49 Voices: Fannie Akpik of Utqiaġvik

Fannie Akpik of Utqiagvik (Photo by Ravenna Koenig, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Fairbanks)

This week we’re hearing from Fannie Akpik in Utqiaġvik. Akpik is the coordinator of Iñupiaq Education for the North Slope Borough.

Listen now

AKPIK: I held my father’s hand and he made me promise that I will graduate from high school, and I’m going to go into college and come back and contribute to our society here.

I did drop out the first three months after he passed, but it was a caring teacher, named Mrs. Griffin, that… she was always coming over to visit and help me with things around the house. Anyway, if it hadn’t been for her, I would’ve been a dropout. I’m grateful that I kept promise with my father.

Even though no one came to my high school graduation, I felt my father’s presence. He made me believe that he’ll always be with me in spirit. So, to this day I believe that.

I managed to graduate from high school, but today I realize that my learning at thattime was to colonize me. And I always felt mixed up, not the true me, when I lived the white man’s way of life — Western way of life.

When they started the bilingual programs in the mid-70s, I was just a measly teacher aide in a special ed classroom. And I enjoyed it because I was helping these children that had emotional and mental problems, and they were of my people.

Someday, I’d like to see our own Inupiaq school, teaching everything that I was taught from an infant until I went into high school.

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.

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