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Episode 105: Choose Respect marches on

By Rhonda McBride 4:49 PM May 1, 2017


When we were invited to Old Harbor at the end of March to cover Kodiak Island’s first regional dance festival, we were focused on the dancing not the Choose Respect march that kicked off the event.

It didn’t dawn on us that the two events were closely linked together in the community’s mind until we started talking with organizers from both events. The purpose of the traditional dance revival was to promote a healthy future, to heal trauma — both from recent time and hundreds of years ago, like in 1700s when Russian fur traders enslaved local men to hunt for them.

I put in a call to former governor Sean Parnell, to tell him about what we had experienced in Old Harbor. He was really pleased that the program his administration launched now had legs of its own. He first spoke of the Choose Respect in his inaugural speech in July 2009, when Sarah Palin resigned as governor, and then floated the idea at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention that same year.

A lot has happened since then, so it seemed fitting that we take a look back at the program in a separate show — and also look at the issue of intergenerational trauma and its role in high rates of domestic violence.

Here are some of this week’s highlights

  • Culture as a Compass: A look at how the community of Old Harbor sees culture as a way to navigate beyond high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault.
  • Sean Parnell’s Legacy: We talk with Sean Parnell about his own family history and how that played into his efforts to make Alaska’s Choose Respect movement a top priority in his administration.
  • Status report:We look at a 2015 University of Alaska Justice Center survey of women, which asks them about violence they’ve experienced over the course of their lifetime – as well as the past year. Compared to a 2010 survey, some of those numbers have improved. Our guests — Andre Rosay, a UAA Justice Center researcher and Doug Modig, a traditional healer and sobriety leader — look at several different aspects of this turnaround.

Also of note in this program is “Ukut Skunat,” or “These Schooners,” an Alutiiq song remembered and shared by Mary Peterson and Jennie Zeeder of Ahkiok. The Kodiak Alutiiq Dancers gave a moving performance of it at the Old Harbor festival. The song preserves the feelings of the women on the island when the Russian fur traders took their men away from them. Many, never to return. The song is performed in the credits to this week’s program, with the translation. It is a powerful song, the tip of an iceberg of emotions that surface today.

Here are the lyrics, courtesy of alutiiqlanguage.org:

Ukut Skuunat (These Schooners)

Ukut skuunat gui qiagkwaraatnga     These schooners are making me cry

tan’uraruaqa piteklluku.     because of my boy (husband).

Qai-ciin kinguatni;     What am I going to do afterwards;

piciqsaanga tan’uraruaqa     they are taking my boy (husband)

aiwilluku.  aw   ay (by boat).

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