A former Savoonga resident writes about moving to the city, and trying to balance where she lives with where she's from:
Living in Two Worlds
By Yaari Kingeekuk
My St. Lawrence Island Yupik name is Yaari. I was very fortunately raised by my grandparents, Jimmie and Mabel Toolie. I come from the Aymaaramka and Sanighmelnguq clan. I have 7 beautiful children. My youngest was adopted and we are blessed to have her as she is blessed to have us.
I was raised in a traditional Masingka (St. Lawrence Island Yupik) way. I was taught the important lessons, values, and self discipline by my grandparents and my parents. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Here I am living in two worlds, the St. Lawrence Island Yupik and western way. I live in a city which to me is big; and that’s Anchorage. I struggle as I try to survive in both worlds. Sometimes I feel like I’m being pulled both ways. Somehow, I try to pull myself more towards my culture, but then I realize I need to balance my life with both. Especially if I’m here in the “big” city. It isn’t easy. Although I know my ancestors walk with me as I go through these changes. I feel the presence of my Apa who was a very wise and knowledgeable man when I’m going through tough times. I could hear him telling me, “Aatak aygumun angwaaghnaqi – Keep paddling against the wind."
I feel so far away from home, my culture, and my people. I miss the ocean, I miss the tundra, and I miss the relaxing pace. Yet working for the Alaska Native Heritage Center makes me feel closer to home. I have a lot of good opportunities to educate the outside world about my people and my culture. It makes me feel good. It’s worth while to educate people. Even if I get through to just one person, it matters.
Its different here; the people, the environment, the pace, the attitude, the food, and the values. The type of work we do here in the city is more based on the western ways. It’s different at home. To me working at home is about survival and helping others. It’s definitely harder. Everything in the city is about economy. Everything at home is about values and culture. It’s something our people did for thousands of years. But living here has also given me the chance to make friends all walks of life. I have friends of many colors and from all over the world. It makes me feel good that I have people to look up to and talk when I need to. I have certain friends I call for certain things from sharing joy to crying on their shoulders.
I moved away for different reasons. It’s mostly because of lack of housing and jobs. I decided I wasn’t going to wait another four years for employment. I also decided I wasn’t going to live another several years with one family to each bedroom.
I still get homesick for certain things. Especially now that whaling season has begun. I’m hoping and praying our people has a successful whaling season. I’m also hoping and praying that the Inupiat people will have a successful whaling season as well. I’m happy to know that I’m able to share my joy with not only my people, but with my Inupiat friends when a whale is landed at home; they to share their joy with us. It’s difficult here in the city when my people land a whale. I pull out my cell phone, “Will this person have the same joy as I?..Nope. Will this person?”…I go on until I find someone who would. Mmmmm! Fresh mangtak. I can’t wait until I sink my teeth into that mangtak!
Even though I feel broken in half, I have to make the best of both worlds. This is me, this is who I am. Living in both worlds and must remember to keep paddling against the wind.