Hear these small words of hope

Posted: Friday, April 12, 2002

A few days ago, I sat down at Marine Park, read a book of Rumi poetry, and tried to mourn the lost beauty of the park in the coming future. Afterward, I sat in my bare downtown apartment and meditated, contemplating ways to curb and prevent the corruption of the land. Steadily, though, I woke up, shaking off the pretense of lack of pretense.

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My energy turned to a suggestion made at Monday's Assembly testimonies. It was suggested that there be included in the Marine Park project Native art and monuments, such as totem poles, and that they be erected in prominence for the cruise ships. It will be interesting to see how the suggestion is heard and heeded.

What throws this city's particular racial relations in a loop is its somewhat reluctant and often unacknowledged economic dependence on Native culture. Travelers come from around the world to see the majesty of Alaska, a mystery that is inexorably linked in and around Native culture and beliefs. Not only do tourists want to see the magnificent land, they want to understand the people who inhabited and still inhabit the land. It is often the case that people living outside have much more respect for the Native culture than people living as their neighbors, and sadly, sometimes have more respect than the Native people's own self-respect.

People from around the world come to see the Native culture, but the culture is never prominent in any way when we look to be "tourist-friendly" or "business-friendly." Thus, relations between the cultures remain in a strained economic unacknowledgment. It would do well for our city's economy to enhance, sustain, and build Native cultural resources. Not only would it do well for the economy, I believe we will see how the myths and spiritual practices, however fragmented, lost and distorted it may be, stands up to even Christianity and other world beliefs as a guide to the moral world.

So I remain without an opinion about the Marine Park developments, for now.

Talking about acknowledgments, Don Smith actually had a few good points in his last editorial. Phew! But please hear these small words about my culture.

Ishmael Charles Hope


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