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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The space between......

Sometimes all it would take to stop a ton of heartache and trouble, is to make a tiny connection. A thin thread of strength between thought and action. Between word and meaning.
I sit here this morning contemplating these disconnections, the places where there is a gap, small gaps that feel like deep chasms. Gaps that create such pain that you would think someone would bridge it right away.

I have experienced this separation. It pried at my heart and marked it for life. I love teaching. The feeling you get when you did your job right and that wave of understanding makes it's way across a child's face is one of the most beautiful and humble thing I have ever seen. But the Price was too high for me to pay, as I was almost swallowed by this gap.

Our world is so young. So confused and malformed. On one side we have our Traditional life, and on the other we have the Other life. One is filled with the soft song of our Elders, the other the marching tune of Conformity. We hop back and forth. But no one has decided that they should be no space between the two.

Some people say that it's impossible. That these two worlds are so different that they cannot be combined. But I say they that some people need to stop limiting themselves, that believe it or not the world does include other cultures, cultures that are successful. I envy the Japanese because the people who do business with them bow and wear no shoes. I envy the the Spanish their Siesta time. I envy that Maori college in New Zealand for making all their non-native professors speak the native tongue fluently. I envy the Greeks for having free college. I envy other cultures for making Others adapt to the Original world. Because it gives this Original world credence and value and worth.

Without that bridge I see so much damage being done. Today I saw a comment online made about how the only reason that most young Native people have no jobs is because they are lazy drug addicts, that they lack in anything that would make them successful human beings. This comment was made by a young Native person. And I thought of all the people that I knew that had no jobs or that struggled with keeping a job and then I tried to figure out what would make this person say this comment. Where did this judgment come from? Who created the list that would make a person label others in this way? By what standard are they being judged?

I could be considered one of those judged un-successful. By western standards I'm pretty useless. I don't have a full time job. I am an artist that has never had any real important gallery showings. I've won no awards. I don't make a huge amount of money. I was rejected for every artist or business grant I ever applied for. I can't afford a shiny new car or a dishwasher. I spend way too much time doing "useless" things like camping and skin sewing and learning place names. Things that no one would pay me for, so they have no real value in the Western world.

Yet at the same time I am praised for some of the stuff I'm doing. Saving the Knowledge. Learning the Words. When I am and Elder, I will have some knowledge to pass on to those that ask. The interesting part is that when people ask me what I've been up to and I tell them what I am learning, they usually ask if I'm getting a "real" job soon. As if what I am doing is not worth much in this day and age. And I have to ask why it's not worth much. And what actions would be needed to make it worth something. How does one add something to this imaginary list?

And then I think about my husband. He works so hard to make the little amount of money we need. He gets up early. Takes his breaks and lunch. Comes home and sheds the Western world from his skin. I wish these companies would encourage his Inupiaq self. I wish so much for the man I love. For the people I love. I wish that he could be praised for his hunting skills like he is paid for his carpentry skills. That he could receive certificates for what he knows about wolves and wolverine and caribou, like the certificates he got for what he learned for Plumbing and Electrical 1. I wish someone could bridge that gap I see in him, that I see in all of us.

Yet even though our corporations and our world has Native leaders at the helm, it seems as if they believe the only way to be successful as a people is to Conform. And that to me is a dangerous place to live, hovering over this gap instead of bridging it.

I hope one day to be in a place where "work" wear is snow shirts and atigluuraqs, where the visiting lower 48 people come to us wearing our traditional clothing. I hope to be in a place where we pay hunters to take care of our Inupiaq bellies and keep the less fortunate full. I hope to be in a place where the work day is based on paying people for the job and not the hours, like in the Inupiaq world. I hope to one day be proud of a place that pays employees more if they speak Inupiaq fluently, and even pay in house tutors so that our businesses are steeped in lore. I hope to love a place that recognizes that the Inupiaq world is different, and to celebrate that difference instead of trying to hide it. I hope to be proud of a place where a young Inupiaq person will not call another young Inupiaq person less.....because of some other worlds list.

I wish....wish... that this gap would disappear.


  1. Beautifully written, as always. And I hope for that for you as well.

  2. I wish the gaps will close too. But in my chase I want the schism of "Abled vrs Disabled" to disappear.

  3. In what ways could companies encourage your husband's "Inupiaq self?"

    This is an interesting idea and I'd like to hear your thoughts on it. I am an AK business owner and would like to know how I can connect better with the native people I work with.

  4. All gaps you perceive are real/ no less real than the spark plug's gap/ and you, my friend, seem as electric as the arc that fires across it.
    It seems to me that you are creating beauty in your world, and by extension, mine. I wish everyone could live in a wild expanse for a while as you do, and as I have done in a different locale. Honoring beauty and love has its own rewards, as you know. YOU are creating the magic. Thank you for expressing it.