Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Arctic Changed Me for the Rest of My Life

    On one of my first Arctic posts I mentioned that the northern experience had changed my life. People wanted to know how my life was changed. So here goes. The last of my northern posts.

    I was raise in a rather isolated prairie area. We went to the local village for groceries. The local village seemed like a big deal. This did not give me much exposure to any different people or ideas. Our family kept to themselves to some extent. We were close to my father's family and visited with them often. Our church group was small and very conservative. As a result exposure to others was limited and somewhat discouraged.

    When I first left home everything was new and different. I was totally unprepared for this.

    When I moved to the Arctic I was exposed to things that were really different...a different culture...a different way of life...people from all over the world.  In our orientation we were given a good basis on what to expect and how to handle it. I was also lucky in that there were experienced people on staff who were very knowledgeable and were willing to explain a few things. 

    I was able to mix with many Inuit and aboriginals who were very good at telling about their culture. I learned that when I was in the north they were the masters of the environment and I depended on them for guidance and safety. They appreciated this and were very open about their life. I also got to go out on trips that others would never have gone on.

   As a result I changed many of my courses to Indian and Northern Education. I began reading and thinking about the culture. 

   As a result, I looked at race and different cultures in a completely different way. I learned to look at people for who they were instead of what race they came from. I became very sensitive about any racial discrimination and wouldn't let biased ideas go by me without a challenge. I never would have become open minded about race and culture if it hadn't been for the northern experience. For the rest of my life I have become more and more aware of prejudice and how harmful it can be. I've become a much happier person and certainly much more self assured.

    This has helped in many more areas than race when there are major differences. You have to look at the individual for what they really are. One of my former students has been a life long alcoholic and drug dealer. I visit him when he's not selling drugs. He knows that when he's selling drugs I will have nothing to do with him. He is one of the nicest people you could find when he's out of the drug culture. So instead of writing him off as a druggie I hope that by visiting him someday things will change.

    One of my neighbors is Chinese. Now I don't think of the Chinese part when I meet her.  She's a very unique character and always full of life. She always stops when I'm in the yard. One day she was asking about some Indian woman who lived up the street. I said, "What Indian woman?  There are no Indians on this street."  I tried  hard to think of who the Indian was because I know all the people on the street. I just hadn't thought of this person as being Indian. So I teased my Chinese neighbor about looking at other people from a racial point of view . We had a big laugh and then a big discussion.

   So I'm happy that my northern experience set up the remainder of my life on something that gave me a purpose in my life.