I am rewriting it a bit since it went from the idea of "vox Populi" [Latin: the voice of the people] to my more personal story so only the first paragraph is rewritten so far... After the phone conference I decided to write a more personal one but have not finished the rewrite so wanted to show something for right now and will be posting the rewrite after work today. Hope you like this so far though it will be changed a bit when done!

word count 1675

(Vox Populi) VOF Month 2

I think it was the realization that I had spent most of my adult life in an abusive marriage that I began to seriously wonder about who I am, really. If you take away all the bad feelings my husband helped to create in me and all the good feelings about raising 4 beautiful daughters, what is left that is just “me”? It was remembering that one old saying that goes something like: If you are at that place where for every step forward you get pushed back 2, the only thing left to do is turn around and go home. When thinking of all the times I ended up at ‘that place’, way more then I ever cared to be at and wondering how and why it happened so often that I began to put the 2 and 2 together. It always somehow seemed like giving up to me when I thought of that part of turning around and going home and I would never give anyone that satisfaction of seeing me quit. Besides memories of spending time with my mother my childhood did not create that feeling of wanting to go “home” ever. For me, it wasn’t until I was in my early 40’s that I began to heal the lifetime of wounds inflicted on my soul and this story of my path to self-defining myself is written in the hops that the younger woman can learn from it and not have it so hard.

Life In Occupied America

My story must begin with America’s story since I am an Indigenous American, an Aleut from Alaska. I live in an occupied country where those who occupy us are extremely devious and clever. Dishonor and murder is how the country known as America was founded, that is the plain and simple truth. But that is not what you read in the textbooks and the children are taught how wonderful and glorious the country is and where ‘The American Dream’ is available to anyone willing to work for it. The true story is hidden and made to seem like the American government is kind and compassionate to it’s “conquered” people and you can forget about them and pursue your own personal dreams of wealth and glory without guilt.

The good news is that for many occupiers who mindlessly pursued the American dream and had it turn into a nightmare are waking up to the fact that maybe not all things are as they seem. They are beginning to want a more honest and true way of living and my hope is to show how the Indigenous Americans already know this way of life. How their spirit is strong and fierce and never conquered and that these qualities are ones to desire. This is where a lot of the conflict for an Indigenous American occurs though. Where I have to somehow blend being a modern American woman and an Indigenous American living in an occupied land. How can I be both oppressor and oppressed at the same time?

False Dice

I believe it was Shakespeare’s Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing who said about “false dice” and that idea is one to keep in mind when reading about any federal or state dealings with the Indigenous population. Where the basic fact of the matter is that things were designed to keep control out of the hands of the indigenous while pretending otherwise to the rest of the country. When a tribe must first ask the state or federal government anything then it is in effect powerless and this is part of that systematic oppression you hear the Indigenous talk about. I hope to raise awareness about the fact that when we talk of systematic oppression we do not mean that we constantly run into people who demean us, but instead mean the total spheres of economic, political, social and judicial. It is the difference between the illusion of freedom and the reality of freedom. While many who live in occupied America do not seem to mind living in a fake dream world, the rest of us do. Subservience is an ugly word but must be examined fully since systematic oppression is designed to keep the Indigenous Americans subservient to the state and federal governments.

The idea that it is better to stay with the devil you know then the one you don’t is why the Indigenous population has not risen up to change things like the B.I.A. It makes perfect sense when you realize how blind and indifferent those living in occupied America are to it’s people. There are many who like to pretend they are good and decent and enlightened and help those less fortunate around the world yet do not acknowledge the fact that they are living in an occupied country and benefiting from the oppression of it’s people. Then there are the ones who feel that if the Indigenous people do nothing to help themselves then why should they bother without ever stopping to think that they are part of the problem. That this is an occupied land and according to international laws it is illegal to benefit from stealing our resources is probably the major reason that no action is taken to help free the Indigenous Americans. For if they admit that this is in fact an occupied country then what they have, what their past generations have accumulated and what they hope to accumulate will become ill-gotten gains and this conflicts with their vision of the American dream. We can only hope that someday they will realize that their fake dream world is a living nightmare to many others.

The Great Land

Many of those living in Occupied America like to tell themselves that the founding of America is ancient history and to just get over it. They like to believe that their hands are clean yet history is repeating itself in Alaska, what the indigenous there call the Great Land. Alaska is very rich in natural resources and America as a nation with its consumer mentality has an endless need for them. When Alaska was bought it was not from it’s people but from another country and this is where most of the conflict comes into play. Not knowing exactly where the resources lay the government decided not to create reservations where the Indigenous tribes have sovereignty and instead came at us with loaded false dice and created “corporations”. Denying sovereignty to the people here is a way to keep the people oppressed and subservient.

The Aleutian Islands are a very long chain of islands on the South Western part of the Great Land. This is where my families story begins with my mother and her tribe. It was the Russians who first made contact and greedily and evilly forced the people to work for them. It was missionaries from the Russian Orthodox Church who saw the treatment and forced them to behave more decently. Not to stop what they were doing but to be kinder to the slaves. Given that it was the first bit of kindness shown to them this new religion was embraced by the tribes. A mixing of cultures occurred over the next couple of hundred years where the tribes were still themselves but adapted to the new realty. You can read how many tribes in Alaska welcomed America when it first came since there was the mistaken belief that they had come to free us from the Russians. Given the history of the founding of America you know this was not exactly the case.

My mom’s story

Life was changing rapidly for the Alaskan Indigenous population when they came face to face with the ugly reality of white people believing they are somehow almost gods compared to the rest of the inhabitants of the world. Where instead of learning from the tribes they wanted to Americanize them. This is the time just before Japan attacked America and you have the racist American government wondering what to do about these pesky Indigenous people. There was a wealth of natural resources to exploit here and the only thing standing in their way was the people of the land itself. Being taught you are primitive and need to become something else entirely is not so easy when the tribe is strong so oppression and suppression must occur to weaken them. You can read so many stories glorifying this by white adventurers in books and forget the ugly truth of it. The American government knew of the impending attack and evacuated the white woman and children and left the Aleuts there to die. I suppose it is one way of “solving” the problem of what to do with us. The radio told of the likelihood of attack and the Aleuts packed what they felt was essential and waited to be evacuated next. And waited. When my mom’s village was attacked and occupied by the Japanese the others up the chain of islands were evacuated finally. But were not allowed to bring anything with them.

Unknown to them they were about to be brainwashed into forgetting their tribe and think of themselves as merely another American. The whole story can be found in many places and it is a fascinating look at what our country is really like. My story follows my mother though. She lost her firstborn daughter and son to starvation while living as a prisoner of war in Japan. Many of her tribe died from starvation as well. When they were “rescued” by America it was to discover that they could never go home again. That while they were living as prisoner in Japan the rest of the tribes were living the same but under American authority. The weakest of the tribes gave in and became American while the rest adapted to their new situation as best they could. You have to admire the strength of a woman who could survive all of that in one piece, let alone a whole culture, and this is my heritage.

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Comments

I have been moved to comment right away by your story and your words. This is heartfelt and moving and I honestly think you should keep this in the first person, as the personal story you have set out to write. Are those islands still accessible? Have you visited there? Are there any pictures? I'd love to see them. Sending you much love, Tina

Dear Maria,

Your personal account is very powerful and yet still reflects the experience of a larger group of people, not only Indigenous Americans, but those living in 'postcolonial' societies in general. I think one of the points that you mention at the end is very interesting, that it is dangerous to forget the past and just take on a new identity while forgetting your history. Perhaps you could devote some time to discussing this issue as part of the task to propose solutions. I love the beginning paragraph though. I get draw in to discover this phrase 'who I am, really.' Good luck writing the final version, I can't wait to read it!

warm regards, carly