Valuable Lessons and Wise Words from Our Respected Elder Nicholas Tucker!


Nicholas Tucker, Yup'ik Elder, Emmonak, Alaska

Nicholas Tucker, Yup’ik Elder, Emmonak, Alaska

Aug 11, 2009

As many of you know,  Nick Tucker is one of Western Alaska’s respected Yup’ik Elders.

Recently he included me as a recipient of an email he sent to a Tribal Administrator.  It was a very heartfelt and honest letter about lessons that we should all learn and respect.  With his permission, we would like to share his letter with you.

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Dear (Friend):

Look who’s writing! You have just touched a heart that is in pain. Thank you! I recall you as an infant being fed by your Mom.

I do not want you to have to go through what my generation, the many generations before us and your Mom and Dad had to endure us to stay alive from one year to the next. I do not want your cousins in here having to go through the same. How many more generations are we going to cry out. Will the generations of those who rule and make laws continue to be the generations of those for the last too hundred yearss, and for our State, the last 50 years?

Look at your dad. He is over 70 years old and is still struggling to feed his grandchildren, great grandchildren and your mother who is the same age as I am, failing some in health. At his age, your dad is resorting to work working many hours a day plus commercial fishing. He and your mom should be enjoying their senior years. But, the preventable, ever-existing high fuel prices, groceries and you name it prevent just have us keep going so that everyone else around us wouldn’t go hungry and cold. Yoiu know too well it got so bad this winter for many villages that great number of us had to choose between heating fuel or food on the table, and saddest of all, some without one or the other or both and, in case of food, some just one meal a day and some without days.

(Friend), remember us.  In our pain and struggles, we raised your generation. We had the best of hopes for you all while we had our own social problems that had been seeded and spawned from generations ago when the first non-Native stepped on our land. It could have been a beautiful, caring country – us having been accepted, trusted, respected, and honored – with our backyard resources generously shared with us. We did, but the recipients want more and more, and eventually all.

Your dad and I, as was with many generations well ahead of us, never held grudges, revolted, nor revenged no matter the treatment, but always wish well of our oppressors with kindness, care, and generosity – like our elders say, even if you only have a cup of tea, and, continue to treat them with open arms that we did  two hundred years ago. I want you, your children and grandchildren get education. We’ve always been strong, intelligent, and wise, particularly our culture precious with values and teachings. Take that for us for our next generations. But, keep your heads up, your whole generation. We will have been a forced to be reckoned with, because I think, many of us are beginning to turn to God, and we might just rule with justice, goodness, fairness, and generosity again, but educated.

Remember, Israelites were under oppression 400 years. The Pharaoh was given opportunity to work with God. He refused. Then from the lowliest of Israelites came Moses.

You are all from strong men and women. Know that. Your Dad, even barely able to see and having to use a magnifying glass to read, having been hospitalized number of times, and enduring much like rest of us, is telling you all who you really are. Young men and women of great strength. Tell your generation. My family is a family of veterans – we’re doing our part so those we leave behind will be free to treat each other as they feel. But, for your generation, look to ours. It is precious.

I’ve never talked this way to you. But, it is time to pass on some things. We’ve always shared and protected our resources. Now, they have been allowed to be squandered elsewhere, dishonored, and even in one case, literally thrown overboard while we cry for it.

Thank you so much for rising up.Please  look back at your ancestors and your elders today. Be patience, kind, generous, compassionate, caring, and sacrificing, but with one formidable tool: education. Use it with wisdom.  Make sure our future administration knows who you are. You equal to the rest of the esteemed citizens and do not have the right to be denied our country’s promised benefits and privileges. The generations ahead of you sat quietly in a cage, in a corner. Someone from the outside has opened the door. It is up to you all to walk out, men and women to be reckoned with -without revenge, without violence, and without ill-feelings, but with confidence that you can contribute in making our state better, even for former oppressors. Some didn’t know. Forgive them. Together, you will get the Alaska you want.



6 Responses to “Valuable Lessons and Wise Words from Our Respected Elder Nicholas Tucker!”

  1. alaskapi Says:

    Mr Tucker-
    I haven’t been able to let go of ill-feelings yet but I’m trying.
    I AM confident that hard work and due diligence to the ideal of a future with dignity for all Alaskans will yield great fruit.
    Thank you -for the inspiration you provide -over and over in your daily life.

    Thank you for sharing!
    There are days I despair.
    I worry that we will never be able to shift the status quo for rural Alaska from the same-old, same-old …
    This letter is a real reminder of so many of the whys and how-comes to keep working at it.
    Back to work!

  2. shrinkinggranny Says:

    Mr Tucker,
    You words are always from your heart, and it’s always been an open and giving heart.

    You said, “Someone from the outside has opened the door.” I think maybe you were part of that door being opened.

    I admire the strength of spirit that can be so generous, even in the face of injustice and hardship. This is something we all respect and can aim for, for all our sakes.

    Thank you, and thank you Anne for sharing Mr Tucker’s letter with us.


  3. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    This is such a bittersweet gift for my morning! I always love to hear from Mr. Tucker since he always speaks from the heart, to the heart. But there’s more in this that caught my eye, and my imagination:

    “…while we had our own social problems that had been seeded and spawned from generations ago when the first non-Native stepped on our land. It could have been a beautiful, caring country – us having been accepted, trusted, respected, and honored – with our backyard resources generously shared with us. We did, but the recipients want more and more, and eventually all.”

    This is fact in Mr. Tucker’s eyes, and in mine, too. We (non rural Alaskans) have accelerated many changes in Rural Alaska in 50 short years. Now many of us view Rural AK as though it’s a separate entity and not OUR Alaska. Except for the resources. It’s time to change this attitude!

    My mother was born and grew up in the Matanuska Valley on a homestead, daughter of a displaced Aleut woman didn’t think twice about chasing a bear away from the cabin (with a broom, I think). The Alaska I heard about growing up was pretty harsh, cold, full of nutty people, had hardly any roads, you worked hard all day long…although I do remember beautiful memories my mother had of geese flying through the Valley in huge numbers and stories of what they were told about the Northern Lights.

    I received my first book on Alaska in the fifth grade. Whew – it was rugged and scary – full of hardships and death. Whew. It was about traveling in the winter, sledding, mushing, trapping. It was about white men and villages and how they got along. Whew. That was the Alaska my mother grew up in. And Nick Tucker.

    We have grown much softer and the urban independent Alaskan is becoming a myth as more and more rely on travel and shipping to access almost everything one can outside. As rural populations shrink and urban’s grows, we become less of this classic “can do anything” Alaskans. This is why I treasure Rural Alaska! It’s going to take all of us to do this right. We need both rural and urban populations who are thriving. We need those Alaskans to be thriving where they WANT to be, not where they are forced to be. We are not all the same.

  4. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    I forgot to mention that the stories from my mother included many of the great generosity & inventive spirit of most Alaskans. When they needed each other, they pulled together. Later, the feuds and odd relationships picked up where they left off. People were innovative because they had to be, and for some, like my uncles, it was a challenge to do what I would consider nuts – like building an airplane from fabric and then teaching yourself to fly in it. If mom’s brother’s didn’t have it, they built it. I think they loved every minute of their zany escapades and experiments – but most were born from necessity.

    Also, too – a sense of humor was an invaluable asset for an Alaskan. I have never laughed so hard in my life as when listening to my aunts and uncle’s stories. Where is that good ol’ Alaskan humor these days? And that legendary generosity and pitching in when needed?

  5. Jim Says:

    One of the problems that will get worse over time is reapportionment every 10 years after the census. Rural Alaska may lose a representative in the state house. I don’t think they’ll lose a state senator but perhaps that could happen. Rural Alaska’s loss would be urban Alaska’s gain in the sense that urban Alaska would pick up at least one legislator.

    The 1960s U.S. Supreme court’s “one man one vote” Baker v. Carr decision had a huge impact on rural America, affecting the U.S. House and state legislatures. Other decisions took this principle to local governments (and village governments?). The only elected American government institution (that I know of) not affected by the “one man one vote” Supreme court decisions is the U.S. Senate.

    I’m generally in favor of Baker v. Carr, but as a consequence, Alaska’s demographics will probably continue to reduce rural Alaska’s voice in our state government, decade by decade. It would also be very difficult for a rural Alaskan to get elected as a governor, U.S. Senator, or Congressman.

    I’ve wondered if a unicameral legislature would help a bit– with more election districts, rural legislators might at least live closer to their constituents. Alaskans voted in favor of an advisory referendum for a constitutional amendment to create a unicameral legislature in the 1970s but it was ignored by the legislature (the state senate would probably always oppose a unicameral legislature because senators would lose their power or their jobs or both). A unicameral legislature would have other issues, like it would be easier for one party to totally dominate the legislative branch.

    If we wish to continue to live in Alaska and not “Alaska,” and be Alaskans and not “Alaskans,” urban Alaskans will need to figure out how to engage, respect, and embrace our fellow Alaskans who live awesome lives hundreds of miles from the nearest shopping mall. We urban Alaskans may need to make sacrifices– which is a problem because we are often a greedy bunch who wouldn’t want to give anything to anyone. But otherwise we’ll end up entrenched in a few enclaves surrounded by a vast empty land.

  6. alaskapi Says:

    MarthaUnalaska lil sis…
    “it was a challenge to do what I would consider nuts – like building an airplane from fabric and then teaching yourself to fly in it. ”
    Actually, THAT adventure WAS nuts until older sibling bush pilot put his foot down…
    Was a homemade/scavenged-rebuilt airplane with grammy’s bed sheets for wing cloth…
    It did not get flown until real wing cloth was put on as older sibling would not teach younger how to fly until it was fixed… the plane was the start of a small successful charter service in the end.


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