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

A Gathering: Growing Strong Together
United We Will Make a Difference

by Dixie Dayo
Dixie Dayo

The following is an excerpt from a report written by Dixie Dayo, Alaska Native Knowledge Program Assistant on her recent attendance at the conference A Gathering: Growing Strong Together held in Kotzebue, Alaska June 30 through July 3, 1997. Our thanks to Mr. Ross Schaeffer for allowing us to share the following portion of Ms. Dayo's report with you.

Ross Schaeffer, Kotzebue: Alaska Native Spirituality

The most rewarding sessions that were presented at the conference were about Alaska Native Spirituality. Ross Schaeffer, an Inupiaq hunter from Kotzebue, is proud to come from a hunting society and has spent his life living the hunting culture. Alaska Native Spirituality is very important and is incorporated in the hunting and fishing life cycle of the Inupiaq. This connection is accepted but not a practiced belief system. Alaska Native spirituality can very easily mesh with Western religion. This is a beautiful way of showing respect. It is a way of life, how we relate to animals, and other Alaska Natives, non-Natives and the connection to the land. By showing respect for the animals they will always come back to you. It is important that you believe the animals will come back to you. An example of this is the Native value of giving to an Elder- the power will be returned. The power of return is very powerful, what you give will be returned to you. One needs to share what they catch. In every part of the hunt one must show respect: during the hunt, while processing the game and when eating. By showing respect for the animals they will come back to you. In the Inupiaq way all living things have a spirit.

As an Inupiaq hunter Ross Schaeffer has never had a self-image problem as he states hunting feeds him physically and spiritually. Inupiaq Eskimos do things a certain way because they have a spiritual connection. For example, in hunting it is important to release the spirit after you kill an animal. The mind needs to be opened to this understanding. Today we have too much information bombarding us to let the spirit in. Once you know who you are and what your situation in this world, then you won't have a self image problem. When you love yourself spiritually you'll heal better and can "get high on your culture." We need to live with a spiritual connection. The spirit and natural world are closely related. As one gets older one can have a spiritual awakening. A way to look at this is, for 10,000 years our ancestors didn't just go to hell. Ross quoted Rodney Lincoln by saying, "for 40 years we live our lives trying to kill ourselves, then for 40 years we try to save ourselves."

We need to choose our words carefully, sometimes we say things in jest and we really hurt each other. We all have a gift of speech and sometimes we say things that hurt other people. We need to teach our children this. When you give out bad things they come back. We all have a purpose, there is nobody higher or lower. If we live with a good heart it doesn't matter where you are. Listen to men's values. Learn to let go. Pray for people who are affected. If things bother you, find a person, an older person to talk about it. Sometimes just giving somebody something gives you power.



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Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
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Last modified August 15, 2006