Alaska Native/Indigenous People

Importance of Preparation

A bunch of kids helped my sister, Tanya, seed and water her garden in Huslia in 2011. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
We all helped my sister, Tanya, seed and water her garden in Huslia in 2011. Having a garden is one of the only ways to have fresh vegetables in rural Alaska, because you don’t really have much at the local store. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

I grew up living off the land. We spent our summers in fish camp from the time school got out to the time school started again. Going into town was a treat.

I learned many lessons growing up out on the land. One thing is preparation. You are always preparing for one thing or another. If you think about it, living in fish camp was all about preparing for the winter ahead.

There were lessons everything. I remember going on picnics in winter or summer, my mother had us furiously preparing for our outing. We had to get lunch, snacks, coffee, tea, layers of clothing, rain gear or life vests, etc. We had a big family so you could imagine the chaos.

After running around and preparing for each boat ride, I was always sweaty and ready for a break. Mosquitoes are usually buzzing around and biting you, and the cool breeze was a welcome relief once you taking off.

Now, I see why my mother did it. We had everything we needed when we went out. We were fed, clothed and able to enjoy being out. Having six kids, I’m sure she and my dad had no choice but to be prepared. Now as I have my own family, I find myself doing the same thing before an outing. 

Tacking down ahead of time keeps your beadwork in place as you sew. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Tacking down ahead of time keeps your beadwork in place as you sew. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

Even when we did beadwork, we had to tack down our work. That wasn’t my favorite part, especially when we would probably remove the threads when we were done. In the end, the beadwork turned out better when the moose skin or felt was tacked down first. I enjoy tacking down my work now, especially since I learned a shortcut for tying knots.

The constant need for preparation has stayed with me and shows on my personal and professional life. At work, I do my best to stay organized and can always find something quickly. My photos at work and home are organized by date and are labelled. At home, I do the unpleasant chores first and get them out of the way.

At the same time, you are never a 100% prepared for life. You learn to be flexible. My dad taught me how to solve problems by troubleshooting. I am grateful now for the way I grew up. Alaskans have to be prepared before going out in the wilderness. The skill of preparation can carry over to many other parts of your life.

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