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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Guardians......

This is the time of year when college students come home for the holidays. They board metal planes that take them back to the 'tiny' villages.

I can remember vividly what it was like. My brain would be in shock for a few days as I exchanged one world for another. I would be uncomfortable as I greeted people that felt a bit like strangers, almost as if we were separated by the books that I read for my courses. It was never a simple enjoyable homecoming to family and friends that you saw on the movies. It was always something I had to brace myself for, to push through the waves of different reactions that bloomed around me. You never knew how some people were going to react, what uncomfortable words would come out of their mouths.

The holidays always left me emotionally exhausted. I was greeted one moment with a hug and a handshake, words of awkward encouragement in the air, and the next with belittling words whispered just loud enough for me to hear as they passed by. Usually it was something about being 'better than' or 'stuck up', followed by giggles or grins. These words were spoken by adults and young people alike, though I suspect the younger ones were only mimicking the adults.

To me it was worth it, to find a few tiny gems of acceptance and love in the crowd of confusion, like pearls of Faith.

It always made me wonder where it all came from. What did they see in me that prompted such words and reactions. Some people would say it was jealousy, but jealousy is wanting what someone else has and I never sensed that they wanted my experience.

I think part of it is also that people do not talk of what their experiences are away from home. What they went through to get an education . What the cost was. It is assumed that if you are being successful in college than you are enjoying yourself, being bathed in city lights and dancing in paved streets. But of course none of that is true.

Everything worth it requires sacrifice.

My degree was paid for in tears. In long nights wishing I had less courage and determination. It was paid for in dreams of being just a tad less smart, and confusion about what my purpose would be. It was paid for in battle, between two worlds trying to fit like a puzzle made of ever changing clay. It was paid for by learning utter loneliness, or what felt like it compared to the strength and bonds I felt from my culture and people before I left.

In our new world we have need of Guardians. Guardians to fend off the worst of the storm that is the modern world, threatening to erode our Uniqueness and Difference. But these Guardians are few, and these Guardians bear a heavy weight and will earn many many scars.

In this Holiday season, I would hope if you know one, you will lessen their scars, lessen their wounds by not adding to them. By realizing that without them there would be nothing but uncertain blackness as a future. By understanding the Price.

And when, or if, they return to fight on the Home turf, that you are willing to greet them with Understanding and Acceptance. And let that be your sacrifice.


  1. When my grammy was young she was sent Outside to a reservation school. The education she received was well beyond that of young women of her time but the broken ties to home hurt her for the rest of her life.
    When my mother went Outside for college her very own sisters said she was "getting above herself " and putting on airs. Over the years ma changed that perception to one of acceptance for the foot-in-both-worlds place she occupied but suffered from a unique lonliness grown from feeling of-both-but-neither.
    I grew to understand my aunties were afraid of losing the firm ground they thought they stood on in the face of mother's differences
    And they grew to understand the ground was shifting and ma was part of a solution to keep the best of the past and be ready for the future...
    Life is hard work and unnecessary suffering is unacceptable. I join you in asking that people honor the courage and work and sacrifice of those who are working to build a future which will of necessity look a bit different than now does ... but with open eyes and much care will preserve the best of what has come before..

  2. I enjoy your blog and your thoughts. Sending warm Christmas wishes to you.

  3. I totally understand your “Guardians” posting. But I find it to be one of a little hypocrisy. Some people were and are still uneasy or jealous around those who leave the village, but my personal experience with you was this: you were “stuck up” yourself! Even when you were in a city (say Anchorage or Fairbanks), you presented yourself as “stuck up” or even better than others (i.e., others: those who used to know you). Hey, by the way, didn’t you become an Art Teacher? Why I remember when you were asked by someone who knew you, Rainey, since you were a very gifted artist; you were asked of your opinion about their own child’s hand-drawn picture of an Alaskan animal. And your answer, with a “stuck up” attitude and smug voice: “Did you trace it?” Obviously, “No,” was the answer, which was true. As if you are the only gifted artist of Point Hope! Ha!