November 16, 2019:

I am a “candidate” to earn my Master’s of Business Administration sooner than later. I recently saw my classmates define themselves as “candidate” instead of “student”.

I connect everything I’m learning with conundrums I’ve struggled with regarding the juxtaposition of the world I grew up in.

Specifically, I think about the paradigm shift our community members are experiencing. For decades there was the “stability” of government grant-funded Native entities, if the funding or programs were cut, it was easy to blame the government.

Now our for-profit private Native Corporations are finding success and shareholders want a lot of benefits, but also criticize spending “their” money to develop business.

For me, it’s this:

There are ways of knowing how to behave and how to act, based on the traditions and cultural norms.

As or me, our parents raised my siblings and me on a trapping cabin, various gold mines, and dog mushing; I never knew anything different.

When I say different, I’ll also get to that later.

All the families I was raised around had their choice of activities throughout the year. They were fishermen, artists, teachers, businessmen, loggers, and a lot of pilots, among other things.

It never crossed my mind that I would ever contemplate, consider; much less imagine, that there was anything besides this way of life among Native people in Alaska.

My parents had a daily structure. They were diligent in making sure all things necessary were taken care of each day. This included our education, within a school district curriculum, and beyond to show us that however remote we were, our voice could connect to and be answered back from this “world” we could not touch, see or experience otherwise.

At one point, when I must have been 11 and my younger brother Sonny was about 8, he sent in an entry for a contest to Captain Crunch cereal (while we were living on the trapping cabin).

A few months later, either my dad or mom drove the snow machine to McGrath to sell fur, buy groceries, and check the mail – or one of my Uncle’s flew over our semi-frozen lake and dropped the mail from their plane and flew away.

At any rate, Sonny had an envelope addressed to him in his name.

None of us kids received mail.

Inside that envelope was a check to Sonny because Sonny won the Captain Crunch contest.

I remember because the check had the Captain Crunch logo on it.

We didn’t care if there was “a” Captain Crunch (like kids think of Santa).

Having this childlike figure that we could comprehend, Captain Crunch, send an envelope to my brother was mind-blowing!

McGrath, as a community, had a lot of freedom, and we knew nothing else. There were a lot of small businesses, a subsistence way of life, and minimal government presence or government jobs.

It’s taken me decades to recognize the difference between how I grew up in McGrath compared to what I encountered later when we moved to Nome.