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I˝upiaq RavenIñupiat Ioitqusiat

A Special Publication of Alaska Newspapers Inc.

"Those things that make us who we are"

Portrait of a People - By the People
Originally a supplement to The Arctic Sounder


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... What is Iñupiat Ioitqusiat?

An interview with Reggie Joule
Kiana High School

The Inupiat Ilitqusiat program got started in the early 80s because there was a lot of concern that our young people were being exposed to unhealthy lifestyles as a result of poor rolemodeling. A lot of our young people were turning to alcohol, drugs and suicide as a way out.

At that point our region’s leaders, working with, and for, the Elders, began the process of traveling to the villages to hold town meetings so each community could discuss their problems and try to figure out a way to solve them.

There was a historical perspective given, to remind people of the transition that took place over the last 100 years. This brought things to the present and got people at those meetings to start looking at how we could do things differently to address these issues.

Inupiat means “the Real People,” and Ilitqusiat means, “Those things that make us who we are.” So, when we look at the Inupiat Values and begin to understand what they mean, we see that they reflect the culture because that is what defines us as a people. These values have helped our people survive the test of time.

Sometimes we have trouble understanding what things mean. Sometimes traditional values and Western values conflict and we feel we have to choose one over the other, rather than utilizing both at the appropriate time and place.

Most definitely the Inupiat Ilitqusiat movement has benefited society. In some ways, the Spirit Program which got started here is what prompted the sobriety movement. A lot of Spirit Camps got started around the state as a result of what was started here.

Our society has gotten greedy to the point of where the focus is on “me” instead of “we.” We hurt each other through various abuses, but mostly I think the system is not ready to acknowledge us for who we are and it spends a lot of energy trying to Americanize anyone different. For instance, a person who can speak three languages is called tri-lingual. A person who speaks two languages is bi-lingual. A person who speaks one language is called an American.

I think the young people of today are doing what we teach them. If we have taken the time to teach them and live the values ourselves, then so will the young people. But, if we haven’t, then they probably will not unless they have learned them somewhere else. It has to start in the home.

Advice for the young people: You don’t always have to be the best. However, you should always do your best. Think long and hard about what you want out of this life and are you willing to face the consequences of that decision.

Young people don’t know the language, but then we are not teaching them the language so how can they learn it? To keep the language and culture alive, you must insist that your parents make it happen. You must be willing to take the time to learn, live and teach what you have learned.

The Inupiat Values are very important to me and my family. Mostly the values were taught by our parents and we didn’t even know we were learning values. We are probably mirror images of what our parents modeled for us. In our home, as a child, I knew I was loved; I felt loved. I was told I was loved, even when I was disciplined.

Unfortunately, today many children are not being taught through example, the values which they will need to be self-sufficient. We have become dependent on others too much. TV is teaching a lot of values these days.

Inupiat Ilitqusiat is not a program. It is a way of life which we have defined as ours. What has been defined as “Inupiaq Values,” upon closer inspection, are really basic human values. It is what makes us different from other people; not more than someone else and not less than someone else, just different. It is up to us to learn and understand what those differences are and carry them forward.Article End

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Last modified October 19, 2006