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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
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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

Margaret Seeganna

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Next is Frieda Larsen. Frieda, is she here? (Pause.) Okay. Margaret Seeganna? (Pause.) Okay. (Pause.) Go ahead.

MS. SEEGANNA: My name is Margaret Seeganna. I once was a bilingual teacher, and I didn't get anywhere with the kids. I tried, but it didn't work. The dominant culture taking away our dialects, which was the biggest mistake they ever made. Now they are taking away the subsistence lifestyle of our people -- of the Natives. Fish and Game forbid fishing, and what do they give it as supplement? Nothing. Nothing.

The culture of the Native people has been ruined by people who thought they knew better than the Natives. And what do the people get in return? First of all, it's alcoholism. When you deal with an alcoholic, you don’t scream at that person no matter how drunk he is. You don't nag him. Nagging is the worst thing you can do to a drunk person. What I did with my children -- I don't drink. What I did with my children when they came home drunk, no matter how abusive they were, they never struck out at anyone, but they lashed out with their talk. I never said anything. Never, never said -- anything to them until they were sober enough to realize what I had to say. The worst thing you can do with an alcoholic is nag him, scream at him, or else you can talk gently with him. No matter what he says, agree, agree with him: “Okay, it's okay. It'll be okay." But screaming and hollering are the worst things you can do with an alcoholic. That's in our Native way. That's the only way you can get along with that -- with those people -- that kind of people, and I ha -- I've had a house full of them. Now some of them are sober, thought they had to be -- sober up on account of their alcoholism.

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: Could I ask a question?

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Sure. He's going to ask you a question.

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: What -- why do you think people become alcoholics, or why do you think they're -- they drink? What -- there are many people that have come up with all kinds of different reasons. I would like to know what you believe is the reason for people getting drunk.

MS. SEEGANNA: What I believe is with our generation, we were told not to speak our dialect within the school. And I had - - that made me revolt. I revolted about many things that -- different -- even though I was brought up in a Catholic school, there were many, many things that I revolted against; and when the younger generations got into school and were deprived of their dialect, they revolted. Revolt, confusion, they thought liquor would help them --

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: I think you gave --

MS. SEEGANNA: -- solve that problem.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: You gave a real good definition of why alcoholism is there, and I think it's a -- it's something that is shared by a lot of people when you say the (indiscernible) of culture took away the dialects; they also took away the subsistence lifestyle. What did they leave them with? More rules and regulations and nothing to, you know, work towards. And I think if I could extend her argument on maybe why alcoholism will -- would increase is because a subsistence lifestyle is being taken away from Alaska Natives, and it'll just compound the social problems that we have; and I think that's what you're trying to tell us, Margaret.

MS. SEEGANNA: Uh-huh (affirmative).



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