Life within our culture

by Max Angaiak

The earliest memory I have is having preschool with Kamgu Post. She gave me a toy plane after she asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up.

I was born on November 4, 1998 in Bethel, AK, but I was raised in Tununak. My biological parents are Theodore and Edna Angaiak. My parents are Robert and Rita Angaiak. I was adopted to my mom as a present for her.

I grew up eating mainly food from both the stores and the land. My favorite food was iqalluarpak (dried herring fish). While I was growing up, our elliviq (place to put the herring) which is about 5 feet deep, would fill up to the top. I remember my mom always being very busy working on the herring. I remember watching her cut the halibut my real dad and real brothers caught. She’d make halibut strips and dried halibuts.

When she was able, our place where they cut fish would be filled. Every hanging space would be taken up. Braided herring about 6 feet in length, then tied to make an oval, hanged to dry. I ate what she provided me.

A thing that was part of my home culture was yuraq. Every since I can remember, I’ve always been interested in yuraq. I used to yuraq really hard, like on my knees bouncing with the drums. When they had yurarpak (dance festival) in another village, I’d always have to go. I’d travel to other villages: Newtok, Toksook Bay, Nightmute, Chefornak, Chevak, and my hometown, Tununak, would have it every year.

I’d always want to yuraq because it was so much fun. I’d see all these eyes watching me, mostly elders, and it would make me want to yuraq harder. On the last day of yurarpak, they’d have aruqecetaaq (give away of stuff), and the hosts would go around asking what we wanted. There would be a lot of stuff in the middle of the gym, stuff from chainsaws, to crackers and more useful stuff.

As the years went by, it got harder to travel because of the lack of snow. I wish all those years could come back.

Some traditions I followed were the yuuyarait and yuraq. Yuuyarait (ways of life) consisted of nukalpiarullerkak (be a great hunter), kenekluki mikelnguut (love thy children), calirpagyaraq (hard work), and so on. But I didn’t learn some of them while growing up, the rest came later after I got into high school.

One thing I learned about yuraq is, it originally was a way to pray to Ellam Yua (our creator). Ciulamta (our ancestors) yuraq really hard and fast, the harder they danced, the harder they prayed. Today, yuraq is used to tell stories of what happened in their lives, or praise to their catch and prayers to our creator. So when you yuraq, yuraq really hard and try to make each other enjoy it.

This is my autobiography about my ways of life and how I grew up. Time is flying, so cherish every moment you have. Every memory, keep them in mind, because in a blink of an eye, you will be where your Ap’a (Grandpa) was. If you live within your own thoughts, life will be hard for you. If you follow what is right, you won’t have any problems. So, pay attention to your surroundings and listen to your parents, because everything is changing at a rapid pace. Follow what they said, for that you will have a good autobiography.

Max Angaiak is a student at the Kuskokwim Learning Academy.