Alaska Native/Indigenous People

Paula Taylor – Grounded in Faith

Paula Taylor

A friend reached out to me and suggested I feature Paula Taylor (Yup’ik/Iñupiaq) on the Athabascan Woman Blog. Paula’s family is from Naknek in the Bristol Bay region and Unalakleet. She grew up fishing every summer. She’s a wife, mom of two, storyteller, two-time cancer survivor and more. I got a chance to talk with her recently. 

Listen to her incredible story of survival and how she persevered. She was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme over 30 years ago. She credits diet, working, attitude, keeping her goals, a strong support system and especially her faith in God to her survival. She got her degree in exercise science and wellness.

“I just had to hold it together and I feel like my faith really grounded me. My faith is really why I’m here.” – Paula Taylor

“Food I think is one of the most crucial things in our life. We are what we eat.” – Paula Taylor

I admire her strong will to live and appreciate the wisdom she shared on her journey. She’s retired now. She and her husband are proud of their children. Enaa baasee’ to Paula for graciously sharing her courageous story and what helped her to survive.

Paula and her family are very active.
Photos courtesy of Paula Taylor
Alaska Native culture

Reflections in Time of Pandemic

How are you doing? I find myself asking and answering that question in a deeper way now. Some of my old friends have even called out of the blue to check how things are going. It’s been a month of working at and staying home for me. I’ve had ups and downs, but have enjoyed connecting with folks virtually.

I see people reaching out to our Elders to check in on them and asking them about hard times. Some share how hard times are here – what their Elders shared with them about hard times coming. Continue reading “Reflections in Time of Pandemic”

Alaska life

Keeping Hope

I have been really thinking about what’s going on with the coronavirus (COVID-19) in our world. Like many people, I have been extra vigilant of washing my hands and taking other precautions, like social distancing. Follow the World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Alaska Department of Health & Social Services for information and prevention.

Last week, there was a point in time when I found myself starting to panic with the news, event cancellations and travelers, etc. I thought about my Elder parents and family/friends, and how I want to keep them safe and healthy. Thankfully, I was able to pull myself together after grounding myself by talking to my family. I reflected on some of the stories people shared about how our ancestors survived the flu pandemic. It gave me the inner strength I needed after realizing that we can get through this. We all have a role in preventing and stopping. 

I asked my friends and family to share some messages and stories of hope. I’ve seen a few people posting stories about our ancestors surviving the early 1900 flu pandemic, reflections and advice. Enaa baasee’ to those who agreed to share.  Continue reading “Keeping Hope”

Alaska Native culture

Tell Your Story

Koyukuk River north of Huslia. Photo by Angela Łot’oydaatlno Gonzalez

Since I’ve had the Athabascan Woman Blog, people have asked me how to start a blog. I want to share some tips about how to get started and other ways to share your story.

Expressing yourself and publishing your creative work has never been easier, thanks to the blog. Blogging can be an avenue for advocacy to speak out on important issues in your community. Some sample blogging platforms include Wordress, Blogger, Tumblr and Weebly. Most are user friendly.

I share my stories, interviews with Indigenous people, photography, ‘how to’ bead videos and tips, and more. But I’ve seen blogs dedicated to photography, vlogging and podcasting. Find out the medium that interests you and try it. Ask people for advice. Continue reading “Tell Your Story”

Alaska Native culture

Traditional Ways of Life

I shared a picture of a young Gwich’in woman, Quannah Potts, on the Athabascan Woman Blog Facebook page. Quannah Potts says, “This year, I was blessed with shooting my first caribou and our future generations should have the same privilege of being able to hunt and live their ways of life.”

Someone said, “Although using rifles and snowmobiles, ATVs and the like is hardly ‘traditional’…..”

I responded by thanking him for his comment… It brings to light one of the reason I write and share on my blog. The act of spending time on the land and providing for her family is traditional. The tradition of giving parts of the caribou from first catches to Elders or other families is traditional. Alaska Native would not have survived 10,000+ years if we were not adaptable. We moved around on the land with the seasons and the availability of plants, animals, currents, cycles and conditions. We were not static people living in one certain way. I would not expect people to be driving around by horse and buggy from a century+ ago. The only people who can critique Quannah on whether or not she is traditional is her mother, grandparents and community Elders.

I’ve had conversations about what is traditional and contemporary. I say living our ways of life is traditional whether or not we use contemporary tools.

When we give our first catch to Elders or other family members despite shooting with a rifle – that’s traditional.

When we sometimes sing and dance despite it being with a fiddle – that’s traditional.

When we celebrate a memorial potlatch despite it being in a school gym vs. a community hall – that’s traditional.

When we pick berries despite using an ATV or boat – that’s traditional.

When my family fishes despite using a commercial fish net vs. a fish trap – that’s traditional.

When I bead slipper tops on smoked moose skin despite being on hard bottom moccasins – that’s traditional.

When I use beads in my beadwork introduced in the past couple of centuries despite it not being quills – that’s traditional.

When I learn and share the Denaakk’e language despite being on a paper book, by video or audio recording – that’s traditional.

When I share stories despite it being on a blog vs. oratory – that’s traditional.

What would you add? We need to continue sharing our perspectives, stories, culture, language and ways of life. Enaa baasee’.