Why do we do this?

An important story hit the news this week, first in the Tundra Drums, then in the rural blog at the ADN.

Staff quits Nunam clinic; officials scramble to find solution


The Juneau Empire and Associated Press have picked it up.

Information about what is going on in the bush is sparse and often lacking context. This story , as reported in both original venues, is more well rounded and in context than is the norm.

The comments on the ADN story took the usual turn … right away.

Important facts and issues in the story took an immediate backseat or were forgotten in the stampede to spout off about village life, Alaska Natives, Native corporations, big and samll…

Aside from the lack of knowledge displayed by so many commenting there ( yikes- those folks are my neighbors too !) the utter disregard for the issues facing Nunam Iqua, the health clinic there, the VPSO program as it really works was astounding.

The articles , right away,  set me to thinking about my community and what we do and what we expect :

In my community first responders, EMTs, are accompanied/met by police officers who secure unsafe  situations so that medical folks can do their job.

In my community bullies and ne’er-do-wells are brought to task when they try to shove others around…

In my community harassing health care workers would bring the whole town down around the ears of the harasser(s)…

Nunam Iqua has a long way to go to come together as a community,  picking up and making it’s way into the future, but simplistic responses to these troubles won’t get them there…

Not within Nunam nor without

Nor will ignoring the problems there , willfully or by default,  advance Alaska as a larger community.

Not within Nunam nor without

Far too often villages stay quiet about problems  simply because of all the horsepunky which crops up immediately like the move-who-cares-you-all-drink- gobbbeldy gook  spouted off at the ADN.

If we are going to get real about solving domestic violence and related unacceptable behavior , we are going to have to get real about our attitudes…

All of us

While solutions must start in the community, it must gain the  will to face it’s own problems, they must be solidified by the larger community with  the kind of framework and infrastructure  which supports the rest of us in our quests for safe communities.

So, why do we do we always seem to derail off into the ozone  when stories like this appear?

To the point of forgetting what the point even is…?

Why do we do this?

Published in: on April 10, 2010 at 6:51 am  Comments (7)  

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Alaskapi, I read the story in the Tundra Times, then the critical comments that followed, and shook my head that such claptrap routinely tends to follow a story such as this one. Obviously, the villages without police protection have bigger issues to deal with than can be summed up in a flippant, hateful diatribe against a group of people. It’s really easy to fault an entire population who live differently from the way you live your own life in the urban areas. But, as always, the situation in the villages is night-and-day different with regard to urban networks of police protection, First Responders, medical access, and community support.

    I can see some of the complications of being related to everyone in the village, so making “the right” decisions in a crisis is affected by how the decisions will play off of the personal lives of the extended family members.

    But it troubles me that a community, even of rural people, cannot set aside family allegiances that are misplaced for whatever reasons to recognize the crucial importance of supporting their health aides. I’m still struggling with that.

    • elsie09-
      I’m not so sure it’s even family allegiances in some ways – but it does point to a breakdown of the old Yu’pik ways of handling things and with nothing new and meaningful to replace it folks are dissolving into factions who tear and bite at each other, fueled by alcohol too often, and saner folks are huddling in their homes.
      It is a GOOD thing the health aides quit.
      Someone has finally drawn a public line in the sand.

      THEY are the brave ones.
      THEY are the hope for the future.

      • Pi, I’m not sure that this can be attributed to the “breakdown of the old Yu’pik ways of handling things”. If you study the old ways, there was always the Bully in charge. It was usually the Best Hunter who in turn shared his bounty with the less fortunate and that gave the MAN power. If he was a KIND and HONEST Man, than the people were lucky. If he was a MEAN and GREEDY Man, than his generosity had a twist to it. Look at the old stories where there is always that orphan living on the edge of town scrounging for a livelihood for him and his poor grandma. It’s there in the stories loud and clear. “Fractions who tear and bite at each other” is the norm because it’s always been like that. It’s modern technology that is showing the rest of the world the picture of life in Rural Alaska villages. Nothing more, nothing less. Take away their guns and put them in jail.

        • Man_from_Unk-
          I’m not sure either…
          When human groups undergo rapid change they often falter terribly, whether the old ways were mostly good or not- especially when that change is pressed upon them.
          We tend to embrace change we author and retreat from that which others insist upon…It is why I say Nunam must come to terms with it’s own future.
          Also, the tendency to romanticize the past is a very human trait, the tendency to romanticize groups of people is a very human trait…
          The tendency to demonize is just as human.
          We are all very human.
          Small town life, be it in bush Alaska villages , the hills of Kentucky ( where my father’s people are from ), or the backwoods of Oregon or Maine, has components of good and components of bad…
          I have been distracted of late with family doings around the imminent arrival of my new grandchild. It has had me thinking, a great deal, about what we will hand our kids.
          Whether Nunam Iqua manages to get on it’s own side and pull itself together , for it’s children if no other reason, or not, the larger community, the state, has a responsibility to provide the means for bush Alaska to meet some of these issues head on. To actually fund the VPSO program sensibly, to make meaningful changes in domestic violence policies…
          Some movement has been made by the Legs and current governor but the attitude of far too many everyday Alaskans is to “let them stew in their own juice”…
          That is why I am asking “Why do we do this?”
          If we cannot or will not plan for our kids and the world they will inherit we have failed to meet a fundamental human obligation…
          Another very human trait…

  2. I was a volunteer firefighter and medical emergency responder for many years in this rural area of Kentucky. These local people and those in urban Alaska villages share many similarities. This is a poor area, everyone knows everyone and many are related in one way or another, poverty is rampant and there is a great deal of alcoholism and domestic violence. Even these people are misunderstood by those in county government who provide the funding for the services we offered, as those who sit on the councils are well-educated and most are well-off financially and they don’t understand what poverty and sub-standard living conditions can do to the morale of those stuck in a no-win environment.

    It was the county’s policy that when responding to any medical emergency where violence, attempted suicide, alcohol, or weapons was involved, we stayed a distance back until the scene was deemed secure by the sheriff or one of the deputies.

    It was a difficult thing to stand by and wait, knowing someone might die while we wait for law enforcement. I’m sure that health workers have been in the same quandry!

    It is essential that the health workers in all of your villages have a secure and safe environment to work in. I pray that action will be taken to not only help those in the medical field, but all of the villagers. It is extremely disappointing that the media puts their own spin on it, omitting critical facts, and then for those who have no clue what it is like to live in a village, and so many of those who comment show their lack of awareness of what it is like to be a Native American, along with them being prejudiced (shall I exchange that word for racist?).

    It is disgusting that government and others with the power to do something positive, don’t do anything. One can only hope this latest tragedy will serve as a wake-up call to some.

    Keep the faith, Pi, and keep up the good fight.

  3. I’m up here in the Norton Sound area and perhaps Alaska should consider sharing resources for awhile to protect the innocent people in villages without Police Protection. Take Nome for an example. The town is loaded with cops, both local and state. There is very little crime here to justify the overload in the town’s police department. They sweep the streets of Homeless Alcoholics every few days, settle a few domestic disturbances every now and then and maybe stop a few drinking and driving unless of course the driver is a buddy then the police car becomes a free ride home for the night. Where is the fairness in all of this? The Alcohol Economy rules in Norton Sound’s HUB village. Where is the fairness in all of this I ask again.

  4. This news is good.
    I hope the very best for Nunam…


    ‘Here’s a written statement issued by YKHC:

    According to Bill Schreiner, the Director of the Community Health Aide Program at YKHC, the Nunam Iqua clinic is once again operational under YKHC’s service of care. One Health Aide has staffed the clinic since it re-opened on June 21, 2010.

    A Community Health Practitioner (CHP) has been working five days a week during regular business hours and serves as the sole Health Aide responsible for on-call emergencies in the village at this time.

    In recent meetings between VPO’s and Nunam Iqua’s current Tribal Council leadership, there has been a stronger verbal commitment from Village Patrol Officers and Tribal Council members to support the clinic staff by accompanying them on after hours emergency calls and follow up on any threats or harassment that clinic staff may receive.

    According to the elevated presence and support of Village Police Officers in partnership with the Alaska State Troopers, the returning CHP reported that “the situation has improved” and that she was “ready to return” to her position since the clinic shut down earlier this spring.’

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