The Arctic Venturer:
Preserving the Inupiaq Values
Mt. Edgecumbe High School
Young Percy, at the age of eight, was watching his
father drive the boat, looking up at him with great admiration, because
his father asked him to hunt Beluga with him for the first time. As they
driving down the Buckland River and headed for Elephant Point, which is
in the Kotzebue Sound, Percy was amazed and excited.
He grew more impatient
and it seemed like forever to get to the camp. Finally, as they reached
the camp it began to get dark. So they settled in. But
Percy was still impatient. He kept begging, “Papa, can we go now?”
father told him, “Son, we must wait for the tide to go down a little
if we want to get a catch. You rest now so you can stay awake when we
are hunting because it’s going to be a long ride.”
Okay,” he replied. As the night went on, Percy woke up still
eager to go on. A few hours later, the waters were ready to ride
and his father
Percy jumped in the moving boat and was ready for an adventure
he would never forget. He looked out of the boat, searching for
any site of
a beluga. Meanwhile,
he heard his father shouting at him to look north. There, half
a mile away, he saw a white beluga. Above were seagulls flying in circles.
raced towards the whale. Then they noticed there were three more
In order to catch as many as they could, they needed a
plan. One after the other, they threw their harpoons at the target. Each
of the mammals
It was a great day for the hunters!
As they brought home their
trophy, Percy felt courageous. He looked again at his father with pride
and said to himself, “Someday, I’ll
be like my father.”
And, from then on, Percy Ballot has
been a great hunter in our community. From his early childhood,
through his adulthood,
been a driving force in his life, one that he plans to teach
the younger generation.
Throughout his life, Ballot devoted
himself to everything. He committed his time and effort to gaining an education
he was a quiet student, he strove to make honor roll. He
built his strength as well as his knowledge by participating in basketball.
dedicating his love toward his family bonded them together. Hunting with
his father brought them closer to
each other. Camping
alone with his
wife, June, gave them an opportunity to freshen their relationship.
Being far away from his daughter, who attends Mt. Edgecumbe
High School, gave
him an open friendship with her, and their love grew stronger.
he gives up his spare time to work for worthy causes. He is on the Regional
Federal Subsistence Board and the
School Board. He is a local school board member. He was
president of the Indian
Rural Affairs office in his village. He stuck with his
accomplished them with self-respect.
Learning the basics
of hunting during childhood had an incredible impact on Percy’s life.
Knowledge is the power in a successful hunt. Being cautious in certain
areas, having the survival skills and preventing
accidents makes the hunt more effective.
Values influenced young Ballot. Respect for nature is vital because he
needed to learn how
he was able
to hunt. In order to be allowed to hunt, he had to
work hard. Sharing the carcass of the beluga, caribou
with the Elders
value. While he was young, hunting taught him responsibility
the younger generation to learn the traditional ways of hunting made Ballot
a stalwart teacher. Through
sons when they are seven. He taught Bruce, the
oldest, and he taught
Richard, who is nine years old. Ballot teaches
them the values first, then he shows
them the basics of hunting.
The students he teaches
are always eager to be there when he tells them to meet him at a certain
They become anxious when getting ready to hunt.
His own knowledge increases as well as the pupils
Ballot believes that hunting affects
the past, present and future. He wants to preserve the
by giving the young ones
knowledge. His plan
is to keep them out of drugs and into cultural
activities. Through the
education of the young, Percy has become a
valued resource. Ballot understands the values and importance
up. He is determined
keep this tradition in use throughout his life.
Photo courtesy of Hannah Loon/NANA
Photo courtesy of Noorvik High School
to Tribe: Education
Chukchi News and Information Service
I consider education a precious gift,
especially in rural Alaska, where formal education
and where distance
learning at Alaska’s rural university
campuses have allowed me to become an “educated
woman” even at
In 1944, when I was 4, my family
and I were living in the village of Nuuk,
east of Nome.
my dad decided
that my older sister and two older brothers
would attend school in Nome. I wasn’t
old enough to enroll.
devastating diphtheria epidemic erupted
throughout Nome in 1944,
of us children contracted
My father felt most anxious to
leave Nome for the safety of his own children.
and considering ourselves
fortunate to be alive, we all moved
back to Nuuk for the winter.
Three years passed before the family
again moved to Nome for school, where
and I started
together. Glen was 9,
I was 7. In
those days, many students attended
school irregularly, especially if,
family, they lived
off the land with a subsistence
My siblings and I started school
at least six weeks late each fall. We
spring, if we managed
main livelihood was fishing. Survival
meant working constantly not only
to keep our
stomachs full, but to stay warm,
because wood was our fuel for
both heating and cooking.
hard. I dreamed of a college education,
even as I struggled to
keep up in elementary
school in Nome,
Thankfully, our dad taught us at
home whenever we could not afford
to Nome to attend
Unfortunately, I was just
starting my senior year in 1957 at Nome High
my dad’s death. An old man
at age 72, Dad died of a stroke
complicated by pneumonia. My father
long and hard during his later
years of life
to raise his young family as
a single parent, even when we children
did not fully appreciate it.
and other financial support for
potential college students
me hardly existed
1950s, especially not for Native
women living in
rural Alaska. No one had ever heard
of “audioconference” or “distance
learning” classes. Rural
Alaskans had to be able to move
to Fairbanks, Sitka
or even the Lower 48 to attend
college. Very few, including me,
afford such expense.
“ Life was hard. I dreamed of a college education,
even as I struggled to keep up in elementary school in Nome . . . “
1950s and 1960s, a woman in rural Alaska, particularly a Native
woman, was expected to
marry, raise a family
and depend on her husband.
opportunities beyond high school
were virtually nonexistent, I
took the “easy” way
out. I married young, even
graduating from high
school as a married woman.
worked for many years as a
homemaker, raising a family
four boys and
one girl, all the
dream of attending
When Northwest Community College
opened its doors in Nome in
the early 1970s,
in my previous marriage that
I have today with my present
to attend the local college
regularly. As a result, not
until the early
I remarried, did I begin to
vigorously pursue college classes
By 1986, I had earned
from Northwest Community College,
then continued on for an associate’s
I inched along toward
my two year degree while I
In January 1989, I became very
ill with an allergic reaction
to stop functioning for several
days. My education
dream again faded as
I struggled at first against
to regain my health.
As I grew
stronger, I thought of college again. I asked myself, “Why
am I doing this? Couldn’t
I be doing something else
that a perhaps would make
even just momentarily, than
to attend such grueling
college classes?” As
I thought about it more,
the answer was revealed to
I desperately wanted a college
degree. Sheer persistence
kept me going
until May 1990, when at age
50, I graduated with an Associate
of Applied Science degree
with a major in business.
wonderful husband Steven
has proudly attended my graduation
Without his untiring
support, I would have
failed and probably dropped
out. This man has cooked,
cleaned house and performed
chore, no matter
how menial, to help me achieve
I plowed right on
toward a bachelor’s degree in Rural Development.
I cannot let my dream die.
I want the personal satisfaction of earning a bachelor’s degree.
If I can keep up the pace, I will graduate at the end
of Spring semester 1996,
at age 56, along with my 26-year-old daughter,
Melissa, also a candidate
for the same degree. My dream will be realized.
I hope that by fulfilling
it that others will be
motivated to continue
in rural Alaska.
answer for Alaska Natives
meet the challenge of living
worlds. It is also my
that I have
model for my
daughter, who will serve
as a role model in education
young and old.