Native communities across Alaska are seeking a key to understanding the epidemic of suicide. It was a prominent theme at the Elders and Youth Conference held prior to the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage last week. "Part Land, Part Water – Always Native" was the theme, and much of the Conference focused on healing cultural trauma by reconnecting to traditional knowledge and values. One documentary takes viewers on a journey to finding that connection again.
Keggulluk, also known as Earl Polk, is featured in "We Breathe Again," a documentary that follows four Alaska Natives on their path through the healing process.
“Sing. Go back to your roots. Dig deep. Hit your knees, become humble,” said Keggulluk. “Realize that you’re stronger than what it is that’s trying to take you away, and the only reason you’re strong is because you’re weak enough to ask for help.”
Keggulluk is a Traditional Yup’ik Teacher who has traveled all over Alaska as a speaker and host to many culturally based youth programs. He currently works as a Senior Psychiatric Technician at the McCann Treatment Center in Bethel.
The film's producer, Evon Peter, hopes that the broader Native community will see the film as a valuable tool.
“It can be used as a teaching and healing tool to help open conversations at the community level,” said Peter.
So far, health care providers have contacted Peter and filmmakers to use the film as a teaching tool in training their staff members.
“Saying, 'Wow. Can we use this as a tool for new orientation for medical staff that are coming into our communities and our organizations,'” said Peter, “because it really sheds some light, I think, in a positive way that I think can help people to understand that we can navigate through challenging moments in our life, and that we can build a strong foundation under us again.”
The film screened on Tuesday last week during the First Alaskans Institute 2017 Elders and Youth Conference.