Take the time to talk to an Elder

by Peter Twitchell

I spoke with old-timer David Kawagley who grew up in the village of Akiak, Alaska. He was my dad’s good friend growing up in Akiak together.

David shared with me stories Dad shred with him about the war in Europe. I learned things about WWII I hadn’t known or imagined.

Mr. Kawagley had a 3rd grade education and down the road learned about hydraulic boat engines by observing the 1st Engineer on the boat. Having a 3rd grade education there was a lot David didn’t understand, but paid close attention to the importance of pressure gauges and how important pressure played in a well-workign engine.

After a time working on a boat and navigating down the Aleutian Chain David was promoted to 2nd Engineer. One night he sensed the engine was a little off. David put his hands on it and it was running rough.

He went and informed his supervisor he better cut the engine off before any more damage was done. He averted a major disaster and in a week they were cruising down the Aleutian Chain.

David reiterated that he was never schooled, but by paying attention to how things worked he procured a livelihood working on a boat.

David said, “Too many of our young men nowadays are wasting their time and lives, by drinking and not making use of their time, instead wasting time that they will ever get back,” to put his words nicely. “They don’t know their posterior from a hole in the ground.”

David will turn 84 years old on December 20th, then he’ll look forward to 85.

David Kawagley told me we don’t respect our Creator God and fail to thank Him in prayer before eating our food. And the main reason we fail to ask God to bless our food, which He provided us is we don’t have God in our hearts anymore.

He went on to tell me villages back home “are against each other.” I asked him if he ever goes back to his village to visit. He told me, “No, there’s nothing for me there anymore.” I knew what he meant, from my own experience.

We have mutual friends and family in the village where we came from. Our roots are there. The land we love and were raised on will always be there, and in our hearts.

As our bodies age we are close to medical care and we have Elder housing available to us here at a reasonable price.

He told me when he first came to Anchorage he could have a meal of steak, mashed potatoes, dessert, and coffee for a dollar and 50 cents, and soda pop was only 25 cents and a Timex wrist watch was 5 bucks.

David enjoys going to fiddling dances here, and there are friends willing to take him. I learn something whenever I sit down and talk with David. His mind and memory are sharp.

Take the time to talk to an elder today. They are rich in wisdom and sense of humor.