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