tell you that it is a worldwide issue affecting families everywhere on this planet. It is an issue that does not need statistical output in order to prevent it. It is a preventable ‘epidemic’.
It is not part of anyone’s culture on this earth; because from the beginning, we are taught the aspects of positive living. Hearing about self-respect and respect for others…and everything around us including land, sea and air.
And when it comes to children, we do hear the significant value they carry right from the beginning. The importance of providing the essential appropriate care is spelled out. Everything about the upbringing of a child, right from the beginning of pregnancy is simply but boldly expressed; by words and action. Our children are loved right from the start.
Let’s continue to show our love for them and everyone else by… “grabbing the moment” and strive to instill our traditional and cultural values upon them. Quyana.
Elena Aluskak is the Outreach Coordinator/Child Forensic Interviewer for Irniamta Ikayurviat, a Child Advocacy Center in Bethel, Alaska.