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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide
 

Testimony

Submitted to the
Alaska Natives Commission
Social/Cultural Task Force at

Ft. Yukon, Alaska
June 9, 1993

ALASKA NATIVES COMMISSION
JOINT FEDERAL-STATE COMMISSION
ON
POLICIES AND PROGRAMS AFFECTING ALASKA NATIVES
4000 Old Seward Highway, Suite 100
Anchorage, Alaska 99503

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Witness List | PDF Version

 

MR. SCHAEFFER: Okay. Next we have Pat Madros.

MR. MADROS: (Indiscernible).

MR. SCHAEFFER: Anything you use will not be used against you (laughter). (Indiscernible) say will not be used against you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: (Indiscernible).

TESTIMONY OF PATRICK J. MADROS, SR.

MR. MADROS: I spent the better part of the morning writing this so I get it all down in precise facts, the way I see it. So I'm going to read it, and then I'll be ready for -- respond to questions. Because when I -- or you start speaking, I get off on a tangent, and I lose my brain of thought of what I'm trying to say. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name's Patrick Madros, Sr. I do not envy you for the task you were sent out to do or first what we're first what you are -- what are the social or economic problems in Native Alaska and second, how do we solve it.

The first thing we have to do is go back in history and find out where our problems started. In my old hometown of Kaltag, I can only go back to the middle '50's and early '60's when the first electrical generator was brought into Kaltag by a barge in the summer. I'll use this as a starting point of or change in the -- as our point of change in -- from my subsistence way of a life to a cash base economy, (indiscernible) read it.

In order to maintain a lightbulb in your home, you had to pay a monthly electric bill in cash. That changed the way of building and so forth, a major change in our society. Rather than pay our bills three and four times a month at the end of a season -- I mean a year at the end of the season, this bill was occurring monthly. If you didn't pay it on a monthly basis, you lost your electricity.

The second thing we -- that we had thought up is we became a state. And when with that, wedlock developed. A woman that had kids out of wedlock became eligible for assistance. You -- I figured some three to four hundred a month at that time. This $300 are the point. Three hundred times 12 is thirty-six hundred dollars a year tax-free to a person in our society out of wedlock was a lot of money, especially when the per capita at that time was $1,000 per person in our area. All of a sudden this person became a very rich person and the single-parent family became acceptable.

It was during this era that the role of Native male changed, and we did not realize it. Instead of being the (indiscernible) our culture called for, we took second place to welfare. The roles we played were not really important anymore, as hunters, wood and water gatherers. We were replaced by PHS, BIA, free housing, energy assistance, food stamps, and the list could just go on and on and on.

At the same time, education started to play a main role. We sent our young men, such as myself, and our young women out to boarding homes throughout the state, throughout the lower 48 states. For four years we were taught, go get an education and you can go home and get a job. After four years when we got home, there was no jobs. The villages did not change. We had forgotten how to hunt, trap, speak our language. Our new cash base culture did not match with the society we came back to.

I think it was the big factor we had to deal with is the low self-esteem. We did not fit in. This played a big factor in the depression and alcoholism that started. With this came suicides, a way out for a lot of our young people; and they're still taking that easy way out. We have to change this.

I guess what we need to do is we need to do -- define what is the new role of the Native male and the new role of the Native female, because our society from what I see has changed in the last 30 years. We can define this problem, I think that's half the battle.

I can't go into economic development in a big way but I can go into it as a commercial fisherman, because I am a processor as well. I fish and process District Y-4-A, so I can relate to you some of the problems I have with getting funding. Y-4-A is a relatively young industry compared to the rest of the state. Yet the state has not given any money to fisherman as well as processors to really develop this industry. We have to fight three agencies for an -- for any improvement. Fish and Game won't let us fish because they -- in their minds, the stocks are way down. The banks do not loan us any money because we fish for one week a yew and there's -- to them, you go in there and they look at you like you're crazy. And then we have to comply with DEC. DEC requires stainless steel and up to standards for the everyday processors (indiscernible), which is a big amount of money.

Until DEC and these three people get together, it's going to be hard for us to develop this economy. DEC won't let us process until we meet their standards. And of all three of these organizations, they don't care what each other do. When the state or the federal government say they support local economic development out in the bush, they're referring to Juneau, Anchorage, and Fairbanks. I have yet to see any bank or organization that lends money to undeveloped areas go out to rural Alaska and offer their services to the people that want to develop these resources. It's always the same attitude. Come into town at your own expense and jump through our hoops, and we'll see if you're eligible for their program. One of the biggest concerns is how is the money going to be paid back. Show me a plan of operation. In the fishing industry, you show them one week's fishing with a 12-month payback plan, and it don't match up.

The agencies are supposed to help us with development. Say you have to be co-sponsored by local government or village council. All of a sudden you have to go to your local village council or your city government and get a resolution for their support. All of a sudden your business now becomes a community project. No other way will you get money from these people. I have tried. I've walked through many organizations. I have -- I've given my C Schedule from my tax returns. There's just no way for an individual out there right now in rural Alaska such as myself to start a business other than get it community funded (indiscernible) or whatever, and that's -- that doesn't help us.

So in order for me to -- as an individual, to develop myself, the way the state does business needs to change. Either that or I can sit back and become a welfare dependent like everybody else, and draw all that easy money and watch the river go by.

I know this speech is short. (Indiscernible) everything. But before we can solve our problems in rural Alaska, I think we need to define what the problem is, that there alone by yourself is a major undertaking, because we hear a lot of the problems that have taken place. We never really find where does it start or how can we change it; that's your Commission's intent, and I applaud you for it. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: (Indiscernible).

FATHER ELLIOTT: Well, I'm going to ask, what do you -- would you hope the Commission would do for you, what specific things can we?

MR. MADROS: Well, first thing we -- I think the Commission -- for one thing, you have no government authority to do anything for me, all they do is put the data together. So in a sense, in that respect you're -- you lost me there.

What we can look at, if people are going to have rural development out in rural Alaska, we need to bring the banks and the agencies out to individuals other than Fairbanks, Anchorage, or whatever, because it takes money to come to town. We have some good plans out there for development of our natural resources or renewable resources. But our people don't have the money to take a plane into town, to sit down there, go run from one agency to the next because they have no -- majority of them, no taxi money or anything else -- and develop these things.

And when you go to an agency, the first thing they ask you is what's your plan of operation, show me how you want to -- what -- who's your market? The first thing they ask you is where is your market? Who are you going to target?

In the fishing industry, the market changes on a monthly basis. In order to get money from -- for like from (indiscernible) grant, it takes three months. So your market has changed three different times in three months. And I know we only can fish in the summertime and that's just one part of it. The other part is, you know, is when you start looking at any kind of development out there, nobody comes out, sit down and talk with individuals. Like youíre -- Mr. Stickman say, that there ain't never been a commissioner come out to rural Alaska other -- I mean, there -- to them rural Alaska is Fairbanks and Juneau and Anchorage.

So you know, it -- one thing we start to do is, if our people are going to start developing rural Alaska for resources, we're going to have to start getting these people that carry the money in their pocket out to us. And we don't need to be studied anymore. I'm tired of economic development studies. All it does is to put $70,000 and two or three other state officials (indiscernible)to sit in Anchorage or Fairbanks and do nothing. And they study us to death. We have more economic studies than, God, almost as bad as suicide. And yet nothing's being done. Change the way that economic development is delivered.

FATHER SEBESTA: Pat, when you -- go ahead, (indiscernible).

MR. MADROS: No, I'm ...

FATHER SEBESTA: Okay. In trying to develop this industry that you have been working on, have you been able to gee any, let's say, technical assistance in setting up the business? Have there been -- has there been any encouragement on the part of any agencies that you have contacted or have you gotten any encouragement on the level of directing possibly how you might be able to get the funding and set up the business in a way that's acceptable to the banks, even?

MR. MADROS: I went to the Ready (ph.) -- or walked through the Ready program many a time; I went through BIA under low-interest loan; and they tell you all the same thing. Bring your Schedule C to any bank and we'll co-sponsor. You bring it to the bank and they say, for three or four days' fishing, less than a week's fishing, you want me to give you $30,000 for about a 12-month payback time? They look as if you' re crazy. And yet, we say we're going to develop our resources, and so there's I'm not asking for a handout. What I'm asking for, if there's going to be monies out there for rural development, let's put it out there where rural development is, and....

MR. EATON: Pat, you've described a lot of economic conditions (indiscernible) geographic or strategic location or a lack thereof, communication and transportation issues. What about the Native issues? Do you think a non-Native going into business in rural Alaska faces the same challenges that you face?

MR. MADROS: No, not really. The same non-Native coming into my area wouldn't get the opposition that I got. And because our people have a tendency to put down one another when somebody else is getting ahead. Jealousy's there. I -- you see a Native trying to get ahead and you see five non-Natives beating him up, cutting him down, talking against him, instead of saying, hey, gee, we're glad you're doing a good job. You see a non-Native come in there, all of a sudden he's getting free funding, he's getting support from the city councils, he's doing things. And nobody's talking about it, nobody's complaining about it. You see it in the guiding industry over there, you see it in the -- in anything they do. The jealousy of one Native helping another in rural Alaska is there. They don't want to see one another get ahead.

MR. EATON: How do we deal with that?

MR. MADROS: If I knew, I'd be a rich man. We got to change the way we do business in our society, in our villages. We got to quit putting one another down. You know, I tell my boys and this is not really an ethnic joke, but it's a realistic thing that I've seen, the simplest way I could explain to them. I said, you see you know why you see a lot of Native women with -- this is my example -- with a lot of Negro men? They said no. I said, because that Negro man is the only one probably that that woman has her -- told her in months, hey, babe, you look fine, you look really nice. That woman right there probably just jumps off her feet to that, that's the first person that ever told her she looked nice. Our culture does not really push that type of an issue.

I always try and make it a point, my boys, I tell them, you boys get up in the morning, you tell your mom thank you. She cooked you breakfast, maybe hug her on the way out the door. We've always been the dominant, where we're supposed to be macho type people. And that role has changed. And we need to change, think, our way of doing business with that. And that's the easiest way I could explain to them that we need to start telling our female counterparts, hey, you look nice; you're a person, you're a human being, you are equal. And I think that's -- I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, but that's the way I've seen it,

MR. EATON: Do you think that the role of men in the Native community is an issue that's coming to the surface now? Do you see it coming to the surface?

MR. MADROS: I've seen it come to the surface more and more in the last two years to year and a half. I've started to -- even myself, I've started to study what has happened to us. Because I have a lot friends on the hill and the river from Kaltag and down the river that are young men, my age, who couldn't handle it, and I says why. And the only thing I can deal with is, the first suicide in Kaltag was in 1963 --

(Tape changed -Tape 2, Side 1)

MR. MADROS: (Indiscernible) is available for, and everything else. So you're talking to somebody that's eligible for $2,000 a month worth of help. You take an average male out there thatís smiling at this same young woman, if he don't got $2,000 a month offer this woman, why is she going to get involved with him?

Economically, it would be unfeasible, because she would be losing her cash base to raise her family. Sure, it's a single parent. But -- and so the role of the young males in that respect, I call it we're becoming spawners (laughter). That's a -- it's a sad thing, we're just used for spawning and we're thrown out the door. That -- what -- that dependency on welfare has become that great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: I prefer to be looked at as a bull, caribou bull (laughter). (Indiscernible) herd for about 10 seconds a year and the rest of the time you're decoration (laughter).

MR. MADROS: Maybe I'll change my theory. But -- so that's where the problem is at. That's why I say we need to define the culture, in our culture, we need to define what the role -- what the model of the young male is. Until we can start changing the way we do -- we are thinking, we're going to be putting a lot more people away. Because the economic development out there is not there, to develop our resources, is not there. We say it's there, but it's not there.

If we say it's there, then you name one or two villages out of the whole state of Alaska that have developed in 20 years to where that they're a self-based, efficient economy. Out of what, 500-some villages in this state, probably two or three is the only ones you can name. So the development of the resources, as far as I could see, is not there.

MR. SCHAEFFER: Pat, let me get on another subject here and just ask you a question, the Native languages teaching in your district. Why isn't it mandatory?

MR. MADROS: It is not mandatory because our board has felt that that should be the option of the sites. We've given control of the budgets to the sites. We've given control to majority -- for stiffer requirements of the curriculum that's taught to the sites. And it's --

MR. SCHAEFFER: Including English? English is not mandatory?

MR. MADROS: English is a mandatory subject for the state. So that's a state requirement. So --

MS. SOMMER: That -- year before last, (indiscernible) --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER: Excuse me, ask you to state your name, please.

MS. SOMMER: Dorothy Sommer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER: Okay, thank you.

TESTIMONY OF DOROTHY SOMMER

MS. SOMMER: Year before last, they asked me to teach the Nulato young dancers how to sing and dance. And the principal himself told me that, I don't care where I get the money from, you'll get paid good, Dorothy, you'll get paid good, if you'll take these kids out and teach them how to sing and dance, and you're going to be taking a trip over to Bethel. And when (indiscernible), and did really good. They went over to Bethel and everything. Came back and got my check for a hundred and something. It said $7.15 an hour I got paid.

And I called up this principal and I told him, (indiscernible), you know, you yourself told me that I was getting paid good (indiscernible). And according to this check and letter that I'm looking at, I got paid $7.15 an hour. I said, for this you could put this check up in the school, close it up or put it in your showcase or do whatever you want to do with this check.

And we got into a quarrel, not an argument, (indiscernible). And later on I got another check after I quarreled with him. But I felt really bad and I told him, don't ever call on me again for anything in the line of Indian, because I love my Indian, whatever it is in Indian I love to do, and I said, you know, you -- to me, I feel you just made a fool of me, so don't you ever ask me again, I told him, and that was the end of that. So this year, this past winter, they didnít ask.

MR. MADROS: What she -- that there is the sites' option that we leave to them. We -- our district is so large that we tried to govern at one time every site individually as a board. And because we're fooling around with four different Native factions, the Lower Yukon -- like Lower Yukon dialect, the Tanana River dialect, the Minto dialect, and up around Taga (ph.) River dialect. That's four different dialects that are in our village area. It's hard for us to basically implement it unless they want it.

And it's -- Georgeanne (ph.) has -- I'm not opposed to Native languages, but Georgeanne has introduced a bill and, man, they've got into numerous arguments with it. Said if you're going to put mandatory Native language in our schools, fund it so it can be adequately researched out and taught to different -- four different dialects in our area. And why should the people in Tanana learn the Lower Yukon, why should the Lower Yukon learn the Tanana River dialect? You know. And you're talking a lot of money when you're talking about building a curriculum for Native languages. You're talking a lot of money.

Another thing I asked was, if we have the Native languages put into our school system, how is it going to be used? Are we going to have -- are all our potlatches are going to be in Native languages, or when we call up the city offices, going to be hello, how are you, or it's going to be in Athabascan; what's (indiscernible) requirements to teaching this, other than just teaching it?

Is TV going to become the Native language, are we going to start having the translator on our TV so be can start learning it? You know, I ask all these questions, because in a sense, they have to be answered. And the school board was tasked with this, and we get beat up on Native languages all the time. I -- and I say, you know, and I say, it's not our fault we don't know our Native language. Where the ball was dropped is where the old folks who are (indiscernible) now, they dropped the ball on us in their time. That's where we lost it is right now. And we lost our Native languages in the last 40 years.

And it's a -- and unless they do something, the old folks do something, we're never going to get it back. Because people like me, how can I teach something that I don't know? So the ball is not in my court anymore, the court is in the old folks' court. You dropped the ball; you tell us how you're going to reimplement it back so we can use it.

MR. SCHAEFFER: Pat, the reason we're losing these languages is because people like you and I are victims. It's not because of the old people. The old people are victims as well. They were convinced, told by authority figures the same kind of problem you have now, where the same authority figures have more respect and worth than our own people. They what we sometimes call the BIA schoolteacher syndrome. This is where we think that anybody who comes from that kind of authority that's white has more worth than we do.

Those kind of people told our people not to teach this. And this was not done just with us, it was done all over the United States. Many languages were lost all over the United States. And we have still an opportunity to save some of these languages. But as long as people like you and I say of what use is it, what can we do about it, it'll -- we'll lose it, it's going to be lost.

What we have to do is what they did with English. We have to make it mandatory. We have to do our best to support it even if we don't use it ourself. Because there's too much of our culture and our values tied up in our language that cannot be translated into English.

MR. MADROS: I have to disagree with you a little bit on that, John. Because where we lost our language, I think, is that way with respect to what you said. But at the same time too, we're losing it because there's -- now I lost my train of thought there. We're losing it because you're expecting the school systems to teach something that they cannot teach. We're going to have an English version, a way how to speak Athabascan, if we let the school systems do it. If we're going to bring it back, it has to be brought back under the old folks' rule, under the way they want to put it, implement it, and not necessarily in the school system.

Every time something in our society in the last 20 years has gone bad; we've said, put another program to school -- fund that program, and that'll solve our problem. That's not the way to solve our social problems. We have to go back -- I say any time we want to change our culture, it's going to take one life cycle, and I call a life cycle 15 years. Because -- and you got to start training these young kids from the time they're in the third grade all the way till the time they go out of high school and on to college, the change that you want to implement. During the time the -- all other folks pass on. So all of a sudden, what they've learned all of a sudden has changed.

I figured in my lifetime there's six different life cycle changes, my life span. I plan to be here about 70 years on the average. Any more than that, hell on wheels, but -- so you know, that's what people don't realize the schools are set up to do. They every time we have problems with kids, it's the schools' fault. The schools get the kids for seven and a half hours a day. Sixteen and a half hours a day is with their parents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: (Indiscernible) take a couple minutes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: (Indiscernible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: (Indiscernible) address the issue of mandatory school. The reason I mentioned earlier, there was no money in (indiscernible) contingency fund was because I attended the school meeting last year, last six, seven months, and they didn't have a budget item for (indiscernible). And I was hoping that that would be changed.

Another thing I'd like to comment on is change. Change is (indiscernible) business. People dye their hair; people wash (indiscernible) soap, change their socks, change their pants every day. It's all changes, you know. How you're dressed (indiscernible) it 's not important. What's important is do you want to change; if so, how. (Indiscernible) change. Any other questions?

FATHER ELLIOTT: I have one, John. You mentioned economic development, I've been talking to Calista Corporation. And among some of their ideas is the need for transportation out into that area by road or by even railroad. And vet, I understand that there are some villages that would be opposed to that, because they feel it would open it up to exploitation by people who don't live in those villages. What are your thoughts on it?

MR. MADROS: Well, on economic development, if I was to send something back right now, like a processed fish from Kaltag, FOB Fairbanks right now, it's going to cost me over a dollar a pound. That's back home. That's not delivered to the market in Anchorage and not delivered to the market in Seattle, that's just FOB Fairbanks.

FATHER ELLIOTT: Mm-hm (affirmative).

MR. MADROS: So until we're going to have really economic development, we maybe we need to subsidize our transportation to Southeast, get (indiscernible) by ferry system. The barge system (indiscernible) go up and down the coast or now they can do it at a lower cost than taking it Interior. The majority of the way that I could get my product out of fisheries is to fly it, the fresh caught up to the market, is where the market's at. Either that or come up with a by-product that you can -- we can utilize, finish it off there and go on -- at a -- on a barge system. But even if you bring another barge system to barge it out of there, say; that weighs -- what do they weigh, 15,000pounds? That -- not including the load in there; by the time you get it up in Nenana at 18 dollars a hundred, it ain't feasible to barge it out. So if we're going to develop economically out there, we're going to have to look at some kind of assistance in doing it. And hers we're now looking at (indiscernible).

As for the road system, you're going to find -- and the railroad system, you're going to find people are going to be opposed to it, for the simple fact is that you go down to Manley, you go to and you go -- you see where the end of the road ends, you get crazy people there. And our people donít want to be -- put up with being at the end of the road because of the trash that it brings, so to speak. And I don't mean the trash outside the road but the trash that goes up the road to see the last -- 49th state, you know. So it -- you're always going to have people that are opposed to it. And you -- you'll hear it through resolutions from Evansville (ph.) that are opposed to building the road that's 38 miles from the haul road to Evansville. They're opposing it because they don' t want people coming across there, jumping in their canoes and boats, and going all the way down the river and shooting everything else that moves, and leaving it there and walking away. Because what little economy they have is based on what they put in their freezer.

So that -- then they're talking about another road from -- going someplace from around Denali all the way over to McGrath. You're going to have people oppose that too because people don't want the roads to go that way. Any time you (indiscernible) roads, you're going to have people come up, tourists. Tourism's a big industry. Tourists are going to drive anyplace that they figure they can 90 from point A to point B to see the state. And they become a burden to society. Some of them decide to stay there, they want to live to see some Alaska lifestyle.

But -- so I'm not really -- I don't know if I answered your question or not, but if it costs me a dollar more to get my same product out of my area, and you can buy the same product for a dollar less in Fairbanks, people are going to go buy the cheaper product, the market. So I have to be swift and think of ways of making by-products to help pay for the cost.

And I've been putting together a processing plant for the last four years now, and I've never got no help from anybody, any agency or anything, I've -- always been my own money to -- which I give to my plant. And as -- to comply with just the DEC regulations going from wooden tables to stainless steel, just a humongous price. And now if I'm going to be buying fish and processing it, I'm -- in the next four or five days I'm going to be pushing a barge down the river to (indiscernible) process (indiscernible) that's DEC approved.

That floating plant (indiscernible) is going to be on barrels, has already cost me $7,000, and it ain't even floating yet. And it's just on barrels. And I'm going to have to recover that in three days' fishing, that expense, otherwise (indiscernible) again. And you know, and so it's once cent makes a difference between -- on the market makes or breaks me. That's how tight of a budget I am on (indiscernible) fishing and processing.

The only way I've kept out of jail is my -- I've subsidized for my wheel into my plant to pay off all my bills on my plant. And so when I get through fishing at the end of a season, I'm lucky if I have fifteen hundred dollars in my bank. I'm lucky if I have that much. And I got to live a whole year on that. And because I have a permit, I'm not eligible for food stamps, I'm not eligible for assistance, and everybody looks at me like that's a -- that -- and that permit right now is valued at about $10,000 for the state.

I'm almost ready to give my permit to my kids so I can get food stamps I need during the winter time. And I've never had -- I've never taken food stamps back -- well, I took food stamps when I got out of the military. Nineteen seventy-six, I got out for -- and I got home in September. I took one month for food stamps, I felt so bad about it I turned it back in, and I've never got assistance from there. (Indiscernible) I've gotten it on my own, I've struggled for it. I don't believe -- I believe when I'm an old man, I need help then, they'll give it to me. But I don't think right now I'm old enough to take it. And different times I had to tighten up my bills and just look for work in weird places. But this, you know, it's -- I just don't believe in assistance. I figure if I'm going to make it, I'm going to make it on my own, And sometimes it's a lonely place out there when you're doing it on your own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: Okay. Thank you very much, Pat

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: Yeah, thank you very much, Pat.

 

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