Ignorance in its Place

For the UAS Whalesong

There is wisdom everywhere. Most people ignore wisdom that does not come from some stuffy book or the equally stuffy academics who write them. Wisdom that comes from our elders and our history is largely ignored, especially Native American history in America. A lifetime of knowledge can be overlooked because it did not come from someone who has gone through the colonial education system. Science was practiced long before this system came along by people all over the world.

I am sick to death of talking about these things all the time. I do not want to talk about them anymore with everyone else who tries to pretend they never happened. The reason I do not want to talk about them are different than theirs. They want to forget, for me, it pains me to remember. Historical trauma is built into my DNA. It is like I can hear my ancestors crying out from the icy ocean they threw her into or their graves in Funter Bay. Some people can live with those things, for some it’s an actual pain inside, it is unbearable.

These are the things I reflect on. The things that keep me awake at night. These are the things I have to keep talking about so others can not pretend they never happened. Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge, the Trail of Tears, Funter Bay. If you do not know what any one of these are, you should damn sure find out. Find out for yourself because I am exhausted and broken. I do not want to have to tell you what these are.

I am not wise, but maybe I will get there someday. That probably means looking to my elders, ancestors, and some of that painful history. My grandmother and aunts, the ones who lived through the internment camps at Funter Bay, they are gone now. I would not have known then, and I still do not know how I could ever ask about those things. It pains me to think about them going through it. How could I have ever asked them to relive it? I have always wanted to know the name of my aunt who was “buried at sea” all those years ago. How could I ever ask my grandmother such a thing without breaking her heart? I was 14 when my grandmother died.

I always seem to come out at the end of these with more questions than answers. Perhaps if I just keep looking for those answers, or learn how to ask better questions one day I will find some solution, and maybe a little peace as well. I would rather be happy than right. That is the only kind of wisdom I have for now.


Editor’s Note: This piece was written for Professor Sol Neely’s Spring Honors Reading Seminar “Wisdom in its Place.” Bear presented her work Thursday, Apr. 6 to close Art Meets Science, a week of student accomplishments.

Bear is a sophomore pursing a bachelor’s in Geography and Environmental Studies with an Alaska Native Studies minor.

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