In My Ataata’s House: A Poem of Identity

When I walk into my Ataata’s house, he knows I am there to visit.

I do not live in Wainwright, like him. I’ve come from somewhere; it’s no secret.

When I walk into my Ataata’s house, he does not test me how well I can cut fish.

That I grew up fishing too, is well beside the point.

When I walk into my Ataata’s house, he doesn’t stop me in the qanitchaq,

and make me recite the Atchagat before passing through.

He just says, “You come! Oh, it’s you!”

And when my Aana still had her body, she didn’t ask if my stitches were tiny before hugging me,

if my dancing was graceful before kissing me,

or if I was fluent in her language, before praying abundance over my life.

Or any of the skills in that would make me a good wife.

But when I walk into my Ataata’s house,

I can sense what they are truly expecting.

When I was requested to bring Aana yarn, I am asked to be giving;

Buying groceries at the store, I am asked to be serving.

Helping my cousins, I am asked to be caring.

Telling me how the land has changed, I am asked to be listening.

When I walk into my Ataata’s house, he’ll tell me stories of what used to be.

My blood quantum doesn’t cause him to pause from teaching me.

My shareholdership isn’t considered before loving me,

My CIB card isn’t needed before feeding me the

caribou and muktuk I’ve enjoyed my whole life.

I am one of many in my family’s house.

Wherever I’m coming from to visit, I always will be.


Translations:

Ataata — “Great-Uncle” on the North Slope, but may mean “grandfather” around the Kotzebue area

Aana — “Great-Aunt” on the North Slope, but may mean “grandmother” around the Kotzebue area

qanitchaq — “Arctic entryway”

Atchagat — Iñupiaq Alphabet

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