How does a culture die? Have you ever wondered what happened to your family customs?

Assimilation and the belief that everyone has to be like me.

I attended a humanities forum and the guest speaker was Fr. Michael Oleksa. I had arose at three in the morning to watch his series on television and at long last came a chance to hear him speak in person. Fr. Oleksa's speech was powerful, funny, and at times it brought tears to my eyes. His message was my message but spoken so eloquently. His story was my mother's and my grandmother's story and the story of all the Native Americans. I immediately asked him if I could use some of his recitation on my web site. Fr. Michael with his deep love for the Alaska people immediately agreed.

The following is not exactly his speech but my own interpretation of the notes from it.  

In America we created our own holocaust. Remember the saying, "The only good Indian is a _______ Indian!" Aha you knew the missing word was "dead." From 1492 until 1804 the way to control somebody unlike yourself was to kill him or her. The Indians were different. The theory was enslave and/or kill people who are different. We were founded on our own personal form of violence. Even the Indians had slaves. It is safe to kill people who are different or to enslave them. Remember Indians are not humans, after all they were not allowed to vote until 1924. Early documents in Washington D.C. refer to an Indian as a "siwash" and much worse.

In 1864 the theory on those who are different from you was "kick them out" Send the slaves back to Liberia and put the Indians on a reservation. Even President Lincoln agreed with this policy. The general populace did not want to deal with the problems of anyone who were different than they were.

In 1905 there was a new way of thinking. Make everyone just like us.

Indians (indigenous people) were not immigrants. This theory worked well for people who looked like everyone else but it did not work for Alaskan Natives.

1870 to 1970 we had 100 years of assimilation. We make everyone just like "me" and force them to play by "my rules." Americans are products of assimilation. Grandmother and Grandfather came from another country where perhaps the children could not go to school or they had to pay for education. People were poor and America offered a better life. It was a privilege to have an education and speak the language. Therefore they were willing to be assimilated. This is not true for the indigenous people.


In 1905 the government said to the indigenous people, depend on us. You have to be like us. How can we be like you? We have to hunt and gather, fish for a living and prepare to survive the winter. We do not live in cities with jobs and stores. We do not have an alarm clock to wake up by. Schools came to the people we did not go to the schools. We will be beaten if we speak our own language. Our parents will be ashamed of us if we do not speak English. Unfortunately many of our parents cannot speak English.

The assimilation caused:

They had feelings:

Self worthlessness





These feelings created:

b. Self-destruction.suicide, drugs, alcoholism, accidents (nonsensical risks) a feeling of it doesn't matter, lack of purpose and sexual promiscuity.

This message contains some of my mother's story and the people of my village. Although they spoke Russian, being Creole descendants, they were beaten for speaking Russian at school. The culture rapidly began to die with assimilation. People my age cannot speak the language. Our parents are ashamed of the way they speak (often with a slight to heavy accent. They say our Russian is "No Good." The pride in our own Alaskan Dialect was almost non-existent. Our children shy away from traditional foods such as fish melt, fish heads and roe. How can we stop further destruction on our Aleut, Athabascan and particularly our Eskimo cultures, which are more intact, from dying? By listening to our history and our cultures and learning about us. Some may look different than you but remember a friend is just a stranger you do not know. We can integrate this theory in our homes, classrooms and our communities. Violence, alcoholism and other forms of self-destruction must end with in all cultures. We cannot cure these problems with handouts such as welfare and grants. We cannot hire specialists to heal the wounds. We must be the antiseptics on the wounds ourselves. We can integrate with others across all social and intercultural barriers by learning about the friend we do not know. Remember this is not just an Indian or Black problem. It is a problem for all races and cultures so please….Reach out and take the hand of the person across from you. Listen about his history, culture and background with an open heart and mind. You might find yourself fascinated and pleasantly surprised.

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This is why I wrote these pages and all of the pages relating to my culture.

"Nobody Not Even Me!"

Another injustice caused by Assimilation and the attitude, "You're not like me," is the treatment the Japanese received during World War II. I remember hearing people say, "I hate the Japs." How could this be? My Uncles fought against them in the war but I'll bet they never met one except in combat. The whole United States became fearful of first and second generation American citizens. Why because they were different?. Japanese American citizens were forced to abandon their professions, homes and belongings. They were incarcerated in camps for the duration of the war often without adequate provisions. They began to speak predominately English to protect themselves. The truth of the matter is approximately ten people were convicted of spying for Japan during the war and all of them were caucasion. I wonder if we entered war with Russia would they incarcerate my family because we have Russian ancestry and speak the language? Or perhaps because we visited Russia and made some contacts there? Or because I write to some people in Russia and my site is linked to Russia? Would that make us spies? Interesting concept isn't it?

For extensive information
on this subject concerning the plight of the Japanese, please visit this site and follow the links.

Related Links:

The Scope of Language and Recent Responses to it, by:  Dr. Michael Krauss, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.  I have spoke on numerous occasions to Dr. Krauss on the subject of the Ninilchik Dialect of Russian.  Dr. Krauss has a copy of the work already completed on the language.

Endangered Languages, Endangered Knowledge, Endangered Environment

Endangered Native American Languages:  What is to be done and Why.

Music on many of the pages within my site by Harry Todd who has a vast collection of Old Time Nostalgia Music to help enhance the mood of your website. Harry's music has been a great inspiration to me while building webpages. I listen to the music of the past and memories flood through my soul. Harry has also been an inspiration through his letters and the letters of Harry's family both for my site and through the illness and death of my mother. Thanks Harry more than you will ever know. Harry has recently won an award from Yamaha for the quality of sound in his midi files.


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