Cecilia Martz (Tacuk)
Yaaveskaniryaraq Project, l999-Present
Educational View Point of Cu\’pik
Before I start my presentation I\’d like to show what I\’m wearing. This is a traditional upper outer wear that we use in Alaska. You\’ll see this being worn by women in the different villages in the rural areas. It\’s called a qaspeq. And we also wear other clothing which are specific to Alaska Natives. And my husband is also wearing a qasupeq.
My name is Cecilia. That was a name given to me by an outside person. My real name is Tacuk, from my own people. And I didn\’t know that I was Cecilia until I went to school. Like you, the indigenous peoples of Alaska, we\’re losing our culture, we are losing our language. Young adults and their children who are moving away from the villages, they are adopting Western culture, and even people in our villages, they are all adopting Western culture.
Elders that you saw in Ray\’s presentation with the vast knowledge, with the deep culture, with their deep cultural knowledge, are dying, and the ones that are alive, are being used as part of everyday educational processes in the community as we as the school, as much as they should be.
They are getting more involved in the educational process. In my home village of Chevak, in the Cup\’ik area, the State of Alaska School District hires two Elders to be in the school every single day. So some of the schools are using the Elders in their schools.
The other thing that\’s happening to us in Alaska is that many of us are loosing our sense of community. A group of us realized and became alarmed at what was happening to our people, losing our culture and language. So we had many meetings with Elders for about 2 or 3 years. And we started the Yaaveskaniryaraq Program. The word Yaaveskaniryaraq has many meanings but I\’ll give you two of them. It\’s a very very deep Yup\’ik/Cu\’pik word. One meaning is moving from one level to a higher level. Another meaning is relearning and living your culture because that\’s who you are. The posters you picked up when you came in say the same thing. We use this as the foundation for our curriculum in the Yaaveskaniryaraq Program. This was developed by those who have teaching degrees already, and were working toward their Master\’s Degrees. They developed this with the help of Elders. We tried to translate it into English but the English language wasn\’t adequate enough to really bring out what we meant.
It usually takes about 3 hours to explain the whole thing, but it takes a whole lifetime to live it. Just that word qanruyutet, if we wrote it down into books, it would fill a whole library. It covers emotional, spiritual, physical, mental, all those things, and it covers all of the intangible as well as the tangible. As an example, that paragraph includes respect for nature. We feel that everything in this world has an awareness, a spirit. A rock, a baby, a seal, a plant, sky, water, wind, everything has an awareness and spirit.
Just a very specific example: when we are walking out on the tundra, when we\’re walking on the beach, when we are walking anywhere in the wilderness, if we come across a log that is imbedded into the ground, and since we view it as having an awareness, we know that that log is tired, wet and uncomfortable. We pick it up and turn it over. And while we are turning it over, we think about something positive, for instance, for another person, something positive to happen to that person, or if we have sicknesses we think about the sicknesses while we are turning the log over. And also that log when it gets turned over will get dry and might help somebody for survival.
Another example is a seal. When we catch a seal, we don\’t waste any part of it. We use everything of the seal. We use the skin for things like clothing, for bags, for storage. And the meat, we use for our sustenance, for our food. And the bones, we never throw them in the trash. We\’re supposed to bring that to a small lake or a pond and put the bones back into nature.