Pardon me for quoting a favorite show, but there was a "Native" moment in a West Wing episode I really connected with when I first heard it. The press secretary is trying to talk two "Indians in the lobby" into not going to the press right before Thanksgiving. They have been trying to have their case heard for 15 years (not exactly unheard of in Indian country.)
At the end of it all, she asks them, "How do you keep fighting these smaller injustices, when they all come from the mother of all injustices?"
The Native lawyer answers her, "What's the alternative?"
In other words, keep fighting.
I find it very easy to get discouraged with Native issues, and this is often how I feel. We fight because we must, because the only other alternative is to give up. Certainly, there are many who have.
Last night I did a post about a story that appeared in the Bristol Bay Times - another Alaska village in trouble. Yet the news wasn't even that the village was in trouble, as many, many villages are. It was the humanity lent to the letter of a resident, the personal stories. In an emergency, in an honest to goodness, having to choose between heat and food situation, a man reached out to Alaskans and asked for help for his people.
The response to the man's letter was beautiful. In just a few short days, bloggers have posted like crazy, asking for help. Celtic Diva made sure I knew about some of the "behind the scenes" work the bloggers were up to, including Progressive Alaska, The Immoral Minority, and Isiik's Thoughts are posting. Mudflats got on the front page of the Huffington Post with her excellent commentary. Alaska Report will be heading out to Emmonak, and other villages, to try and get more coverage for the situation. Donations have begun to trickle (and I hope, soon, flood) in. It is not a government bailout, it is not a permanent fix, it is not The Answer to all that ails - but it is the beginning of something good.
Mudflats related what the man who wrote the letter, Nick Tucker, said on KUDO:
“Thank you. I am choking, and tears are coming out of my eyes. You are giving us hope.”
Oh, and you can donate on the post from last night.
I am both more fortunate, and less fortunate, than these villagers. Living in the "big city" of Anchorage now, I cannot connect with my heritage as well, I missed much of what would be commonplace by living here, not where I was born. Yet the biggest trouble this week has been the failure of my car against the cold. It will be an inconvenience, but I ate good today, I am sleeping warm, and I will go to my job tomorrow - because I have one. The same cannot be said of the people in Emmonak, and of many places around the state. Many times, the fight just seems to be about what you are willing to give up.
But today, I got a big shot of hope. I - and I suspect many Native people - can get pretty discouraged in The Fight. You can believe you are only fighting so you know you aren't giving up - not with a real belief that change will come. The news of the dying villages got some news coverage this year, but it made one of the people I was with at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in October comment, "Man - we've been talking about that for decades!" It is easy to think your voice is never heard.
This week, one Native man raised his voice. The Bristol Bay Times reported, ADN made a mention. Then the bloggers got ahold of it, and wow, watch it go! His voice has been carried around the world, and right before my eyes, I'm watching a very wonderful thing. They are listening, and they are responding with action. With money, comments, passing the word - the proverbial ball is rolling.
No, I'm not getting ahead of myself. No, its not all okay now. No, there is no solution. Yes, there's about fifty billion other problems. Yes, the work ahead is exhausting to think of. The village, and many others, still have little heat, and little food - and no money.
But today a Native man raised up his voice, and was heard.
Today was a good day.