Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Yupiugua, (I am Yup'ik) I was raised in Kipnuk, Alaska in the South Western region of Alaska. I was raised in the 70s in a small village 4 miles from the Bering Sea. I come from the village on the bend of the Qukaqllik (Middle) River.

This is my family.

My parents are James (Miisaq) and Mary (Tuqucaq) Mesak. My last name is derived from my father's Yup'ik name, whose name he got from his father. (Names are passed on in the Yupik culture and who knows how old our names are, I wish I knew.)

My grandparents died when my dad was a mere boy and I never knew them. He was forced into a children's home, run by the Moravian Church on the Kuskokwim River. He was there until his uncle decided to take him home, his mom's brother, Ciuliq, Lewis Samson. He passed away, and I hear he was a great man. Loved God dearly and such a very wise man. I wish I had known him, for I love him for taking my Dad in when he had nobody else. From there, my father went to live with James Samson, the younger brother of Lewis. I hear his daughters would tease him and probably made him laugh like sisters would do, for in the Yup'ik culture your aunts and uncle's children WERE your brothers and sisters. To this day, the Kashatok brothers consider my dad their brother.

Growing up, I had 4 brothers and my baby sister. Chester (Pamsuq, named after my Mom's dad) who was born first and died at 16 from leukemia. There's not very much I remember about him and that saddens me. He lived with my aunt Nangyun, next door to our very smallest house. His best friends were Pat and Vern Samson, my dad's uncle's sons (in the Yup'ik culture, brothers) We'd go to church on Sundays and after the services we'd come home and they'd imitate whoever sang that day or did their bit during the service. Most of the time, it would be Qiuran, our neighbor, a bachelor, older than my dad, who'd make little streams for water that would gather in front of his house. And how we'd laugh because they'd imitate him exactly, to the intones of his voice and fluctutations and gestures.

Next is Thomas (Arnaaquq) who we endearingly call Piipicaiyuk (a name given by Pamsuq). He's a comic, a typical Yup'ik man, and a father of 4. If you saw him, you'd know you're seeing a Yupik Eskimo man. He's tall (but most Yup'iks aren't) wide, open, and very friendly. Don't tell anybody, but he likes to hear what the women folk are gossipping about. My mother's friends would come for tea and I, being my curious self, would seat myself next to them and listen in on the latest gossip around the village and BBjai would ask me later what they talked about. I've learned from him that there IS a lighter side of Yup'ik men.

Pin'vuq (James) - my favorite brother, probably because I got along with him the best, comes next. He's 2 years older than me and I love him dearly. He's named after my mother's mother, her Kass'aq name was Julia. I'd try to tag along with him where ever he went. The movie "Excorist" was on public TV and we watched it together. I got so scared and pretended to go to the bathroom and went to bed. And when he came to ask me if I got scared, I said "Are you coming to ask me that because you're scared?" To prove to him I wasn't scared, I stayed up and watched the rest of the movie with him. He saved a life of a Kipnuk boy by darting away a bullet with his hand. The doctors were amazed that the bullet went over and under his "hand bones" and just shattered this pinkie bone area. If you look at your hand and turned it side ways as if you're saluting, is what he did to keep a bullet from smashing into the brains of a Kipnuk teenager. The bullet went in from the pointer finger side and exited on the pinkie side. I remember that day because Acai came running into Lenna's mom's house and said Pinvuq had a big cut. A plane came to take my Mom and Pinvuq to the hospital to see how bad the damage was. I remember somebody had wrapped his hand in lots of paper towels and was holding it up way above his head. When the plane arrived, I was going to sneak into the plane to go along with them, but Tun (one of my Mom's friends) held me back. When the plane took off to flight them away, I was screaming and crying as loud as I could and I flung my rubber boots off my feet as far as they could go. I laughed because one of them went in a muddy swamp. Pin'vuq came back with a hard cast that he would use as a "weapon" against BBjai, his adversary in life. He has full use of his hand to this day.

Next is Oscar, my Puma. I miss him. He lived a short life like Pamsuq did. And like BBjai, if you saw him, you saw a Yup'ik man. We fought like monkeys growing up and there's many funny memories I have of him. He's named after my mother's step father "Arruyak", Oscar Kanuk. OKMP!!! I hope you see this now Osc! He'd call me totem pole, because I'm so short, but have the personality of a totem pole. He was born December 2, 1971. I remember that he was the cutest baby you could ever see, and I loved him to pieces. He'd tease me and say, I should have a dot on my upper lip, and point and dig it in. Just a mere glance of him pointing to a place on his upper lip and digging it in and at the same time sticking his tongue out... I'd run at him and pummel him and then check to see if there was such a dot on my upper lip. (Now I do have a spot, but so close to my lip, it doesn't count, cuz its not the same place he'd point at) The day he died, I thought my world had come to an end--he wasn't supposed to die, he was supposed to be right there teasing me and making me laugh over stupid little things of life. Puma was my "funny bone", the brother who made me realize life didn't have to be all serious all the time. My son is named after him, and he's living up to the name! But I do miss my Puma, which I called him after hearing a thing on TV and I thought the word sounded so funny. Pooma pooma!]

Last but not least is Donna. I used to tell her that she's named after Donna Summer (the singer), I wonder how Mom came up with the name, maybe it WAS afterall Donna Summer hehehehe. But she did tell me that she thought of the name Carla. I couldn't wait for Mom to pop her out. I'd run home everyday to check our house to see if anybody was in there at recess. In the village, (to this day), prego mothers are expected to go to Bethel to wait out the term of their pregnancies a month before their due date. While Donna was hot in the "oven", I had gone to Bethel with Mom to go to the dentist, and I was thinking I'd be there the whole time until Donna was born. Much to my dismay, I was sent home, by myself without the new baby or Mom. One day, as I was rushing home, on my daily checks to see if anybody was at our house, Siiyaq stopped me (he lived like 2 houses away) and said "You're Mom's home!" and I didn't believe him. It had been many, many days that I had been checking to see if Mom was home and it was hard to believe that it had come true. I ran and DID see my mother, with a brand new, hairless, chubby baby! I cried and was so happy that the day had finally come! Thats the first memory I have of my sister ....

That is my family ... a family I was born to, the family I was raised in as a Yupik.

1 comment:

xXGiRLXx said...

Kituusit? Hehe..this is Shanlee daughter of Alaalaq..haha..:D:P