MISS Woman of the Week
Maija Lukin, Kotzebue
This past summer, I spent an evening listening to Maija Katak Harris Lukin tell stories in a little confined area behind her house that is devoted to drying meat. There were strips of ugruk hanging above us, piled on the table in front of us, and even hanging on a recycled bunk bed frame. We were about to leave until we realized the door was locked from outside and there was no way out. Lukin had used my phone to call her husband, Dean Lukin, who was in the house at the time.
“Help!!!! There’s a fire and we can’t get... Oh” Lukin giggled and looked at us “He hung up! He must have believed..”
Lukin’s voice was cut off as we heard the footsteps of her husband running towards us. He stopped in his tracks as soon as he realized we were completely safe and there was no fire. Lukin kinda giggled at her husband, knowing her humor was taken a little too seriously.
“What if there was really a fire though? At least we would have been safe, my husband made it back here in less than thirty seconds.” Lukin said.
From the sounds of it, this is how the Lukin house is brought up. To finish the work that needs to be done but to have fun while you’re at it. Maija Katak Harris Lukin is a very active community member of Kotzebue that lives accordingly to the seasonal rotations. She gets involved in any event, she holds events to have something to do, and she hunts, fishes, cooks, and sews in the meantime.
To really understand who she is, you need to hear the roots of her being. Her Finnish-American grandmother grew up in the 30’s and 40’s and raised her six kids in places like Turkey and Iran before making it to Anchorage and eventually making a home in Chickaloon. Her Inupiaq grandmother, Katak, grew up at Sisualik until they moved to Kotzebue for her husband to work.
“And my mother. My mom probably inspired me most of all. She grew up an Inupiaq girl, being punished for speaking Inupiaq. She grew up doing both ‘male’ and ‘female’ chores. She went hunting, chopped wood, picked berries, drove the boat. She ended up with three girls and raised us the same way. My mom has always worked hard and rarely gotten the attention for it. She volunteers for everything too. I probably get that from her. She was always busy, as am I.” Lukin says.
Lukin currently works with the Communications and Public Relations for the Maniilaq Association. She graduated from Kotzebue High School in 1995 where she participated in anything she could. She was raised on the belief that experiencing bigger things, like Washington DC, is always a good thing. Her mother was involved in everything so Lukin was the little kid who followed along and always had something to do. Along with volunteer work, Lukin was raised by the importance of her Inupiaq culture; she learned to shoot a gun, pick berries, igitchaq ducks, making paniqtuq, fillet fish, kavraq ugruk, play kick in the can, beat her cousins at run races, play Norwegian, hang beluga, and make qaugaq.
Today, Lukin raises a family of her own. Her family consists of herself and her husband along with four kids and two dogs. Her family grows up with her extended family as most of her cousins are still in Kotzebue too and have children of the same age. She makes it a point to raise her kids through the Inupiaq culture, but also to grow with the Western culture too.
“I hope that my children appreciate their cell phones as a way to connect with things we never thought possible, but still know to put them away when it’s time to hunt or berry pick or go to camp to relax.” Lukin says.
Lukin has been the coordinator of the Arctic Circle Spring Festival where she devotes a long weekend during the Kobuk 440 Sled Dog race to providing things for the community to do. She wants to give new and old residents time to go out to experience the beautiful Spring weather and have fun. She admits it’s hard work to coordinate, but the Inupiaq value of “sharing” is easily incorporated into her life and it feels great to share the piece of culture with everyone. Lukin spends a great amount of her time volunteering and does things that are fun and relaxing. She bakes and sews for people, hosts bake sales, teaches sewing classes, skin sewing, she coaches, reads, and works with the kids in attempt to to make the community a better place for the residents.
While she believes it’s extremely important to be deeply rooted in the Inupiaq culture, Lukin believes the youth with no dependents should jump at an opportunity to experience an out-of-state education, at least for a little while. She had spent some time living in Orlando, Florida and later attended the Eastern Oregon University in La Grande with her cousin Josie. She encourages high school students to do as much as possible before being forced to become an adult after graduation. In order to help encourage this, Lukin has been an advisor to raise money for graduations and senior trips, she’s been a coach, a referee, and helped several students with scholarships and jobs.
Advice that Lukin carries with her is that she always has a choice.
“You have a choice to get up in the morning. You have a choice to be happy or mad. You can choose to let something keep you down, and you can choose not to. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but you’re ultimately responsible for all of your actions. Because, really, life is hard. But how you react to life situations is what people remember.” Lukin advises
Lukin concentrates on being a good person who genuinely cares about other people above anything else. She believes that being an Inupiaq woman is not only hard right now, but it always has been in generations before us because you’re constantly pressured to be a good wife, mother, sister, Inupiaq, baker, seamstress and so on and so on. Being a good person and genuinely caring about others reflects being a good leader. Lukin encourages you to get involved in your community.
“When you put the effort into the kids of the community, and give them a sense of person, that they’re important, they grow up feeling good about themselves, and learning from you. Stop complaining about nothing to do and go do something about it!”
MISS Quote of the Week
“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture, and transform.” -Diane Mariechild, author of “Mother Wit and Inner Dance”
MISS Song of the Week
Sisters are Doin’ It For Themselves - Eurythmics