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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. EATON: John Titus.

MR. TITUS: Who's foreman, you?

MR. EATON: (Indiscernible), John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: (Indiscernible).

TESTIMONY OF JOHN TITUS

MR. TITUS: Yeah, my name's John Titus and I'm from Venetie. I didn't even know I was going to testify, but since John Schaeffer asked me to so...we were talking about a recovery camp and also the liquor store. Burning down the liquor store in Fort Yukon is not going to solve the problem, because eight years ago when I sobered up, the last eight years I never bothered to go down to the liquor store. Liquor store could be downtown and I can be uptown, if I'm around there; I don't have to use that alcohol anymore. As simple as that. And I don't think that -- do away with the liquor store is going to solve the village problem, because there's other ways that we can get the liquor. And a person wants a drink, he's going to get it, regardless of where he's at -- or where he's at. If we want it bad enough, we're going to get it some way, we'll find a way to get it.

The issue is that we need to -- we all we do is just talk, and talk about alcoholism and drugs. And really, we never do anything physically to try and find solve the problem. It's a good example that we see these youth survivor camp. I've been there and I watch these kids performing. They skin muskrat, they skin beaver, they learn how to set traps, how to beaver snare, put in fish net, cut fish, and they learn everything. And they're excited in doing that.

They seem to be reintroduced back into their culture, and they're happy and excited about it. And that's the same way with this camp the alcohol recovery camp. When I first started it, I started it from just watching people and also myself.

I remember when I was drinking around Fort Yukon, the city of Fort Yukon, some friend of mine would say, let's go to fish camp, we're going to sober you up, or let's go to a trap line, or letís go out for a few days, to get over your drunk. I'll take a bottle of whiskey when I go out and go hunting for maybe a couple of days. When I'm back, I'm sober. That's what it really amounts to.

It's like earlier it was said that we're trying to develop and structure (indiscernible) within our culture. And that recovery camp, it belongs to the people. It belongs to the people to find the healing within thernself and others also, that to combine that to make it work.

I left Tanana Chief, I resigned from my position about three years ago. And I'm not saying this because I'm trying to say anything to be detrimental to the program. The program is good and the program is running. But since I left three years ago, there's two people that works in the camp right now that I helped sober up three years ago. And these are the only two people that I know that works within the recovery camp that are sober since that -- since my resignation. I hadn't seen any result that the person had sobered up past three years. And I know that I would have found some people in here, but the evidence is -- the truth is on my side, that I hadn't seen anybody sober up that three years since I left the recovery camp.

It's not because that I left the program, it's because that the program, they gave the program, and I think that they're using too much western novelty in the structure and confuse these sick people.

I remember when I was drinking, I went to detoxification and I spent two hour -- I never stayed there to fill out the application that I was supposed to be in there for. Because who wants to fill out the application when you're trying to throw up your stomach? And I never -- I just walk out. And even right now, that you have to pick up somebody, take them to (indiscernible) evaluation, take psychological evaluation and all these things, the process that you have to go through to be eligible to go to recovery camp.

You go to camp because you're sick. And you need to go, you need to go then. Not to go through all this processing, because in the processing, you lose interest in your recovery. You lose interest and just say, to heck with it, and you're going to walk away from it. That's normal, that's -- Indian people, we don't have any patience to wait. We want something to happen if we're sick. We want our medication, we want it now. Not after somebody else make a decision in our about our health, about our -- what is going to happen to us.

And I remember these program, it's good. Like I said, again I said this. I'm not saying the program is bad. The program is there for the Native people, it's free, and they're -- it's up to them to make up their mind to go ahead and utilize that program. But I'm really totally against that some other people would come into a camp and say, we have to run you -- we have to run this program like this. The program belongs to the Native people, and the Native people should be the ones to structure that program and develop that program and make it comfortable to make it easy for the Native people. Because the drug and alcohol is really taking its course in today's life. That -- those -- the people that work there should be dedicated, should be committed.

When I was working in the recovery camp, I'd pick up people off the street, I'd take them to my house, I bath then, I clean them up. That's what I do, because I feel I'm dedicated, because that person, I'm doing that to them, it's me, I was there before. And I don't sidestep these people because they are my recovery. I still hang around, you know, liquor store. I -- Fairbanks, I hang around downtown, I sit down and talk to these people. Because I didn't preach to them. If they need a couple dollar for (indiscernible) couple dollar, I give them couple dollar, to kind of -- to show them that I care and I love them. And I'm concerned about their health. And this is the role model part of it, to try and to help to -- to reach out.

And I'm not there for just every two weeks, my paycheck. I'm there because it also helps me. And that's the way that the people should handle these programs. And it's the name of the game, that we need to have people dedicated and committed to reach out to these people. Because these people are sick people out there. And they need help, they need understanding. And what more -- I can just sit here and just go on and on, but I would like to hear some other people talk too.

But we need more (indiscernible), We need more village participants. The local counselor which we have here in the village, that need to be -- we donít have to go to school. The psychologists and psychiatrists, our elder people, they are our psychiatrists and they are our -- a chapter of our life. And they're the one that we should turn to, talk to these people. Because I was brought up by an elder woman. And she raised me up from ever since I was an orphan, (indiscernible) mother. And Titus and I, we had many fights when we were growing up, and every time some of us or both of us talked, we -- at the end, we always disagree with one another too. So -- but I really honor his speech and anything that he says, because he is my brother and we're -- always been close.

And thank you for allowing me to say a few words. Thank you.

FATHER ELLIOTT: Oh, John, couple of questions; in fact, three very quick ones. It was said by a doctor the other day that Native drunkenness is not alcoholism in the usual definition. An alcoholic is one who cannot stop drinking once he takes a drink. He rather said that it was called binge drinking; that is, a Native person could be away from alcohol, say on a trap line, for two months, three months. But when he comes to town, that's when he goes on a binge. And then he may be off of it for a month, and then comes back and has another binge. And that's what triggers this violent behavior. So I'd like your comment on that.

And secondly, a couple, I understand, came to Minto from one of the Lower Yukon villages to the recovery camp, spirit camp, and went through the program, were great. But when they went back to their Lower Yukon village, they had no support, and they immediately fell back into the trap of drinking again. And so what has been developed as way in the way of what support is given to a person when they come back from your camp into their local village or town?

And thirdly, what can this Commission do to help you in your program?

MR. TITUS: I think that coming back from a recovery camp or things like that, that all these things are available. We need to have a aftercare open in the village, like group of people, a group of elder. And that could deal with these people that are coming -- just got out of camp or whatever, that treatment.

That's why it should be designed that the whole family should go to recovery camp. One family that are having problems with alcohol affects the whole family. And they all should be at the camp. When I was running the camp, I had whole family, the kids, wife, husband, all of them up there at one time, to make them understand that one of the person in the family is afflicted with alcoholism, and they have to learn to live with that person and learn to -- what to look out for, and stuff like that. And so that's why it's a recovery camp but it's also a family camp, family recovery camp, that's what it should be referred to.

And the same way with these spirit camps, same way with these youth survival; that the family should take to be involved in it and be part of it, to understand -- so the kids could understand at the same time that they learn, the same time.

And the question that you said that, why does a Native go out and come back and drink; and they always say, why does a Native people -- why does the Indian can't handle the drink; that was a man -- question many time was put to me. And I could never answer that. Why does the Native drinks? And the only thing that I would say is that everything they sold at the store, they've got instruction on it and how much you're going to use, but they never put that instruction (indiscernible) (laughter) how much you can't or how much you can drink on the label, so...pretty well up to an individual.

You can't just come in and testify or say that -- you can't speak for anybody, really. I'm only speaking for myself, of what my feeling. Because within myself, I have my own program that kept me sober every day. And I can't be sober like Titus or Jonathan because they've got their own program within themselves. And it's hard to get up here and say to do this and that. That, you have to find for yourself, and anything you do in your life, you have to find that for yourself, to feel comfortable with it.

FATHER ELLIOTT: Well, he wasn't -- the doctor wasn't limiting this just to Native drinking.

(Tape changed -- Tape 3, Side 2)

MR. TITUS: -- (indiscernible). I think that earlier, that Pat had said we trade off our culture for many things like food stamps and stuff like that, these welfare. You know, these are just some bribe that we're trading off our culture for these things. And today, everything is easy.

When I was growing up, everything was hard. And today, that all we do is so to state office and ask for help and they give you help. And the time I was growing up, it's not like that.

My mother has brought me up on ten dollar a month pension. She don't want to accept any assistance from me because she said -- at that time I never knew what she was saying, but she said, I want to be the boss. I don't want nobody have control over my boy. I don't want the government to be control over my boy. I want to be the boss. And after my brother got in service, he put another 30 dollars or 40 dollars a month that we were getting was pretty good. And that's the name of the game.

Thank you,

MR. EATON: Evelyn James.

MS. JAMES: Yes.

MR. EATON: Titus.

MR. PETER: I think that (indiscernible).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER: Could you speak up --

MR. PETER: (Indiscernible) trying to (indiscernible) just mentioned. I had a guy once said that it's okay, there's no harm in it, that's a person that drinks on weekends only. And sets themselves up with (indiscernible). And another person (indiscernible) said to a person, that you are an alcoholic. And he went on to say, how do you know whether your (indiscernible). And what you are (indiscernible).

One thing about that liquor store, (indiscernible) experience (indiscernible) when I was a counselor on alcoholism, (indiscernible) working for (indiscernible). We (indiscernible) for one year. (Indiscernible). During that one year, I sent two people to detox that whole year. After they opened it up (indiscernible) petition to open it up. Within two weeks -- two months, (indiscernible) sent (indiscernible) through the detox. So thatís the difference it made (indiscernible).

MR. EATON: Thank you.

 

This document was ocr scanned. We have made every attempt to keep the online document the same as the original, including the recorder's original misspellings or typos.

 
 

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Last modified July 27, 2011