we acknowledge ourselves

before we bring this meeting to order
we want to acknowledge ourselves, the Kaktoviġmiut
yes, Siliun, this is how they are doing things nowadays
                  we are doing it right

                     we acknowledge ourselves, the Kaktoviġmiut
  we are the people of this island and of the mountains and lands around us
                           and all our traditional hunting areas

                                                                                                       since before the military came
                                                                      and bulldozed our old sod houses our entire village
                                               so they could make a runway and yes we are still angry about that
                                                                  and we are still wanting reparations for what they did
                                                                               they finally did take that hangar down and it

looks better without that big old thing on there
and I know we are still looking for
                       what was lost in the nuna on that day
                                                                                        what they did was wrong

and we are still here

                       and even though the military still today has that huge other hangar
                                                                                                      on the other side with that
                                                                                                                             military man
                                                                                                   who lives in there that we have
                                                                                                                                      never met
                                                               and the other that relieves him every three weeks or so  

we were here before
they put those big humongous radar ears up       
and then took them down   
and yes they left many barrels and still never got all of them

we all want all their residue
               to be
    off our island forever

                                                     we were here before
                              the government started drawing arbitrary lines
                                        encasing us into this wildlife refuge
                                      without our full knowledge or consent

where strangers break into our cabins on our own land
                                                     up in the mountains each and every year
                       no matter how many signs we put or what kind of locks we use
         and because of these borders not our own
                                          we cannot hunt the way
                                                      our relatives in other
                                                                                     villages hunt

we have more restrictions and regulations than the others
                          yet we still are able to get the food we need
                                               around the land we care for and know

ii, we are still fighting these arbitrary borders and lines today, thank you Ekowan
and also thank you aŋaaluk for those letters you put out
                                                                               they needed to see that

and all of us fighting for our ways of life and as we continue to fight
even in this strange language
we had to learn to fight them with
                                                        arii, piliaqsuŋa taniktun uqaġama

we acknowledge our Elders that are still on this land
and our Ancestors                               buried just over there and over there too

                                       and our own people who are still living here
                                          especially the little ones like Uqumaiḷaq here
                                                         and all our future relatives yet to be born

we acknowledge and remember
           that the military did experiments without our consent
                      on our Elders when they were kids
                               and the government has never owned up to these injustices

but we remember what was done

and yes some Elders did get compensated for that radioactive iodine they put in their veins
                                                                  yet not for the other forced experiments

and we remember how we were also made to send our young people away
to go to school
         and how they came back
                   having to relearn their own language
                              and many of them left right away again

                                                               yet many stayed home
                                                                      and the others always return
                                                                                       and belong home here

we the Kaktoviġmiut remember how we have always been whole

                                     we are good we have always been good
                       living here in the ways taught to us by our Elders
                                                                                 and our Elders’ Elders’ Elders

and even though there were two waves of diseases that we didn’t know
                         how to fight
                           we lost many of our people
                                 yet many of us survived
                                           those waves

and since we are talking about these things in a community hall meeting
                     might as well mention the alcohol that came to kill us
                        and the cancers that we can guess where those came from too
                            and the fog of smoke and qaaq that has stayed and lingered

and I know that we aren’t used to acknowledging ourselves
            but when me and Fannie went to the big meeting in Anchorage
                                                                           they did one of these

                                                 land acknowledgments
                                so apparently everyone is starting to remember

and we remember too
         how to acknowledge one another
                and how we remember our relatives and how we are related
                   we remember how to sing and dance and how to take care of
                      the land

because we need to acknowledge our young people too
        even the ones who are pretending they don’t understand
                                                                       or can’t talk yet
                                                                            we know you are paying attention

yet we also want to say the young ones have also been having a lack of
                             and they need to fix that right now

oh and of course
our relationship to the animals
           the aġviq, the tuttu, the fish, the nanuk, the qavvik
                           oh yes and the aiviq and the beluga whale
                                 and I know I am forgetting some animals thank you Ukpik

     and we were here before the tourists started to travel here to see our
       polar bears
                                                                    without giving back to our community
                                        and yes we are starting to regulate those tourists too
                            as a community
                    working together

yes the amaġuq and I know we have too many animals to mention right now
       and we need to get started with these door prizes soon
                   yet let me say one more time
                            because I see that Michael just came in the door

                          we the Kaktoviġmiut acknowledge ourselves
                                     sovereign here on our own land
                                        sovereign here forevermore

                                                                       despite all of these other ways
                                            in which they thought they could make us forget
                                                                       or think we were broken

              we are whole and good and we remember all of it
                                                                       an unbroken line
                                                                             going all the way
                                                                                         all the way
                                                                                             all the way

from the time before the time before
            we are the Kaktoviġmiut, the original people of this place
            we have never ceded our lands
            we always remember our long long long ago ways

that we are living even today and even though we are thankful for many
    modern tools
that we put to use in the ways that our Elders agree with
the outsiders’ ways are not our ways
we belong here
              and on our mountains and all the places near that we travel for food
                                                                                                   and on the ocean

            we remember who we are

            today and forevermore
            we acknowledge ourselves
            in our power as Iñupiaq
                          aulayaiqsimarugut Kaktoviġmiut

now Alasuuraq will draw the first prize because I believe he is our oldest
    Elder here
   we will draw a couple few more door prizes
                                                        now at the start
                             and then the rest at the end of the meeting
                                  I know we have a lot to talk about

Audio version performed by the author.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2022)