I’m Back

(I swear I’m working on posting more than once a year)

It’s been a while and so much has happened (as I’m sure you are aware). The pandemic, working from home, protests and now we are on the problematic Independence Day holiday.

I would like to assure you that I am fine. My family is also fine. My husband and I are fortunate in that we are able to work from home and my daughter has been dealing with the social distancing protocols pretty well.

As I said, I am working on posting more frequently. I didn’t get around to posting my summer goals, but maybe I’ll at least post some July goals.

I hope that wherever you are, you are well and safe. If you are celebrating today, I wish you a Happy 4th. If you are not, I am with you in mourning what this holiday means for people of color (see John Quinney’s Independence Day Speech and Frederick Douglass’ ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?’).

Nakuuyumautin (may you be well)

Summer is over!

Well, I have been back at work (I’m a teacher, remember) for almost two weeks now. Therefore, my summer is officially over. Here is how I did on my goals. Those in bold have been completed. The rest have not been completed, and I have included apologetic explanations in italics.

  1. Jog 3 times a week. I’m going to include this simply because, although I wasn’t consistent with the jogging, I did go on regular walks and did squats.
  2. Speak Iñupiaq on a regular basis. I was not very successful with this goal. But I did teach a section of Iñupiaq for a class this summer. That counts for something, right?
  3. Revise 3 of my poems. I am amazed that I got this one done.
  4. Revise 2 of my nonfiction essays. I started drafting a new essay though…
  5. Post at least 2 more times. I posted one more time. Half success?
  6. Finish 2 sewing projects. I did absolutely no sewing. I did clean my craftroom though.
  7. Read 1 book. I was a champ at this one! Including audiobooks, I read
    1. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
    2. Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
    3. Americanah by Ngozi Adichie
    4. Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans
    5. Shameless: a Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber
    6. Boy Erased by Garrard Conley
  8. Reorganize and revamp this blog. ish?

Next summer, I hope to do better. In the meantime, the school year has begun, which means the first set of essays to grade (ick) is right around the corner. I am spending more time on my writing and hope to post more frequently.

Independence Day for a Native Woman

“He [King George III] has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

The Declaration of Independence

This was the Independence Day of my childhood: Fireworks we could barely see because of the 24-hour daylight, races, cheers, prizes, sand. In my village, this day was spent with the entire community on the river bank, what we called “the beach” because of the fine sand that covered it. There were running races for all ages, various games, and a few booths where snacks and pull-tabs were sold.

These memories are dear to my heart. As a painfully shy kid, being at these events made me feel part of something significant. Especially when it was brought up that we were celebrating the day that we consider our country to have been freed from the tyrannical British control.

However, nowadays, this freedom that is sung about in so many songs, that is proclaimed in the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Declaration of Independence…sounds like an empty, feel-good sentiment.

The 4th of July means something very different to me as an adult, and it is not a meaning that rings with the bells of freedom. I live in a country where murder is the 3rd leading cause of death among Native women. I live in a state where a white man kidnapped, choked, and masturbated on a native woman, pled guilty to those acts, and was released with no jail time and no sexual assault charges.I live in a country where migrants looking for safety and a better future for themselves and their families are kept in filthy detention centers.

Because of this, I cannot and will not, in good conscience, hang the US flag outside my home as so many of my neighbors do. Because of this, I cannot joyfully celebrate with a feast of burgers of hotdogs. Because of this, I cannot and will not recite the pledge of allegiance nor sing the National Anthem.

Still, do I feel like I can fully abandon this holiday that is so engrained my memory?

No. Old habits die hard. And a day off of work is always nice, right?

Am I saying that indigenous peoples of the United States should not celebrate Independence Day?

No. Each person will choose on their own. This is something that I have decided to do.

I am saying that because of the current political climate and atrocities against marginalized peoples, I cannot celebrate a mythical ‘freedom for all.’ On the 4th of July, I will celebrate the blessed life that I do have with my family, I will spend time outdoors to enjoy what is left of the short Alaskan summer, I will mourn my murdered and missing indigenous sisters and brothers, and I will contemplate what I can do to bring use one step closer to being a country that truly offers freedom to all.

I’m Back! With Goals!

Yes, it’s been about a year since I have posted on this blog. As some of you know, I am a secondary education teacher, and I am currently recovering from the school year. However, I have now motivated myself enough to write my first post of 2019!

I will admit that I had a lot of trouble figuring out where to start. Then I remembered that two years ago, I made a list of summer goals. So here are my summer goals for 2019:

  1. Jog 3 times a week.
  2. Speak Iñupiaq on a regular basis.
  3. Revise 3 of my poems.
  4. Revise 2 of my nonfiction essays.
  5. Post at least 2 more times.
  6. Finish 2 sewing projects.
  7. Read 1 book.
  8. Reorganize and revamp this blog.

There, I have set some lofty goals for myself. I shall do my utmost to reach them all before I go back to work in August!

I am a Woman, I am Alaska Native, I’m Getting Married: Why I’m Not Changing my Last Name

Wonderful news! I will be getting married soon! I am excited to be marrying my best friend and I am especially excited for my daughter to have a dad who is around full time and is a positive influence on her life.

The wedding will follow many of the traditions of modern Western culture. There will be a bridal party. I will wear a fashionable, white dress. My husband-to-be will be waiting at the end of the aisle that I walk down, led by my father.

However, there is one aspect of traditional Western marriage practice that I am not adhering to: changing my last name.

Of course, I am expected to change it to my soon-to-be husband’s last name. This is what all the women in my family have done. It is a practice that has been a part of Western culture for centuries. And it is a practice that, up until a few years, I had fully expected myself to follow.

My ethnic heritage is Iñupiaq and German, but I grew up in an Iñupiaq village surrounded by that part of my heritage. In spite of the fact that my Iñupiaq ancestors only acquired last names within the last century or so, this idea of the wife changing her last name to match her husband’s has taken a strong grip on my community. Why? We are led to believe that it is right to do so. It shows unity in the family. It shows faithfulness, love and submission to the husband who is to be the head of the household, and to whom the wife must be a helper. Or, at least that is what I was led to believe during my upbringing, even upon my entry into adulthood. Additionally, the effects of the assimilation movement of the 19th and 20th centuries are still very strong today.

The Iñupiaq people acquired the Western cultural practice of using last names around 1900, depending on the region and time of contact. During this time, people only had their given name, a nickname, and possibly a community title. The Quaker missionaries had established themselves in Kotzebue and some of the surrounding villages. It was decided that these people needed last names. So they were given names. And sometimes, last names were given without regard to kinship relations. For instance, two adult brothers might be given different last names. Along with the new practice of surnames came the practice of the women taking on her husband’s last name after a legal and religious marriage ceremony.

It wasn’t until I reached my mid to late 20s that my mindset began to change. I had been a single parent for about a year or two, and I was beginning to feel rather independent. I was the head of my own household, and doing a fair job at it. I wasn’t relying on a male partner to take care of intimidating tasks like raising a daughter solo, making all major household decisions, or killing spiders. I realized that I did the work of two by myself.

Another thing that I had begun to do was write. I wrote, and I created works that I could call my own. Works that I put my name on. No, I have not published these (yet). But I brought them to an audience of my peers through workshop classes, I shared them with friends, and I received a Master’s degree through these writings. All under this name.

There are many more reasons why I am choosing to keep my last name. More reasons to keep it than to change it. Here they are in no particular order.

  1. It is the name I have been identifying with for thirty years. Why change it now?
  2. My feminist mind constantly brings up the unfair fact that no one even blinks an eye at men keeping their names.
  3. The paperwork is a pain in the butt.
  4. My last name is awesome.
  5. Every.Single.Goddamn.Thing.With.My.Name.On.It.Would.Need.To.Be.Changed.
  6. I have a right to identify the way that I choose.
  7. I, as a human, choose to keep my last name.
  8. I, as a mother, choose to keep my last name.
  9. I, as an indigenous woman, choose to keep my last name.

I love my fiance. I love that we are unified in our relationship and that we are parents to my daughter. I love his last name (it is also very awesome). However, I do not believe that I need to give up my name, the name that has been with me for nearly thirty years, to prove that we are unified.

Some might argue that it also doesn’t make sense to keep a name that I didn’t even choose for myself. Yes. My parents chose my name for me. I didn’t have a choice then, but I have a choice now. And I choose the route that many men take without giving it a second thought: I will remain the name that I have had for the past thirty years.

Summer Wrap-Up

So, in my very first blog, my first yawp, I made a list of summer goals. It is not September. I have already started a new (part-time) teaching job (yay! income!) almost a month ago. The cranberries are also ready to be picked and the air is cold. Summer is over.

New photo by Chelsey Zibell / Google Photos

So, I’ve gone over my list to see what if I have done anything with these goals. The things I’ve accomplished, I’ve crossed off and provided notes in blue. The things I haven’t done, I’ve provided excuses for in red.

Goals for the summer:

  1. Read at least one book that has nothing to do with education or research  I’m counting audiobooks because that is the only way my fried brain can consume books nowadays. I listened to Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It was incredibly moving. If I ever teach a college writing course ever again, I would like to use this text.
  2. Sew one atikłuk/qaspeq/kuspuk (pictures here if you don’t know what that is). I have not sewn a stitch this summer. I still have fabric sitting in the plastic store bag that I carried them home in.
  3. Organize my daughter’s room (seriously, I’m afraid of getting lost in the jungle of toys). Has not happened yet, but I am hopeful for the coming week.
  4. Finish the Shopkins craft I started with my daughter one year ago. Not yet. Still hopeful for this week. 
  5. Run all the way to that sign I ran to that sign, I ran past that sign, ran down the road that goes past that sign, ran down another road, and another and eventually made a loop back to my car (Yeah, it took all summer for me to be able to do that, but running muscles aren’t built in a day).
  6. Figure out how to get that bit of pink nail polish out of the carpet. Nope. I did shampoo the carpet in my apartment though (ok, my boyfriend did about 2/3 of it)
  7. Expand my Netflixing beyond just watching documentaries narrated by John Hurt (although I’m pretty sure falling asleep to the disembodied voice of Human Planet is making me dream smarter) I did expand my Netflixing to Hulu-ing, and eventually started watching house-flipping shows. After months of deliberation I’ve decided that I don’t like subway tile but I loooove farmhouse sinks.