By Aan Kadax Tseen
August 26, 2005
We are being assimilated in the white culture faster than ever as our elders pass away and most of us can not speak our language. We were taught, in order to survive in the white man's world, we have to learn the white man's way . What a mistake our people made in those early days. I can not place the blame on our elders; they were trying to survive in fast changing times. As Native leaders today what do we do now?
Native Corporations were another mistake we made - how is Sealaska perpetuating our Native culture for example? White people think that Corporations speak and govern our tribes. Corporations are just teaching us greed and distrust.
Who is going to lead the fight for Subsistence Rights, Land Claims and exploitation of all our natural resources that really matters to us? Tough questions, I have some possible solutions later for consideration if only to think about. I have a Native leader friend that said, we can sing, dance our traditional way and we can make good button blankets but that doesn't constitute a tribe.
Why are indigenous people different from white people besides the color our skin? I once listened to Dr. Paul Goodwin from Kotzebue, Alaska. He spoke to our group in Anchorage, Alaska Native Leadership program (ANLP). He has a PHD in mathematics and did brain research on indigenous people all over the world. He concluded that all indigenous people have the same values and are visual people, because of our environment. Basically saying, we do better listening and watching to learn rather than from books. He made a lot of sense because we did not have a written language. So, I understand why my grades bled in school.
We truly live in a brainwashed society and if you didn't know that, you are brainwashed plus thinking that we are all created equal. We live in what they call the puritan work ethic society; a penny earned is a penny saved and hard work. Alaskan Natives lived a subsistence lifestyle. Alaskan Natives had no concept of working from dawn to dusk every day. That was the reason that Hoonah, Alaska got bombed and looted by the U.S. Navy in the late 1800's. The Captain of the Navy ship got annoyed because the Alaskan Natives were always late for work or didn't show up.
So what do we do as Alaskan Natives in Alaska today? I believe and challenge you to practice your traditions, learn your language, study your tribal history, learn how to subsist off the land and sea, make an effort to find out your tribe, family crest, clan and house you are from. You will find an enlightenment phase of your life. Knowing who you are is powerful and you will be able to sit and speak with anybody. If you have an Indian name, use it instead of your given name that the white man gave you and if you don't have an Indian name, get one. My name is Aan Kadax Tseen, given to me by Chief Albert Davis of Raven/Coho house who lived in Sitka, Alaska. Albert said the closest translation on my name that he was born with was, a happy man in a village.
We don't have to give up anything. We can still keep our jobs, eat at McDonald's, shop at Wal-Mart, drive our cars, watch T.V. and live in a house. We don't have to go back and live the old ways without the modern conveniences that make our lives today easier. Our people adapt and if they had electric sewing machines back in 1867, they would have used them. Sewing my button blanket by hand was my argument with my Elders.
This is my new philosophy that I challenged myself too. I will start my challenge to me. I will no longer use my given name, Donald Francis Hoff Jr. when I write or introduce myself. I will use my Indian name, Aan Kadax Tseen. It is a start, so when are you going to start being an Indian again?
Aan Kadax Tseen
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