Thursday, August 30, 2012

Airplane Reading Takes Me Home

Leaving Kotzebue after this summer was harder than ever. On my way to Portland I read an article in the Alaska Airlines magazine, and thought I'd share it. Its a pretty good piece, highlighting a lot of individuals who are getting creative and working hard to keep native languages spoken. I loved the story of Ayaprun Loddie Jones in Bethel, AK.

-- Hannah Atkinson

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rape Culture in Real Life

The news this week is littered with discussion of rape culture, yet no one wants to go near the topic. While Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan try to distance themselves from the issue of Todd Akins “legitimate rape” comment, I would like to delve into the issue.

The six-term member of congress from Missouri, in an interview with KTVI-TV described his stance on abortion by explaining: ‘“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”’ Here is the link to the article on NY times, source of the above quote:

The obvious issue here is the incorrect claim that women will not get pregnant from rape, but I’d like to focus on his use of the term “legitimate rape.” We can assume from the congressman’s past political record, that Akin means forcible rape. Forcible rape is defined in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will” ( The media has defined this term for us, just watch an episode of Law and Order SVU: in the middle of New York City a woman cries out because a man has forced his way into her life with a knife/gun/any other weapon to commit forcible rape. We as viewers can identify this act as wrong. We as a country can identify this as wrong. The congressman can say in an interview that this is wrong (and that apparently a woman shouldn’t get pregnant from it).

It does not take a weapon or physical force to qualify as rape. Rape is not limited to the act of a stranger jumping out of the bushes to surprise another stranger on the streets. Rape is the violation of another’s consent to partake in sexual intercourse. Consent can be given verbally or assumed through actively partaking in sexual activity. No means no, silence means no, laying still and not doing anything means no, and saying no, no, and then yes because of coercion means no.

By using the term “legitimate rape” the congressman limits the scope of rape to a specific scenario that the congressman and our country is comfortable with accepting. This exclusion is delegitimizing the suffering of victims all over the country who have experienced a violation of consent.

I am currently going through Resident Advisor training at my college. Today we had a long group discussion about sexual assault and our country’s attitude about rape. Congressman Todd Akin came up in conversation, all of us disheartened by a man in such a high position in our country delegitimizing the rape of millions. This led to being disheartened by the general lack of support for our victims of sexual violence. We then realized that the only option is to change our culture one person at a time.  

While the presidential candidate attempts to refocus on health care I become even more resolved to be an ally to victims of sexual violence, a resource for women in rural Alaska, and an advocate for a new culture; a culture that values respect, equality, and choice. 

-- Hannah Atkinson

Monday, August 20, 2012

MISS Monday August 20, 2012 (Greta Schuerch)

MISS Woman of the Week
Greta Schuerch, Kiana Alaska

There is a woman from the Lower Kobuk River who was raised by the knowledge of hard work, unconditional love, and good laughter. As a young girl, she was taught and influenced by her grandmother to be an independent woman with the ability to drive her own boat, to hunt, and to fish on her own. This Katyaakmii grew up learning how to hunt for caribou and moose, seine for whitefish, set nets for salmon, pick berries, and boat up and down the Kobuk River. She is the aunt of 30 nieces and nephews and has a 5-year old son to whom she teaches these same skills and the values of the Inupiaq identity to on a daily basis. 

During the process of building the Kiana Lodge between 1996 and 1998, she was offered to go to Kotzebue to collect more supplies with her father. While they were loading steel studs into the boat before leaving, a young man passed by and made a teasing remark about her strength. Her dad dropped what he was doing to go to the young man and said “You’re goddamned right she is tough! And if you were tough, too, you’d come over here and help her load the stuff!”

“I was so mortified at the time and completely embarrassed my dad would do that,” she says. “But now that I am a parent and working to instill hard working skills in my son’s life and values, I can appreciate and understand where my dad was coming from. I can relate to how my dad was protective and how important it is to generate these values into my child’s life.”

Greta Schuerch is the daughter of Lorry and Nellie Schuerch of Kiana, Alaska. Her grandparents are the late Robert and Esther Curtis of Kotzebue and Pauline and Lorenz Schuerch Sr. of Kiana. Schuerch currently works as a consultant to the North Slope Borough. With this job, Schuerch manages the partnership between the North Slope Borough and the Northwest Arctic Borough and works with the administrations to implement the plans from the Arctic Economic Development Summit. Schuerch is currently a candidate for the State House in District 40 seeking to represent the communities and families of the district at the Alaska State Legislature. 

In 1998, Schuerch graduated from Mt. Edgecumbe High School where she played varsity basketball and discovered her interest in civic engagement through her courses in Government and Alaska Issues. Since then, she has advocated for quality of life in Rural Alaska through her past and current employments and volunteerism. In 2010, Schuerch was awarded the Alaska Journal of Commerce and Anchorage Chamber of Commerce’s “Top Forty Under 40” Award recognizing Alaska’s top professionals. Her 13-year career of focusing on rural Alaska helped build her foundational skills in being an equipped and effective candidate for the Legislature. 

Schuerch has named three influential people who have helped her steer her values, beliefs, and strengths in the direction she chose to follow today. Her grandmother Pauline demonstrated to her the characteristics of being a strong, independent woman. “I have a vivid memory of her at our camp on the Kobuk,” Schuerch says. “She was checking the net, pulling salmon out of the river when she noticed there was a moose crossing the river. She quickly finished up checking the net and took the boat out to the moose and shot it.” 

Along with Pauline, Schuerch mentions that Mary Sattler of Bethel has also been a great, positive role model for her. Sattler is the mother of 4 children and began serving in the Legislature when she was 24 years old. After serving 10 years, she decided against seeking re-election. “Mary helped me realize that it was possible to be a young and effective leader while being a good mother,” Schuerch explains. “She balances a career, motherhood, and a subsistence lifestyle.” 

Schuerch also recognizes Lee Staheli of Kiana as a big influence in her life. Despite his inability to walk, he demonstrates the value of hard work. He’s showed Schuerch that anything is possible and you can do anything as long as you are persistent. Staheli taught his kids how to fly at young ages and gave Schuerch opportunities and responsibilities through jobs while she was growing up. “He made things seem limitless and showed me that there are no limits to anything,” Schuerch stated.

When asked what motivates her to be successful, Schuerch mentions that it’s her personal experiences and first hand understanding of the issues that pushes her to improve the quality of life in her home area. These issues that she has worked on and continues to work to improve upon are very personal to Schuerch. If she hasn’t had the experiences of the issues, she has a family member or a close friend who has. Schuerch believes that God never gives us more than we can handle. She encourages the youth to: read often, eat well, exercise, be proud of who you are, take pride in your community, travel to new places when the opportunity arrises, be helpful to your parents and people in need, and to be curious. 

I personally nominated Greta Schuerch for the MISS Woman of the Week because she has been a positive role model for me to look up to as an auntie. While growing up, she taught me simple mannerisms, encouraged me to give my all into everything I do, and always made it a point to be in my life to show her support and pride. As a niece, I have seen her strengths of navigating a boat throughout the NANA region, sharing a charismatic story, raising her son as a single parent, knowing her responsibilities in the roles that she plays both at home and at work, and always standing up and speaking for what she believes in. 

Remember, if there are any influential women of the Arctic you would like to nominate to be featured as the MISS Woman of the Week, you can e-mail us the name and a way of contact to We would love to feature women from all over the region to celebrate their lifestyles and accomplishments. 

MISS Quote of the Week
"I am only one but I am still one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do." -Helen Keller, American Author and Political Activist 

MISS Song of the Week
Fighter - Christina Aguilera

Cause if it wasn't for all that you tried to do, I wouldn't know
Just how capable I am to pull through 
So I wanna say thank you cause it 
Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder 
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter

-Jacqui Lambert

Monday, August 13, 2012

MISS Monday August 13, 2012 (Martha Whiting)

MISS Woman of the Week
Siikauraq Martha Whiting

Siikauraq Martha Whiting of camp Sisualik, located across the Kotzebue Sound, is the wife of Alex Whiting and mother of Denali Whiting. Siikauraq and Alex Whiting work together with their family roles and responsibilities to teach Denali to have a quality of life that is independent, strong, and to succeed at the best of her ability. Siikauraq believes that a strong view of life is to have the ability to walk into two worlds and be successful. We can go out and explore the world through different cities and states with different cultures but we should appreciate the luxury of camp and learn to live off of the land as our ancestors have done. 

Siikauraq graduated from Sheldon Jackson College with a Natural Resource Land Management degree with the intentions and goals to help protect the land for her people. Her parents taught her how to live off of the land while she was growing up between Kotzebue and Sisualik. By participating in many extra curricular activities while in high school, she’s had the privilege to travel all over Alaska to compete. Between these two foundational experiences, she was inspired to continue onto college to learn of all the policies and laws behind managing and protecting the Alaskan land.

Today, Siikauraq is the first elected female Mayor for the Northwest Arctic Borough and says the job has been exciting, humbling, and challenging. She is termed out from being elected both in 2006 and 2009 and will be stepping down this October after serving 6 years in office. She is humbled by being elected into this position by her people with the responsibility of being the voice for them. “It is an amazing feeling,” Siikauraq says, “to have the ability myself and to open the door for other people, too. To have them see that if I can do it, they can to.” 

Siikauraq has shared inspiring advice with us in the interview that we would like to share with you: 
  • Walk into both worlds with the ability to juggle them both. We are right in-between the traditional and western cultures of education. Explore the world outside of your homeland and get educated through books and technology. Appreciate the strength of our Inupiaq culture, too. Learn to live through our land, culture, and way of life because we are not a people of the museum - we still exist. 
  • Keep in touch with human interaction. Know your friends both emotionally and physically to see eye to eye. Go biking, walking, berry picking and physically interact with the people around you. Don’t get too caught up with texting, e-mailing, and social networking. Interacting technologically is not a priority way of life. 
  • Go out and explore even when you are afraid. Follow through with your dreams and ideas even when it comes with work to be put in. We have the tools to let students explore, take advantage of that. In middle and high school, get involved in everything because it is an avenue to the next level. Get out of dodge for a while, Kotzebue (home) will still be here when you come back. 
  • Don’t forget who you are. You have an identity. You have a people. You have a way of life. You have a connection to the land and you belong. 
  • When you have a burn in your gut and you have the nervousness, that’s when you know to act. You have to act and you cannot be afraid. Go in with knowledge, confidence, and sense of responsibility. 
  • Acknowledge and perpetuate your roles and responsibilities. The roles are beginning to blend as we transition from traditionally living to providing for ourselves through daytime jobs. Learn to provide for your family through your work but also through making time to learn the traditional Inupiaq roles of hunting, gathering, and preserving. Recognize and appreciate those around you who are learning their roles. 
  • Don’t forget we have fresh water. Don’t forget we have fresh moose. Don’t forget we have amazing salmon runs, akpiks, blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries. Don’t forget we have a beautiful culture and a beautiful way of life. Don’t forget we can still Eskimo dance. Don’t forget that we are still here. 
MISS Quote of the Week
"We won't always know whose life we touched and made better for our having cared, because actions can sometimes have unforeseen ramifications. What's important is that you do care and you act." -Charlotte Lunsford Berry, Philanthropist

MISS Song of the Week 
The Story - Brandi Carlile 

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am 
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to

-Jacqui Lambert

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

MISS (late) Monday August 7, 2012 (Denali Whiting)

MISS Woman of the Week
Denali Whiting

Denali Whiting of Kotzebue, Alaska is enrolled at the University of Alaska Fairbanks as an Alaska Native Studies major and will be beginning her junior year this fall. This winter she will acquire her first college degree in American Sign Language while also beginning a 5-credit Inupiaq language course. Whiting began at UAF in the fall semester of 2010 with the UA Scholars Scholarship she received by graduating in the top 10% of her high school class. Whiting has since then been academically successful and recognized by the Dean's List in Fall 2010 and Spring 2012.

The foundation of Whiting's success began in 2005 when she joined the Sivulliq Youth Media group. This group had taught her leadership and self expression skills through photography, videography, and journalism. In high school, Whiting competed in the Alaska State Science Fair where she placed 1st in her category of Marine Biology and 2nd overall which led her to the International Science and Engineering fair in Atlanta, Georgia. Her project was based on the antibacterial properties of seal oil and beluga whale where she tested the traditional medicine with modern science. Whiting has participated in student government for all 4 years of high school as a representative, Secretary, and Vice President. She has also been a part of the KHS National Honor Society as a Vice President and was the President of her class as a Junior. The Kotzebue chapter of Youth Leaders had first begun in the 2008-2009 school year in which she'd participated as the captain of. Participating in these leadership programs, she was given the opportunities to visit New York, Washington D.C., Georgia, and Hawaii.

In 2007, she participated in her first high school sport of cheerleading which led her to a 3-year captain spot and 4 team trophies to take home. She led the squad with 2 regional all tournament medals and was formally recognized by the coaches for her spirit and enthusiasm. Whiting committed herself and her leadership skills to building the reputation of KHS Cheer to something to be proud of. As a senior, Whiting and her team obtained their first champion trophy at the Top of the World cheer and dance competition. A month later, they received the State Runner Up title and were also awarded the State Academic trophy for holding the highest team grade point average. The KHS Cheer team has since then won their first Regional and State championship trophies for the two consecutive years following.

Using her performance skills learned through the cheer team, Whiting went on to participate in four Alaskan pageants. In 2008 she received the Miss Teen Arctic Circle title which inspired her to go on to compete in the 2009 Miss Alaska Teen USA pageant. She placed as the 1st runner up in 2009 then returned to win the title in 2011. In the summer of 2011, Whiting competed in her first nationwide pageant against 49 other girls for the Miss Teen USA title. This year, she was crowned as the new Miss Arctic Circle and placed as the 1st runner up for Miss WEIO. Along with these accomplishments, she was also awarded 3 times as the Most Traditional contestant, twice for Most Photogenic, once for her talent, and even voted as Miss Congeniality for the 2011 Miss Alaska Teen USA pageant. Whiting says that the Miss Congeniality title is one she is most proud of because it is voted on by her fellow competitors.

Aside from programs she's participated in, Whiting spends a vast amount of time connecting to her cultural hobbies like camping, hunting, harvesting, and sewing. Out at Sisaulik camp, she learned her values, morals, and beliefs through the eyes of her ancestors. "The Inupiaq people are a migrating people and that tradition continues today in my family," Whiting states. "We rotate between camps and Kotzebue (our "home base") to follow the seasons of the plants and berries we gather and migrations of the animals we harvest." Whiting says that she grew up going to camp to be taught how to support her family with harvested food and natural medicine collected to keep year-round. She says that she's learned many lessons through the fun, family bonding, and cultural activities. These activities include: cutting and hanging fish to dry, hauling well and wash water to the cabin, picking and packing berries, sewing, butchering caribou and seals, cutting strips of blubber for seal oil, tanning skins for clothing, and much more.

Whiting is a well rounded 20-year old who is strengthened from learning to live off of land resources to competing in nation-wide pageants to receiving post-secondary education and learning 2 new languages. She is a camp girl. She is a pageant girl. She is a leader. She is an inspiration. Whiting is currently the Tour Guide for NANA Management Services in Kotzebue and plans to continue after receiving her ASL and ANS degrees onto a culinary arts school out of state. Whiting states that her main goal is to come back to Kotzebue to apply her knowledge to the benefits of her home community.

MISS Quote of the Week 
"When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak." - Audre Lorde, Caribbean-American writer and Activist

MISS Song of the Week
A Woman's Worth - Alicia Keys

She walks the mile, makes you smile all the while being true
Don't take for granted the passions that she has for you

You will lose if you choose to refuse to put her first
She will and she can find a man who knows her worth

-Jacqui Lambert

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What is sexual coercion?

Coming home for the summer is one of the most exciting times of the year. I get to see familiar faces and catch up with my old friends after being away from them all year. Everyone greets me with a warm welcome wherever I go. The conversations that I’ve come across this summer range from studying abroad, to how to cook King Salmon, to Wiz Khalifa’s new release, and back to something school related. There is one specific conversation that keeps lingering in the town’s lips and it’s a conversation that has driven me mad.

This girl’s name rolls off of everyone’s tongue so matter-of-factly with words like “slut” and “whore” following immediately afterward. They have been telling me that she’s turned into an attention-needing, drama-stirring girl who has no self respect. I don’t know her very well but this is definitely not the description I expected when I heard her name. These rude and disgusting adjectives they keep using for her lead me to ask questions.

Looking back, the age that I began dealing with pressures of having sex is fourteen. In the past six years, I have come across many different types of guys. There were guys who thought that because I liked them, I was interested in sleeping with them. There were guys who have made me felt guilty for not sleeping with them, like my unreadiness made them upset and it was all my fault. There were guys who made me feel ashamed for not having the same sexual feelings towards them. There were guys who took their anger out on me when they couldn’t understand why I wasn’t interested. There were also guys who asked if the only reason I couldn’t let myself sleep with them is because I already had a sexually transmitted disease. There were even the “nice” guys who have complained about being put into the friend zone, like my friendship wasn’t worth anything and I owe them my body for their good manners towards me.

When I think about these pressures now, I realize that the blame was always put on me. Guys did not understand, or take into consideration, how I felt and why I chose to do things the way that I did. They’ve left me feeling like it was my fault and I should feel responsible for any tension between us. The fingers were never pointed towards them like they were the bad guy. 

Women [ED: individuals] begin to feel as if they owe the guy [ED: their partner] something after he's [ED: he/she has] been showing signs of disappointment. Rape can happen without the victim being aware that it is rape because they eventually have given their consent. Sexual coercion leads to making someone feel like they have to participate in sexual activity. You do not owe your body to anyone for favors that they have done for you. You do not owe your body to anyone who shows you good manners. You do not owe your body to anyone that is sexually frustrated.

Sexual coercion is a subdivision of rape that involves physical, verbal, and emotional pressures into having sex. A few examples of these kinds of behaviors include:

  • Hitting, Kicking, Slapping, or holding the victim down.
  • Continuing to convince the victim after they’ve said no and tried to pull away.
  • Threatening to use physical force against the victim.
  • Yelling at the victim.
  • Name calling, tricking, lying, blackmailing, and badgering.
  • Convincing the victim that they care more than they really do.
  • Threatening a break up.
  • Wearing the victim down with consistent tactics.
  • Making the victim feel obligated to participate.
  • Guilting the victim into participating.
  • Utilizing peer pressure.
  • Using the position of authority over the victim.

Sexual coercion can often happen while under the influence of alcohol and drugs. It is one of the most commonly used coercion strategies by men and is the leading tactic used by women. For example, supplying an abundance of alcohol to rid the victim of shyness or to take advantage of their drunkenness is a type of sexual coercion approach. Using alcohol in hopes that the victim is more easily persuaded is sexual coercion. 

Sexual coercion does not happen only when intercourse occurs, it can also include kissing, caressing, oral sex, genital touching, and any other sexual touching that makes the victim feel uncomfortable.  By trying to force the victim into participating in sexual acts when he/she does not want to is coercion. Being against the will of the victim and persistently trying to convince them into engage in having sex is coercion. If the victim continuously says no and pulls away while the perpetrator still tries to kiss and hold the victim, it is coercion. 

The most commonly used acts are kissing and vaginal intercourse. The most commonly used tactic is through alcohol and drugs (not to be confused with using rophypnol and GHB to obtain sex, that is rape), emotional manipulation, and lying. The most common reason for sexual coercion is arousal and the reports indicate that it isn’t about power, but about sex.

Recognize sexual coercion:
  • “Everybody’s doing it”
  • “Sex is the way to prove your love to me.”
  • “We’ve had sex before, so you can’t say no now”
  • Giving compliments that sound extreme or insincere
  • Put downs or guilt trips
  • Buying gifts or spending money to make you feel you “owe” sex.

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing sexual coercion:
  • Do you feel pressure from your date, partner, or friends?
  • Are there times you don’t want to have sex but feel like you can’t say no?
  • Have you ever had a sexual experience that left you frightened, angry or feeling guilty?
  • Have you ever had sex without using a condom because your partner didn’t want to use one?

The first step you can take to supporting, not only the MISS movement, but all these women [ED: victims] who have been silenced is to begin with yourself. Take these names of the story out of your mouth. Think twice before slut shaming a girl [ED: a person] without taking into consideration the power a guy [ED: a partner] can hold. Know that you are allowed to say no if you aren’t ready. Know that no means no, not “just kidding, yes” “maybe later” or “how about some other time?”

-Jacqui Lambert