Chief of the King Island Native Community gives her perspective on historical trauma

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The historical trauma that my community has experienced is still with us today and manifests itself in the social ills of poverty. Yet, it is the rich culture provided by the wealth of the land and sea that defines the health of our community.

Just as in Inupiaq times, when men and women, elders and youth had vital and equally important roles to play in the success of a community, we all have roles today. All of our institutions have roles to play. 

We are blessed to know who we are as Alaska Native people. I am a King Island Inupiaq woman. The strength of my identity as a King Islander has survived colonization by the U.S. government. It has survived the forced relocation from our island by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

It has survived generations of racism in the wild west community of Nome. Yet the joy, love and pride that lives within our King Island community spirit remains strong.

It is alive in our family relations, with our aunts, uncles and cousins. It’s alive in our dancing. It is alive in our sense of humor. It is alive when we enjoy our Eskimo foods. 

In a recent meeting amongst our tribe, village corporation and elders committee we came to the common understanding that we have the opportunity to ensure our King Island identity lives strong with the next generation, but that we must work together.

It is the responsibility of each generation within our families and the institutions that represent us to ensure the intergenerational transfer of knowledge of our way of life.

We must restore and heal from our traumatic history, and yes we urge partnership in this process amongst federal and state agencies, as well as local school districts. 

Our elders, we are blessed to have them with us for they hold the wisdom, the knowledge of our relations, our language and our culture.

It is up to our generation, adults and young adults that are actively managing and operating in business and government in the western world we live in, to figure out how we as a community can preserve our strength of identity.

We must as a community work together, support each other and yes, live with love for each other. Young King Islanders, within us lives the strength of our ancestors and what a blessing it is to know who we are. 

The next generation of Alaska Natives are to inherit our traditions and our languages. What a blessing it is to know who we are and to live on our ancestral lands. We also will inherit the responsibility to manage tribal governments, Native corporations, health and fishery institutions.

By their very nature they are western democratic institutions, which require us to be engaged citizens and active shareholders.

Our responsibility is to the land and to our way of life. We must ensure that our Native and rural institutions remain firmly guided by our traditional values. With that, we have the political and economic opportunity to define our future on our terms. 

Much work remains to be done to ensure that our way of life is enjoyed by future generations. Traditional access to our lands, rivers and oceans must be honored within the law as our inherent right as indigenous people.
 
Our recent history as Alaska Native people has not only been traumatic to our human spirit, but it also has resulted in a complex regulatory structure that impedes on our way of life.
 
Our hunters face criminal penalties by federal and state agencies. Our leaders must navigate management bodies for fish, birds, land and sea mammals to ensure that we have continued access to live our way of life.
 
While ANCSA eliminated our hunting and fishing rights as Native people, roughly five decades later it has delivered to us the political and economic power through our Native institutions to define our future in Alaska on our terms. It is time to act.
 
About the Author:
Megan Alvanna Stimpfle is the Chief of the King Island Native Community, the federally recognized tribe of the King Island people. She will speak as an emerging leader keynote for the 2016 Alaska Federation of Natives 50-Year Anniversary Convention on Oct. 20 at the Carlson Center.