by Elena Aluskak
Our children are honorable and lovable … can any one of us disagree with this? No – not one individual will attest to contradict this statement of honor and value and love for our children because it is of utmost importance and priority that our children be raised in a “proper” way.
And for many of us the word “proper” often derives from our own upbringing, culture, tradition and plain ole common sense.
Culture and tradition also plays (should play) a major role in the care of our children. It is a style that is most appropriate and significant and defines our genuine status in this world, as a people. Our values and cultural beliefs (if I may) pretty much come down to the protection and love for our children. Our language loudly proclaims it. Our subsistence activities that include our littlest people physically show it. Our celebrations do not need any explanation one way or another how special we deem our smallest member’s involvement is, in our lives. Need I go on?
When? When did we assume to lose our role in this? Did we lose our role? How? How did we, if in fact, lose our role? Why? Why did we assume to lose our role? What are we then doing about it?
First of all, we have not lost much. Our standing as a genuine people of southwestern Alaska remains. I am still here as my forefathers have been here. My children are here. My grandchildren are here. My values and traditions including language are still here. I continue to live off the land. My customs that tie into my traditional activities are still practiced. I am thriving in my Yup’ik lifestyle as I remember when I was a child. AND my grandchildren are also thriving as Yup’ik people…
What many of us are losing or have lost is … the core of being a “whole” human being. Some of our Elders will refer to this loss as a personal spiritual loss. And yet some Elders will often describe it as a type of ‘murder’. I’ve also heard from survivors talk about it as having their childhood being ripped away…
These descriptions of child sexual abuse can seem offensive and impolite (to say the least) to a lot of people. Some people may even refuse such ‘vulgarity’ to come from those of us who’ve begun to become open with it. This loss devastatingly affects all these other components to life; personal growth, self confidence, education, language, health, faith, etc. in a way that is very negative and depressive.
And it does not affect one person alone; it affects anyone and everyone around that person. And in our area, our families are spread into the Yukon and Kuskokwim region – therefore it affects the whole Delta when one person is hurt. It is a great loss that has to be dealt with … as a people, as a community so our children will have a better future and our villages will be safe and happy communities.
Just as our forefathers diligently practiced the prevention efforts upon our families and communities, we need to be even more diligent today with our efforts. We need to utilize our community/village service providers, elders, councils, and including our faith leaders to keep our children and their families safe.
We are already fully equipped in our villages; we can continue to work persistently together, seeing and understanding the support that is needed by our community families and then strategically move them forward to positivity. We can do it. We have not changed. We are still who we are, despite everything else. We have not lost our values. We may be facing disruptions and outside systemic pressures but they should not be a cause for blame to what is going on in our villages today, nor should those forces ever stop us from being caring.
Let’s strive to keep moving forward as recognized by our Maker, to keep our children and families safe by continuing to show traditional and valuable care and respect upon them and including ourselves.
Elena Aluskak is a resident of Bethel, AK.