Juneau, you are complicit in the events that have led up to the explosion of the Wearable Art show.
Repeatedly we have held up a mirror to you, to show you that you are a part of the problem that keeps rearing its ugly head in this town, yet it doesn’t seem to register.
In a previous My Turn, I agreed with the general sentiment of Juneau, that racism doesn’t exist here. But I also asked why we don’t have historical totem poles, any Alaska Native-owned homes on the historic registry, and where are the long houses? I asked because they don’t exist here, and I was proving a point.
Juneau is not racist, if you’re white.
How many times must we point this out?
How many times must we pull the curtain back on what is staring us in the face?
Across North America, indigenous languages are on the verge of extinction. There are cultural crises from shore to shore because of toxic colonization.
All Alaska Native groups are currently in a language crisis and we need to act fast, and passionately to ensure we preserve our languages, and what is ultimately our identity.
Institutionalized racism and oppression is rampant, and the norm here. It is so deeply ingrained in our community that our residents don’t even recognize when they have participated in, and contributed to the negative side of it. They truly believe they are harmless — but that is the gift of colonization, and privilege.
I genuinely ask Juneau and I ask Alaska to step up.
Every resident here is either complicit in saving or ending our cultures. This is the homeland for multiple indigenous groups. When we lose our representation and identity here, we have nowhere left to go.
The status quo of education, government and corporate life has lead our people into near extinction; on the heels of genocide. Lynching, and segregation have ended, but the barriers to celebrating our own culture, and feeling our own freedom still exist. We can only feel freedom if we fully commit to assimilation, and acquiesce to the micro-aggressions against us. Any attempt to cling to our culture, we are directly met with the vestiges of racism, inequality and oppression standing in our way.
How do we stop this? Education. We need to teach our young students, our upcoming generations how to be supportive, and act as a means of ushering in the necessary improvements we need to save our indigenous and minority cultures, and why it’s important. Our schools teach care of the environment; why don’t we teach to care for our fragile communities?
Teach our students from the start what colonization is, what appropriation is, what appreciation is, and how to be aware of their part in saving or ending our culture. Teach them appropriately so that another generation of indigenous and minorities don’t have to keep battling the same, exhausting battle. Ending ignorance through early education might be the single most valuable tool in saving our indigenous cultures and ending this unnecessary battle.
• Jennifer Quinto is a resident of Juneau.