by Elena Aluskak
Ever since I can remember (acquired an ear to understand/hear) – I remember the constancy of guidance and admonishments; not in any way confusing or hard to understand but consistent and sometimes very persistent.
It took her until her last breath to cease talking – exactly as she would say she’d do in many of her talks. She kept up – never assuming I would get enough or get tired of her. Sometimes, there would be urgency in her voice – not in any way gentle – but lovingly harsh and urgent and her choice of words were weighed; never sarcastic or purposely and knowingly said to put me down or to make fun of me.
To counsel is making sure our point is understood and clear; not beating around the bush or making things sound sweet and totally excusable. And counsel is repetitive; so to be ingrained by the listener and the goal of leading a positive life is mentally set – to be physically practiced.
Counsel is not always humble and gentle and real counsel is not sugar-coated and does not evade the point; it is not laid out to ‘tickle’ the ear … but it is ‘thunderous’, to provoke understanding and action. Counsel is ‘designed’ to prevent mishaps, regrets, pain, sorrow, discomfort, sadness, separation, calamity, arrogance, selfishness, dishonor, lies, etc. – you name all the negativity – counsel is verbally structured to prevent it.
When we speak to our children and grandchildren, we talk to them in the same way as it has been for our people – because we do not want them to be hurt in any way; emotionally, mentally, physically and sexually. The children are to mature with their counsel so they in turn will pass it on to their children but with the expansion of the second language, English, the ability to be more ‘colorful’ and ‘wordy’ kicks in.
The latter can be somewhat confusing, it is best to cling to the original traditional words to convey points clearly; some of our very valuable expressive words do not have the correct translation in the popular second language … thus the importance of our Yup’ik language to continue to be our first language (a whole other essential topic for discussion).
Qigcikiyaraq – the ability to show respect is most often stressed and repeated in our open, free, and unscheduled counsel ‘sessions’. This one single word leads to the whole arena of prevention and safety. The very meaningful word also leads to awareness of the many negative events that take place in our lives, in the lives of children – ellatuyaraq – the ability to be fully aware; another word that carries great weight … and has to be defined very clearly to promote and enhance the understanding of respect.
I urge you to continue talking to your children about self respect and respect for others; emotionally, mentally, physically and sexually. The outcome of your consistent counsel will show itself in the lives of your generations … positivity over negativity.
Elena W. Aluskak is the Irniamta Ikayurviat Outreach Coordinator in Bethel, Alaska.