Healing conference hears from 96-year-old elder

by Sophie Evan on March 7, 2013

Understanding how Historical Trauma affects every single indigenous person in the State of Alaska is daunting. At the same time, Native people are even more powerful as they stand together and move forward toward healthy living. That’s what is being shared at a healing conference this week in the Yukon River village of Emmonak.

The conference started Tuesday and runs through Thursday. The village invited he Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s Preventative Health Department–an all Yup’ik staff–to put on the conference.

Participants talked about realizing devastating facts of the Western World invading Alaska and indigenous lives through sickness and even official governmental policies of genocide. It is part of every indigenous person’s history in Alaska. In that wake, people have been left in survival mode to date.

One of the survivors, is the oldest living elder for Emmonak, he is 96-year-old Benedict Tucker. He was born an orphan, just like hundreds of other children in Alaska over 100 years ago. He was raised in a Catholic orphanage called Akulerak, and Benedict Tucker says he no longer has any peers, or family from his era. Tucker expressed his awe and fascination at how Yup’ik people were in his village using the Yup’ik language, culture and traditions toward building a healthy community.

The conference presenters, Rose Domnick, and Sophie Jenkins, along with elders Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy continued to tell their stories of surviving boarding school, abuse in all forms, and suicide, by practicing the healthy Yup’ik ways of coping with the various losses traumatizing events leaves behind.

The first important steps, stressed by the presenters, to achieve personal health, are to be sober and to have spiritual faith. The next step in processing intense emotions is to verbalize the hurt. Yup’ik traditions say to talk to a female dog, a stick, plant, or a person. By verbalizing one’s stress, a person is on his or her way to processing and healing.

The day ended Wednesday with a potluck of moose soup, dry fish, agutaq and other food, followed by live music and dancing.

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