Take a stand with me in protecting our children and our legacy

by Gloria Simeon

This letter is in response to comments made by Rep. David Eastman during the House Judiciary Committee meeting on 02/20/23, in reference to abused children who die.

“It gets argued periodically it’s actually a cost savings because that child is not going to need any of those government services they might otherwise be entitled to receive, and need, based on growing up in this type of environment,” Rep. David Eastman.

To qualify my statements, I personally am a survivor of Adverse Childhood Experiences, (ACES). With a perfect score of 10, no less. ACES is a scoring of childhood experiences that have a negative impact on the overall mental and physical well-being throughout a person’s life, affecting health outcomes. These include physical, sexual, emotional abuse, neglect, mental illness, substance abuse, witnessing of mother being abused, divorce and relatives in the penal system.

Rep. Eastman’s not so subtle questions alluding to the right to life of children who have been broken through no choice of their own leaves me to wonder who this person really represents. Aberrant comments such as those he made have no place anywhere that elected public officials serve.

As an Alaskan Native woman, I would venture to state that statistically, more Alaska Native children are negatively impacted by ACES and are locked in the system of the Office of Children’s Services.

My People were a proud People before invasion, before we were almost eradicated by wave after wave of colonialism and western expansion. Before contact, we had our culture, traditions, language, food security and pride in who we were and what we believed in. We were intact.

Disease first came with missionaries and traders during the 1800’s.

“Teachers, preachers and store keepers”, forced change on us, I once heard an Elder say. In 1900, census enumerators brought disease and death to our region, leaving entire villages wiped out.

“When the epidemic had spent itself it was estimated that only fifty percent of the people were left.” (Lantis 1959) Since then we have struggled to survive. We were a healthy People until disease and colonization ravaged our region, according to Lantis. We lived off the land and our bodies were healthy. Our bones and teeth were straight and strong. We had what we needed to survive.

Once our People were forced to forsake their nomadic lifestyle to avoid being jailed for keeping their children out of school and having children literally ripped out of their arms to attend boarding schools, we began to let self-doubt bring us down. We doubted all we that we were, abandoned the teaching of our ancestors that helped us to survive millennia. This was/is designed to be psychological warfare.

The State of Alaska and the Federal Government have already been pre-paid for the land, resources and freedoms they have taken from us. To further question our children’s right to live is beyond reprehensible.

How can anyone in their right mind would think that the State of Alaska can balance any budget on the backs of the lives of broken children and families is an act of genocide. This system was forced upon us and is not working. It has taken decades to find that the answers and healing must come from within and we have begun to heal by revitalizing our cultures, traditions, languages. It will take time to heal from the shackles of trauma that has bound us. From forced relocation, forced removal of children, etc. We are healing from multiple generations of trauma incurred by western “civilization”. How dare Rep. Eastman or anyone else question the right of our children to have the same rights as others to survive and thrive.

Every day, we face another threat to our survival. The failure of our salmon to return to our rivers is a threat to our food security. The looming threat of the proposed Donlin mine threatens our rivers, air and land. We have found that the state and federal government and the representatives that we have elected are in support of corporations that have lined their war chests very well. The protections given us by the federal government to have the right to our traditional and customary food sources and clean water are being whittled away.

The State of Alaska has commodified our food and our resources. Our rivers, land, air and food now have dollar value. To the highest payers. Sports hunters and fishers are given preference in taking prime game stalk and breeding species of salmon. To place a dollar value on the lives of our children and their right to life is wrong on so many levels and must be addressed immediately.

It is my hope that the Native Communities, Tribes and Indigenous leaders of Alaska take a stand against those who threaten the right of our children to exist; that those elected to represent us at tables where influence can be wielded will raise their voices for the survival and future of our children and families.

It is well past time to take a stand for our future and the future of our children. Where are you, our leaders? I challenge you to stand with me in protection of our children and our legacy.

Gloria Simeon, Citizen of the Orutsararmiut Traditional Native Council, the Native Village of Bethel, Alaska. A woman of the Kuskokwim River with bloodlines from the headwaters to the mouth.

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