Monday, October 14, 2013

Indigenous People's Day

Columbus.  That crazy Spaniard.  He thinks he discovered America.

While I am thankful that I am on the internet, and just took a call on my iPhone, I'm not so sure that Columbus was the one to "thank" for all those advancements.  As a "Native American" (I'm a Northern Inupait Eskimo from Alaska), I can't even fathom the thought of "celebrating" someone like Christopher Columbus.

But I will say thank you to whoever made it a day off for us, because after this fall we all needed a day off.  And I enjoyed mine on the couch reading four books and drinking a lot of coffee.  Which brings me to this.

I wrote a little poem, very quickly on Facebook earlier, and I figured I'd better just share it here, too.

In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean Blue.

On his ship were gold and lamas, He lost his course, ended up in the Bahamas.

"My Indians!" He said, to those he "found," while walking on their sacred ground,

"I'm here, I'm here, I've made it through, I'm so glad to have landed and discovered you!"

"Who's this crazy spaniard," they asked to those around, "Talking like we were lost and now we're found."

The natives were nice and they treated him well, teaching him the ways of an ancient quell.

To him, they belonged to his kingdom, he thought, too nice to fight back even though they ought.

He continued his reign yearly from dusk until dawn, until most of "his Indians" were long dead and gone.

Now this is the year of two thousand thirteen, we "celebrate" the ways of a "lost man" you see.

I hope it's ok if I don't agree with your thinking aside. Because Columbus created a mass genocide.

So let's sit here and mourn the death he brought forth, of the native people who gladly would have pointed him North.

To this day we fight on for what's right and what's true.  We fight for our ancestors, our children and you.

Sit with me my friends, my family and all, To the spirits of those lost in the past do I call,

I'll shout to the hills and pray to the church steeple, This day I will celebrate my Indigenous People! 

Maija Lukin 2013

(Don't forget.  This is my very own opinion, I can think for myself, and I can post for myself.  Don't forget that.  Oh, I also added a couple lines at the bottom.) 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Firstborn Birth Stories

I was 19.  Married a year (yep, got married really young, like most of the military wives do!) and living in Orlando off base in an upstairs apartment on LeHigh street. 

I swam daily, the pressure from being super pregnant, still technically a teenager, and all alone without my family was severe.  Emotionally, I was a wreck.  Physically, I gained maybe 7 pounds and secretly hoped I'd have a small baby.  Ouch, do you KNOW how babies are born?! 

Speaking of lack of weight gain, I had to go and see this guy for some shots every week.  Protein, and probably Valium or Prozac because I was super high strung and sad all the damn time.  I loved him.  Or her.  Or shim?!  His/Her name was "VER" (rhymes with Bear, but pulled into two sexy syllables) and s/he was awesome.  Bald, about six foot three and the deepest sexiest man voice a woman ever could have.  S/he really knew how to accentuate his/her eyes too.  "OHMIGOD GUUUURL, you are juss da tiniess thaaang."  (My belly...)  "Gimme your arm, squeeze dis ball and we can get started.  haha, I always wanted to say that.  Squeeze this ball!"  I don't think my husband got a kick out of him/her as much as I did.  We talked about all the girly stuff you could talk about to a best friend who you only saw because you were paying them to keep you alive.  :)  Thanks Ver. 

Anyway, I had felt Braxton-Hicks contractions before, and on my due date, September 24th, I was sure I was in labor.  A quick visit to the hospital and yet ANOTHER person checking my whoo-haa confirmed that I was just being a wimp.  On the way back from the hospital, I decided I needed some watermelon.  I mean, I REALLY needed watermelon.  So, we stopped at a grocery store, I forget which one, for some watermelon.  Are watermelon in season in late September?  Only at certain places.  So, I settled for some red vines instead.

On the way back to the apartment, I swear my hips were breaking in half.  I mean, seriously, the pain was unbearable.  I thought I was going to die.  (Not really, but man, it hurt)  Even red vines weren't helping.  So, driving back from the hospital, in the dark, we hit something.  The (tiny) HUGE bump brought me to tears, what the hell did we hit?  BIGFOOT?!  I mean, it could have been a rock, but damn, my legs were falling off!

So, because I was in such pain, we decided that the best thing to do was go bowling.  We drove over to the bowling alley and got two games for each of us.  I don't know if you know this, but bowling with a big full term belly is hard.  But I still won.  Because that's what I do.  Win. 

Then as I was walking away from the snack bar, my water broke.  Like gushed out, in- the-movies-broke, Niagara-Falls, baby-juice-flowing-all-over-the-place, dammit-I'm-in-a-bowling-alley, holy-shit-are-people-looking-at-me, my-husband-looks-pissed, Gushed out.  Stanky, slimy baby juice.  All over my cool bowling shoes.

Dammit.  Shit just got real.

Unfortunately, there was a football game on, and we needed to see who won.  So I swayed like my momma taught me.  Well, she didn't really "teach" me cause she wasn't there, but I remember walking with her the night before Elsa was born and she would stop and sway back and forth on her heels, so I just mimicked that motion.  It sure as hell didn't work for me.

That kid was coming whether or not the Colorado Buffalos beat the Tennesee Volunteers or not.  Hurry up with that touchdown Peyton, we needed to GO.

And go we did.  We left the bowling alley and cruised down the road to the Winter Park hospital.  I tried to check in and they told me visiting hours were over.  I gently, or as gently as my breaking hips could tell them, told them I was in labor, and my water had broken.  "WHAT?!" 

They rushed into servitude.  Apparently my tiny body (I know, right.) and lack of weight gain prompted them to think I was severely premature.  They called my doctor, Dr. Wolford, and he assured them that I was indeed full term. 

I got dressed into that awesome butt-less hospital gown and wanted to walk around.  But, alas, my doctor came in and said, "You're getting an epidural." 

Who was I to complain?  Doctor's orders, man.  Besides, my hips already broke in half, so walking would have been difficult.  Right?

The anesthesiologist came in and said he was going to put this 8 inch needle in my back and that I needed to relax.  I said, "Cool, can I watch!"  Surprised, he agreed to let me watch.  The nurse came over and gave me a huge mirror, you know the Goody Mirrors you can get from Wal-mart?  She then stood behind the drug doctor and held another equally as cool Goody mirror back there so I could watch this dude stick a needle in my spinal fluid.  After I signed the "If I die, it's not his fault" liability form, that is.

After a few minutes, they checked if my toes could feel anything by poking a needle in my big toe.  Nope.  Nothing.  Naada.  Zilch.  Damn that stuff works.  Of course, the football game was going on in the tube TV behind everything.  Go Volunteers. 

The baby monitor told us that it was time for me to push this sucker out.  The contractions, apparently were really strong now and I was effaced and dilated all the way.  Did I know?  Nope.  The nurse kept checking me and watching a screen to let me know.  As far as I was concerned, my hips were no longer broken and I needed to keep this epidural drip for when I stubbed my toe. 

We did the normal, you-hold-one-leg-I'll-hold-the-other and the nurse said that I wasn't pushing "right."  Huh?  How the hell do you push a baby cantaloupe out of a lemon hole, then miss-know-it-all?  Oh, that way...  

She literally told me this:  "Have you ever been constipated?  Well, push like you're pushing that BM out.  Push from THERE."  And pointed.  Uhm..  uh...  I didn't think I was doing THAT.  I thought I was having a baby.  But my 19 year old self was like, "OK Whatevs, this epidural is the shiz."

After about 5 minutes, the epidural wore off.  In my mind:  "HOLYGODINHEAVEN HELP ME NOW!!!  WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP HAVING BABIES??!  OH MY GOD I'M DYING AGAIN.  Oh, ok 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, (breathe Maija...) 3, 2, 1... ONE more...  10, 9, 8, 7"  OK STOP, someone yelled.  "WHAT?  STOP?  How the hell do you want me to STOP!?  There's a BABY RIGHT THERE... holy shit there's a BABY right there...  oh my God, I had a baby.  Holy cow he has A LOT of hair."

My Andrew Jade was born.  Wait, my husband wanted to name him Shae or Kobe.  So no AJ for me.  Damn.  Well, if you know my son, you know that Colorado beat Tennessee that day, and therefore my son is named Koy (detmer) Peyton (manning).  A pretty fitting name for this kid.

Happy 17th Birthday son.  Since the day you were born, I've been cutting your hair, and today is no exception.  I love you.  I love your stoic looks.  I love your maija-attitude.  I love the way you've grown and continue to grow.  I love how you stick up for your sister, even if you get in trouble with me.  I love you.  Even if you did "break my hips." 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Things I learned from my aana.

Last week my grandmother passed away.  My aana.  My mom's mom.  She was 85 years old.  After a whirlwind week of funeral homes, funeral services and a burial at camp, I am finally able to sit and think about her.

When the call came in that she may not make it, I prayed for three things:  1.  If it was time for her to go, that she went peacefully and pain free.  2.  That my family would accept that it was her time to go.  3.  That I would not lose it in front of anyone. 

Thankfully, God answers prayers from the soul.  She passed away her own way, waiting for my cousins to arrive on the flight to Anchorage.  Smiled a little and took her final breath.  I left before that, because I didn't think I could hold on to prayer #3 if I stayed.  And my family is not used to see me cry, be upset, or pretty much do anything but work real hard. 

Anyway, each night I think about what a legacy she left.  And how much I learned from her. 

These are the things I came up with:

Put other people first, especially family.  Help other people, even if it costs you something (time, money, pride).  She always had family living with her; nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and more.  She took care of them like they were all her own.  Funny (sort of, now) story:  When I was a single mother to my son and had just gotten a divorce, I thought my ex-husband was going to come to Kotzebue to steal my son away.  I told her and she kicked everyone out of the house, took a shotgun and told me that we were staying with her until he left.  I didn't leave the house that week, and she didn't let anyone in.  Not even my tatta, who had no idea what was going on, because he was just at the Post Office when she did that!  She was a savior to many of her grandchildren. 

It doesn't take much to make you happy.  My grandparents lived a different lifestyle compared to most people here.  They used a dog team to get around, and simple items like a qayaq to check their nets.  There was no need for extravagance, or "more."  They raised all their kids in a house at Sisualik with only two rooms, a "bedroom" and everything else in the other room.  We slept on the floor, covering the entire house, and rolled up the caribou skins (and the lucky ones got some foam to sleep on!) in the morning to start the day.  She was always happy, it seems like, and never needed anything more than she already had. 

Try not to have regrets.  Does that even make sense?  I think so.  I mean, you learn so much from mistakes, from others and from life in general, that you can't possibly think that you're the "same person you always were."  Right?  I know I'm not the same person I was when I was 18, or even last year for that matter.  I don't have regrets, really.  I think she just showed us that it's OK to fail, it's OK to win... as long as you learn something and are graceful doing it.

Hold on to your culture.  My aana taught us to live off the land.  To sew, and pick berries, and bake bread.  She sang to us in Inupiaq, she scolded us in Inupiaq.  She never told us to embrace our culture, she just did.  She didn't preach to us about the importance of our culture, she just lived that lifestyle and we learned from her and my tatta.  The Inupiaq here have a set of "Values" that they spout off all the time.  "Respect for Elders!"  "Knowledge of family tree!"  "Hunter Sucess!"  "Responsibility to Tribe!"  Very few people simply live them.  She was one of them who lived those values every day of her life.  Not in the open, not on facebook, not told to anyone else.  Simply lived them with no credit needed.  She taught her children and grandchildren the importance of being an Inupiaq person just by the everyday things she did. 

*I made these mukluks for her after she passed away.  She was buried in them.  I shed many a tear sewing these the week of the funeral.  But I always knew that she was watching over me, making sure my stitches were nice!  :)

Work hard.  This is probably the best lesson I learned, besides sewing from her.  She took care of her family, her community, her sisters, her nieces and everyone who came into her door.  There is not one person who grew up in Sisualik who did not know who she was.  She was not vocal, or verbal about much (except on the CB when we wouldn't go home on time!) but she took care of everything without complaint, or even a grumpy look on her face!  Sometimes I don't even want to make dinner for the four of us after working all day.  And by work, I mean sitting in my office, staring into my computer typing a whole bunch of stuff, answering emails, sending information out.  Not working, as in, picking berries, making seal pokes, cutting caribou, gathering greens, AND making dinner from scratch in a place with no electricity or running water for 15 people every night. So work hard picking berries.  Work hard making mukluks.  Work hard making dinner.  Work hard if all you're doing is answering phones. 

If boys can do it, girls can do it, too.  My aana was never really a conformist.  Yes, she sewed mukluks and parkys and hats and mittens for all her kids and grandkids.  Yes, she baked bread and made doughnuts every Sunday.  Yes, she picked thousands of gallons of berries.  But she also had a dog team, checked nets, hunted caribou, drove a boat, raced in dog races, chopped wood, and more.  I was allowed to go hunting with my uncles and tatta, and I was allowed to sew mukluks with my aana.  I would rather chop wood any day, than do the dishes.  My male cousins had to do dishes too, I remember one day my cousin said, "I don't need to do dishes, let Bessie, she's a GIRL!"  My aana said to him, "Being a girl or boy doesn't matter.  Some day you'll have a wife and she won't always do dishes for you."  And that was the end of that.  There was not real "scolding" just a simple lesson that boys need to do dishes too.  (haha)

Keep on learning, always.  If you're taking classes, great.  If not, you always learn something new.  My aana grew up speaking Inupiaq and she worked hard to learn English correctly.  She worked hard listening to the people telling her to "embrace westernization" but she still held on to her culture and past.  She enjoyed new technology, and western movies.  She always made sure our schoolwork was done before we got to "play out" or have doughnuts!  Education, both traditional and western, was important to her.  Always keep learning.

I'm sure we learned so much more from her than these, but these are the lessons that are most important to me.  I learned a love for sewing from her.  A love for helping people.  I learned to make doughnuts and sourdough hotcakes.  I learned that there is no place I'd rather be than Sisualik, AK in the fall time.  No internet, no phones.  No electricity or running water either.  Hard work, quiet, peacefullness that we all want. 

Thank you aana for teaching us.  Thank you for being our grandmother.  Thank you for taking care of us.  Thank you for scolding us when we needed.  Thank you for showing us unconditional love. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Did you know...

 It's prime berry picking season up here.  We go through about a six to eight week period of ripening berries where the women (and some men) rush to find "their spots." 

 Mom and Rea picking berries.  (I made both their atikluks)

Last year we had a horrible season.  It rained and rained and rained some more.  You can pick berries in the rain, but why would you want to!?  I think I purchased berries from up river last year to supplement the TWO days I was able to pick here.

Our season is one of four berries native to the arctic.  Aqpiks (UCK-pick) or Salmonberries ripen first.  They're technically Cloudberries, but people have called them salmonberries thanks to the similarity between the salmon eggs and the berry itself.

DID YOU KNOW:  That aqpiks are the highest contributor of Vitamin C found in Northern Alaska.  (I've heard rosehips have a higher Vit. C content but we don't find those here often). 

After the Aqpiks, come the blueberries.  Which is what I've been spending my time picking lately.  Tundra blueberries are small bursts of flavor.  The short growing season, combined with 24 hours of sun to ripen give them a seriously tart and distinct flavor.  I don't think anyone who grew up eating our blueberries can ever really "like" blueberries found in the lower 48. 

DID YOU KNOW:  Tundra blueberries mold and ferment very easily.  The only way to keep them from fermenting is to freeze them.  White sugar and seal oil or caribou fat will also keep blueberries from fermenting by removing the air from around the berry. Also, wild tundra blueberries have 10-20 times the nutritional value compared to domestically grown blues. 

Once the blues are softening the blackberries, and cranberries signal the last of the fall days, caribou hunting and time to get ready for winter.  Right now, it's happy berry picking season up here, though, we aren't going to talk about the end of fall just yet!

Monday, August 5, 2013


If you're my instagram or facebook friend, you know that I do lots of "stuff."  We bake a lot, sew a lot and do tons of outdoor activities with our kids.

Clockwise from top:  Fleece lined camouflage Atiluk size 12 Mo., 4th of July Cotton Atiluk size Women's M, Brushed fleece lined cotton atikluk, size 2T, Cotton fireweed atikluk size 2T.  

Quite a few times, I've been asked, "How do you have time to do EVERYTHING that you do?"  And by quite a few times, I'm talking like 5 times a day.  Especially after I sew three atikluks and read a book in one day.

Simple.  My time is prioritized. 

Clockwise from top:  Fleece Lined Blueberry Atikluk Jacket size 4T, Flannel Cupcake Atikluk size 18-24 Mo.,  Cotton boys pullover atikluk size 12 mo., Fleece lined waterproof Raincoat Atikluk Jacket size 4T

I have cable, but don't watch TV.  (Aside from Duck Dynasty and Glee marathons!)  We watch movies at night and when it's -40 below.  I have internet, but we don't get on youtube all day long (Aside from facebook and reading a few blogs on Saturday mornings!)  I don't play games on my phone, or iPad or on the internet.  (Aside from Draw Something before bed!)  And basically, I like it that way.

I haven't seen Jersey Shore, ever.  I haven't watched the latest youtube video.  I have never played Candy Crush. 

Clockwise from top:  Fleece lined Cotton "Florida Gators" Atikluk jacket size 2T, Fleece lined cotton fireweed Atikluk Jacket size 4T, Boys 4th of July pullover atiluk, size 10-12, Fleece Lined Camouflage Atikluk Jacket size 3T

I have, however, in the last two months sewn about 25 atikluks, two pairs of mukluks and baked several cakes, cinnamon rolls and more.  I have also read about 10 books in the last month or so, two on Saturday.

Men's Pullover Camouflage Atikluk size L

I have caught fish and filleted them.  I have camped out on the beach with good friends.  I have taught my daughter how to sew her own sweatshirt.  I have taught my son how to fillet a fish with an ulu.  I have enjoyed my nieces at my house.  I have picked berries with my sister.   I have sewn, sewn and sewn some more! 

Clockwise from top: Matching Forget-Me-Not Cotton Atikluks size 3T & 3-6 Mo., Cotton 4th of July Atikluk size Women's Small, Fleece Lined Atikluk Jacket size Women's Small, Fleece Lined Cotton Atikluk Jacket size 24 Mo.

I've made purses, bags, atikluks (Eskimo pullover shirt/jackets), mukluks, sweaters, pants, shorts, wallets, harnesses, parkas, etc.  All in the last three months.  Because all we have is time, the important part, though, is how you spend it. 

"Too Small T-Shirt Conversion!"  Added a skirt and pocket to a too-small shirt.

I choose to spend my time doing things I love to do.  Sew.  Bake.  Read.  Subsist.  Not necessarily in that order! 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fish on!

A whole few months of no blogging.  I don't know if I'm bored of it, or tired of it, or too busy for it!  Maybe I think if you wanna read about my life, you should be my facebook friend. haha.  I don't know.

Fishing is on the brain right now.  (And softball)  The twins came up and FINALLY caught shiifish through the ice.  We have been trying for the past six years to get them to hook a fish through the ice and this year the ice was here late enough that they did it.

Max, of course, is hooked!  Maddie, eh, she caught one, and was done with it! haha.

But at least we get to enjoy fish right? 

Speaking of fish... we have some pretty fresh wild Alaska Salmon up here.  We fish for Chum, which isn't what you think it is.  Ours are silver, fresh, firm ocean fish, not the stripey alligator fish Chum are known for.  Luckily, we get them when they look like silvers.  I wouldn't eat anything with stripes on it!  (By the way, I fillet all my fish with an ulu.)

But the best of fish is the Sockeye Salmon that we don't get up here.  They're caught either with a dipnet in Kenai or a fish wheel in Copper Center.  This year was my first experience dipnetting.

CRAZINESS, and I loved it.  I am planning a trip with our WHOLE family next year.  Heck with just me going.  EVERYONE needs to go!  It was so fun.  We ended up with about 20 fish, which isn't too much, but better than nothing and Dean-o was happy to be able to smoke reds.

I was just happy to get more fish for the freezer.  Freezer talk:  TODAY is the first day of Moose Season.  Bam.  Time to go hunting for red meat!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Little Chefs

My husband left me for a week of warm weather and gambling.  Or, wait, scratch the gambling, just warm weather!  He went to Las Vegas for work.  I always wondered why there are so many trainings, seminars and the sort in Las Vegas.  It seems like any sort of Tribal (Native American) training going on, Las Vegas is seven out of ten dates to choose from.

I've been to Las Vegas several times for my job, but this is his first time going for work.  We decided that even though it's for a week, the hotel is paid for by the company and basically I need some Vitamin D, that I'd just stay home with the kids and dogs, so we weren't stressing about how cold it is, running out of fuel, water freezing, etc. 

 (a couple of these photos are from Instagram.  Check out my other ones!  Finnskimo)

The weather in Las Vegas is supposed to be 60-70 all week.  I just heard the weather forecast for Kotzebue and we have a "wind chill warning" which happens when the wind chill is FIFTY below zero or more.  Lucky me.

Anyway, yesterday my youngest came back from her Spring Break trip in Anchorage on "the morning flight" which meant that on Sunday morning, I had to get up at 7:00 am to pick her up.  I was excited about going right back to sleep.  She was excited not to. 

So, I asked her if she wanted to make some Blueberry Swirl Coffee Cake by herself.  And of course, she said yes. 

After about an HOUR of waiting for her to measure things, and double check her recipe, I was getting annoyed.  I mean, really annoyed.  "Do you HAVE to check again, you don't remember it says TWO TEASPOONS OF VANILLA??!"  I was even standing above her and saying, "Seriously, girl... hurry up..."  Then I took a break to read Facebook, cause I was annoyed with how long it was taking just to mix the ingredients.  The FIRST status on my newsfeed said this:

"When do you learn best? When the person teaching you is relaxed and smiling or stressed and scowling?"

I almost cried.   

So I went over to her, apologized for being annoyed and told her that I was proud that she was making a Coffee Cake all by herself.  She said to me, "Oh that's OK mom!  But can you help me pour the milk cause it's new and I don't want to spill it..."  

I am constantly need reminders in life.  And I'm always amazed that they come at the exact right time I need them.  

I tried all day to remember just that simple statement.  It's hard sometimes to be a parent.  I'm always making mistakes and learning new things, and I do try to be a good mom, good wife, good sister, etc.  Sometimes I just want to curl up into a ball because I think I'm not doing good.  Then my kids fight over who's going to sleep in my bed because Dean's gone, and I know they still love me!  

We took the Coffee Cake out of the oven and it looked, smelled and tasted better than mine, so I know I must be doing something right.

P.S.  Dean and I are working on a cookbook that, I swear, we've been working on for years.  It's a compilation of my grandma's recipes, my mom's, my aana's and our own.  It's gonna take forever, but until then, I probably won't share as many recipes, just cause I need to save some for the book! haha.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Handmade fun

I always have these ideas in my head, I'll go, "I can write about this...or that..." and then I go home and POOF! they're gone.  Sorry about that. 

Aside from the fact that we FINALLY have some heat to our sun, there really isn't much to do in Kotzebue, except go to Zumba, and make stuff. 

My sister Saima and I, (Elsa too, but she's too pregnant yet to really do anything, we are waiting until she's off with the baby to join in more!) are starting a cute little handmade shop.  I'm sure we could go on Etsy, but we both work full time jobs, and have kids to take care of, and have meat to grind and package, so our beginning stock wouldn't be much.  I think Facebook selling would be better, considering we will have maybe three or four items to sell at once. 

Anyway, I've been working on a cute new baby mukluk pattern that wasn't 100% fur.  Because 1.  Fur is expensive, and 2. Fur is hard to acquire.  So, we've been finding all sorts of great new fabrics to use to give old Inupiaq Style a new modern twist.

Enter, our new and improved Mukluks.  New Styles, fur lined with leather bottoms.  Super SUPER CUTE!!!   (Girl Style above.  Boy style below.  I added a toe strip on the boys mukluks as well.)

Saima's been using flannel outer and fleece lining.  I finally found some non-skid fabric for the bottoms as well.  Think footie sleeper bottoms.  She's been sewing up a storm too.  Baby sewing is awesome, especially when you have a sister and several cousins who are pregnant at any given moment!  It sure seems like everyone is pregnant.  haha.  (Except me)

Anyway, homemade is so much more fun than store bought.  So, if you're on facebook in the next month or so search for us, chances are, we will be up and running by then! 

Until then, happy sewing.