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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
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Indigenous Education Worldwide


Submitted to the
Alaska Natives Commission
in connection with a hearing at

Nome, Alaska
September 21, 1992

4000 Old Seward Highway, Suite 100
Anchorage, Alaska 99503


Witness List | Exhibit List | PDF Version

SEPTEMBER 21, 1992

Jacob Ahwinona

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Jacob Ahwinona? (Pause.)

MR. AHWINONA: I'm Jacob Ahwinona here in Nome. I retired from the workforce.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: That's right. Last year, huh?

MR. AHWINONA: And I know ru -- educational department. That's my first priority, the education. You know, I didn’t have the privilege of going to high school like you did. The only schools I went to was up to 8th grade, see, and then I graduated from there. And then we lived a subsistence style of living, and the educ -- when I went to school, my parents took me away from school before the school is out in the spring, whole month before the school is out, sometimes two months. And I missed out on that. But I kept up my grades, and I wanted to go to school and get an education, but subsistence style of living at that time we lived, so had to go with my parents.

But now, education went a long ways since I went to school; and -- which is good. I'm all for education. But one thing, though, I'm against is they leave God out of the picture. That's one thing they should do is when I went to school, first thing in the morning what the teacher did was grab the Bible, and then he read couple of verses and then said a prayer. You know, he taught me before he even went to his lessons for the day on respect. He taught me respect. Now respect is out of education everywhere. Children got not respect for elders. Anywhere you look it's like that. Now it's a shame. It hurts. You see that all over. Not only here, but all over. Look at Anchorage. Look at the school board, fighting over it -- fighting over everything there. They're not going to the kid -- they're fighting among themselves. That's crazy. They should be teaching the kids now and not fighting over themselves. That's where the problem is.

But now, I'm not only interested in education, but all the topics of this task force here. You know, we generally get a task force here once in a while, but not all the time; but it's -- when we do get a task force here, we give a few testimonies, and then they go. Do we hear from them? No. They don't feedback. That's one thing I'm not -- I don't like either. You never get a feedback from nobody, either from the government or from the state, see?

I haven't gotten written testimony, but just got it up here just a few topics that I want to get out, 'cause there's somebody else waiting on the line here, so. . .

In subsistence, I've lived a subsistence style of living since I was knee high, and I was taught. Now, subsistence life is not like it used to be. When I went fishing, there was fish everywhere. You could walk on top of the fish. Now when I go to my summer camp, I see fish here and there. They're gone. Why? 'Cause the commercial fisherman got it down there before it gets up here. And the Fish and Game got so many regulations on us, we can't even go out and fish when we want to. They put dates, the time, and that's -- they don't agree with us up here. They don't know how we live up here, see? The Fish and Game -- you can talk to Fish and Game 'till you're blue in the face. They never do anything. Only place we can get results is down in Juneau. Our legislators or the Governor. They're the ones you want to get after. You talk to Fish and Game, you might as well talk to a telephone pole out there. That's the results you get for complaining, see? That's right.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: I wrote it down. Talking to Fish and Game is like talking to a telephone pole.

MR. AHWINONA: You're darn right. It's like talking to a telephone pole out there, cause even if you complain, he won’t do anything anyhow, 'cause he’s got higher-ups up there telling him what to do, see? And up here, we got to put up with him. And you know as well as I do what they do up here, see? So, I think they should get someone that lives up here and put on the Fish and Game board or take those guys out and put all the Natives down there, see?

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: I think a lot of people are realizing that we're having less and less say on the State matters. It's one of those things that because of numbers, because of the one-man, one-vote, their thinking is taking over; but I think it’s the tribal authority, tribal rights, Fish and Game matters fall within that realm. I think that the federal role in that, there has to recognize that as well.

MR. AHWINONA: Uh-huh (affirmative).

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: We hear you loud and clear on subsistence.

MR. AHWINONA: Thank you.


COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: May I ask a question, please?


COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: Excuse me. At the hearing in Fairbanks, it was brought up about no respect for elders and not knowing the Native language, and that this was the fault of the schools. But many of the Natives who testified at the hearing said:

"No, it was not the business of the school, but rather the family."


COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: I'd appreciate your comments, since I do recognize in many villages, and Anchorage is -- you're correct, it’s not villages where there is a lot of -- no longer a respect for elders.

MR. AHWINONA: That's right.

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: So I'd appreciate your views on that.

MR. AHWINONA: And on that education. When I went to school, we were told not to speak our dialect. In your classroom, you get caught speaking your own dialect among yourselves, we get punished. You go over there and stand in the corner. Now White man got so smart now he want to teach my own dialect. He's going crazy somewhere. Somebody's going cuckoo. That's right. They want to teach me my own dialect now. Look at the kids nowadays in school. They got bilingual program. -They never learn anything from there. The only way you're going to get that culture back which we lost is little babies growing up. You talk to them in their own dialect while they're in there, and when they come out, you talk to them with your own dialect. That's the only way you're going to get your culture back. Now it's gone. We lost it. It's already lost. I don't know if we'll ever get it back. I don't think so. Not only our culture, we sold out to the State on Land Claims Act. That's when we lost out. We -- just you wait. Down the line, we'll lose our land, too. I may not be living, but I believe my grandchildren, when they get to that point, say, and nothing we can do about it. We already sold out, see? Thank you.


MR. AHWINONA: There's someone waiting --


MR. AHWINONA: -- to speak to you.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: His comment about leaving God out of the schools, we certainly didn't leave God out of the Commission, 'cause we've got three ministers on our group, the -- (laughter) -- Dr. Soboleff, Norman Elliott, and then Father Sebesta, who's also a -- so we -- we're pretty much -- we're pretty well taken, and then -- they hear you. They hear you. They'll talk about it when we get the Commission going. I think it's a national thing, too.


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 May 16, 2011