Thursday, January 22, 2009

Spotlight on Emmonak

It struck me, listening to the KTUU coverage of Emmonak (video provided by Dennis Zaki, whom YOU helped send to Emmonak!) how showing Nick Tucker's words were:

"It was hidden. Each single household thought they were the only one, so they were ashamed to ask for help publicly."

This, to me, goes to the core of how I think most Native communities deal with it - internalize, be quiet about it, don't bring more shame on yourself than you already have.

It is the shame that has quickly risen to the top of this situation.

Most directly, it was mentioned in a Tundra Drums article about the food donations. Elders criticizing asking for help, and receiving donations. I wondered how long that would take. I have no doubt many in the community feel that shame sharply - it is as embedded in culture and life now as the roots of a tree.

I can only envision things will not go all that peachy for Nick Tucker in the days, and years, to come. Not in his community, I think. What he did in asking was a great leap of bravery. Not only will he be called a "scammer" and "beggar" by the most judgemental on the outside, he will almost certainly face strong criticism from many in his own community. You jut don't ask for help like he did. That's bravery.

Yet, would you like to see what is more disturbing (and, at the same time, hopeful)?

The Tundra Drums posted these letters:

Crisis in Kongiganak.

Crisis in Marshall.

Yeah. That would be MORE villages in Alaska writing letters about similiar plights in their own communities.

The Kongiganak letter talks about the job situation,

I've seen families in our village suffer with food and fuel, similar to what the people of Emmonak are facing. I'm trying to seek help for these people with jobs that are available here but only a handful will get a job.

The Marshall one is both a letter of empathy and encouragement:

Marshall people too have remained silent and endured the hardships and it is certain many other area villages are hurting as you mentioned but have yet to seek help.

Already critics are attacking and dubbing us as beggars, however, many just don't understand life in small rural villages and are quick to judge and condemn.

What is most disturbing of all is that this is not a surprise to anyone! Not anyone in Alaska, anyways. We've been hearing about just how bad it was going to get since last year. Truth be told, we've been hearing about it for a lot longer than that, but it was only on the "It WILL happen this year" level since last year. It was a gaurantee.

Many, many more villages are living in silence. Some are better off, some are worse, but I can only hope that the actions of right now will have far-reaching effects to the many other communities facing such hardships.

I feel a bit of the "hurry up and wait" for Emmonak, and other villages. I have donated, and I will be gathering some food this weekend (though I will also be looking into which of the organzations will be addressing some of the other villages, too) but, for the most part, the ball is a bit in the other court for the moment. Who will act? What will the state do? What will other citizens do? Much of the "next step" depends upon the leadership we will receive, and I am talking about from the state level, Native corporations, village leaders.

A few other bits about Emmonak:

The Tundra Drums did an excellent article on Emmonak, and had a bit more than other media outlets on the impact Alaska bloggers had on the situation. It was Alaska Newspapers (who own Tundra Drums) that first reported Nick Tucker's letter, and Alaska Newspapers that began Village Aid - a food drive. Not to mention they've been covering "what is going to happen" to Rural Alaska since forever. I give them a whole lot of credit for being on top of this from day one.

Celtic Diva informed us that the man on the radio from Emmonak calling it a "scam" was a Palin board appointee. WTF?!?

Progressive Alaska cross-posted a firedoglake diary he did.

Immoral Minority has a fairly disturbing post about just how long it could take to get help to Emmonak.

1 comment:

dianedp said...

This is not just a native problem.
Most people will suffer in silence rather then admit they need help.
What makes this situation so appalling is that Gov. Palin is so ignorant about the problems and now guilty of ignoring it.
Let the rest of the US see how shabbily she treats her people and what a hypocrite she is telling us she knows how to solve our problems.