by Peter Twitchell
I am grateful for my friend James from Napakiak, Alaska for calling me in 2020 during the Covid epidemic. He always had words of encouragement and I found comfort in his concern to maintain our health.
Then he would share what he was doing helping Elders pack water so they could bathe and steam in the steam house and help in lighting the fire for them. He never failed to share words of wisdom with me such as the values of our people that were passed down by the elders to our youth from generation to generation.
James proved to be a good role model for our youth and others who cared to listen to him. He still calls me today from time to time – yesterday he shared with me how Elders talk to young boys about the role of a man in the tribe. To be caring, considerate, helpful, encouraging, and helping family through hard times and he was sharing his subsistence catches with those who needed food the most.
James reiterated most everything I’ve been taught as a boy by my grandma Hannah, my Mom and my Dad and other Elders who were visiting our home. Our Elders of yesterday and today have wisdom to share with our young adults both male and female and their specific roles in our Yup’ik Tribe.
It is still important to share with our youth both female and male to practice these values in their minds and practice them throughout their lives.
We all have a responsibility and duty to teach our youth, young men and women the Elders’ teachings of wisdom and to incorporate these values early in life to daily living.
As young boys and girls we were told to listen and learn and being quiet from morning till night was a part of this discipline. When I hear someone yelling and screaming first thing in the morning, during the day, and during the evening I would think – that was not allowed in the early days of our Yup’ik Tribe.
When young boys and girls were noisy and not listening the Elders always said this person is like this because he or she is not going to learn.
In my youth as recently as the 1950s grandmas and apa’urluqs taught our youth to be quiet and have open minds and listen, not talk back to older wiser adults and to be positive always in our daily lives.
James is half my age but he speaks like an Elder words of wisdom to pass on to the younger generation. Thank you James for teaching our youth the ways of being a human being. Loving and always being encouraging to others who struggle to cope with this chaotic world. Along with the good of 2021 we must begin practicing our values before it’s too late.