Thursday, March 20, 2014

Who the hell am I?

Quite recently I was asked, "And WHO the hell do you think you are?" by someone who was pretty upset that I hadn't voted in their favor.  At the time I smiled, and walked away.  I wasn't aware that I was "that popular" to sway so many people with my one or two facebook statuses about the need for change.  (I'm not that popular, and I'm pretty sure that person needed a scapegoat, which is why I didn't yell back!)

But it did get me to thinking.  Who am I?  Who do I think I am? 

I know I'm a half-breed.  I know I'm Finnish and Inupiaq Eskimo.  I know my roots, where I come from, where I've been.  But, really, right now, who the hell am I?

Sometimes I'm the one who organizes community Norwegian (Eskimo baseball) games all summer long.

Sometimes I'm a baker, with crazy superhero skills.

Sometimes I'm bloody Mary.  Quite literally.

Sometimes I'm a grave digger, who digs final resting places of the last generation of REAL Inupiaq people.

Sometimes I'm a snowmachine traveler, listening to the sound of pistons burn energy in a vast wilderness untouched by humans.

Sometimes I'm a drama teacher, who marvels at village kids in a play.

Sometimes I'm a sourdough hotcake maker who cooks on a coleman stove for 300 hungry people.

Sometimes I'm a mom who leaves work to take her kids to the Emergency Room, then watches them enjoy their book in footie pajamas, and never wants her kids to grow up.

Sometimes I'm a food hoarder, who hoards Red Salmon, Shiifish, Kotzebue Salmon, Blackberries, Blueberries, and Cranberries like they're going out of style.

Sometimes I'm a world traveler who's advocating for the needs of my people.  On bumpy flights over the entire United States.

Sometime I'm just a berry picker who would rather go in a boat to camp to pick berries than across the country in a plane.

Sometimes I'm the biggest Husky fan you'll ever meet.

Sometimes I'm an observer of traditions past, friendships that have withstood the evolution of time. 

Sometimes I'm a Birthday Party Planner and make kids bring brooms to the party.

Sometimes I'm a doughnut maker who closes her eyes to eat one and savor the sourdough doughnuts her aana used to make as a child.

Sometimes I'm a patron of a tea party with Barbie and horses.

Sometimes I'm a mukluk maker who cries with every single stitch.

Sometimes I'm a teacher who teaches her kids how to bake a proper blueberry coffee cake.

Sometimes I'm a student who watches in earnest as a real professional cuts beaver.

Sometimes I'm a hunter who cuts meat off of bones.

Sometimes I'm a wife of the hottest fireman I've met.  (Even when it's -40 below outside)

Sometimes I'm just me.  :)

Thursday, February 20, 2014


A few days ago, my sister asked me to design a tattoo using an anchor, similar to the ones our grandfather, uncles and dad used in their boats and for fishing.  She was simple in the request.  Beach grass, anchor, and longitude and latitude for our Sisualik camp.  Representing us kids being anchored there in roots and culture.

So, I drew.  And drew, and erased, and drew...  and then I burst into tears. 

Because, I want it to be perfect.  I want it to represent my childhood.  My happy, healthy, spoiled by my grandparents childhood.  So buried memories swamped my emotional state and the tears came.  I wanted to remember everything good about Sisualik.  I wanted to draw everything that reminded me of Sisualik.  And I knew I wouldn't do it justice.

When I was a child, I ran around with no socks and shoes on.  I ran through fireweed, away from bumblebees, and picked wild onions.  We stayed up late at night, bright in the midnight sun, running around the tundra playing Norwegian, kick the can, and more.  We hunted mice with swords made of driftwood, in their underground castles made of plywood.

My tatta built Goober, Josie and I a swingset 35 years ago with driftwood, rope and old 2"x10" boards.  It still stands, parts re-built for the other 70 grand children, and 50 great-grandchildren.  But I still retain ownership of the swings, and even in the stormiest weather, it stood, as a beacon calling us home.  Right next to the Inisaq's and the old siglauq.

We fed 40 hungry dogs, and ran around with the puppies.  We got in trouble together, we slept on the floor, and we fought like enemies.  Each one of use was spoiled in our own way.  I never did the dishes.  I never had to wash the oblong rectangular avocado colored plastic bowls that we ate our daily caribou soup in.  I got to stay up late and listen to my grandparents play pinochle and speak their native tongue.  I asked them, "Do you want tea?"  "Do you want coffee?" in Inupiaq. 

We gathered and stored broken seashells like they were diamonds and gold.  We put tiny white clamshells on our fingernails and called them "Devil's Nails."  My grandfather and his brother built a church at camp.  A simple structure, four walls, no insulation, simple benches, and a wooden pulpit.  He donned his best button up shirt and tall mukluks and preached to us.  Kids sat on the floor, and giggled, "Quyaanan Agaiuun, Qaitchuna Ilipnun Agaayun," we learned to say. 

Hotcakes were fried in cast iron skillets with bacon grease or Crisco every.single.morning.  We never got tired of them.  Spam, bacon, sausage, corned beef hash or fried caribou accompanied them, with leftover qayusaaq to dip in.   In the springtime, seagull eggs were boiled for us to eat with breakfast.

The boys got to go out and hunt for birds on the spit, they walked with a shotgun, a couple shells, held across their backs with rope, and came back with ducks and geese in the fall time.  Duck soup was a favorite.  We fought over who ate the brains.  Sometimes I even won.  We said, "Jesus Qaqiaq, Amen" before every meal, and sat outside, on the ground to eat.  Summer birthday's were a treat, because all the kids from all the camps came over and we had DOUBLE decker birthday cake, with frosting from a can. 

We stole gas from people and went joyriding back and forth along the beach, happily oblivious to the wrath we would face when we went home.  And we always went home.  Because even though my grandparents were mad, they still showed they loved us the best.  They took care of us, together.  Quietly allowing us to make mistakes, showing us how to be servants of humanity. 

We visited other camps, and walked to Nuvugurak to see how everyone's ugruk and salmon was drying.  We cut beluga and seals on the beach, and swam with the salmon net.  Sometimes, we checked net, by swimming in the ocean to the buoy and bringing it back to the boat.  Sometimes, we used a qayaq.  My grandfather used a qayaq to check his seal and beluga nets miles offshore.  It was a celebration when he brought one home.  We cut more fish on the beach than I can count.  Hurriedly so we could run around and play afterward.

Us kids fought over who got to stand at the bow of the boat when we went back and forth, or went hunting.  Perfect for the salty spray to barely kiss our faces.  Or who got to sit on the side that got the wettest from the rough waves, and we were never scared with our Tatta.  We had new mukluks every year instead of shoe-packs.  We had new parkys instead of north face coats.  We had new fur hats and mittens, and our old ones went to the younger kids. 

 We HAD to pick berries.  Boys, girls, moms, dads, uncles, aunties, old and young.  Berries, berries, and more berries.  "Fill your aimmaq before you go play out."  The fast kids would steal berries from the slow ones, and run to aana, exclaiming they were done!  We staked claim to berry patches 20 feet wide, and fought like bears if anyone came to our patch. 

There are so many things we did, so many memories that flooded me that my body couldn't hold it in.  I sobbed and shook and cried that my aana was gone.  That my tatta was gone.  That almost all the elders we knew and loved are gone.  Everyone who grew up at Sisualik got cinnamon rolls from aana Katak, they said Good Morning and Good Night on the CB to Aana Carrie.  They got scolded by Aana Dora, and got smiled at by Aana Irene.  We were all scared of Mendenhall's house.  Even though it probably wasn't haunted.  We all walked miles and miles to play with the Noatak kids who came for the summer at Nuvuguraq, we walked to aana Carrie's and gave her our first duck.  We went to Greene's and Wilson's cause they had landing strips. 

We bring our newborn babies to camp to show them where they are from.  The breaths of our ancestors whisper in their ears thousands of memories within.  The tundra speaks to them of the family that once sailed across in the winter, and used a dog team in the winter to get around.  Beach grass dances for the babies as the ocean sings it's sweet song. 

We bury our family there.  To bring them back to the place where they belong.  So their worldly bodies may rest and their souls can breath in the happiness there.  A world untouched by technology, minus the ubiquitous telephone solar panel on the elder's homes.  A world were fish are still hung, ugruk is still cut, berries are still picked, shells are still gathered, and porcupine are still curious.  I, too, will be buried there, because that is where I belong.

Happy tears were shed, I think.  Happy tears for a happy childhood.  One that I am grateful to have shared with Bessie, Josie, Goober, Doccy, Cody, Junior, Stacey, Saima, Charlotte, Bunnik, Andrea, Cathlynn, Johnson, Ethel, Irene, Phyllis, Francine, Mable, Madeline, Joey and Nikki, Saul, Nathan, Eli, Vernon, Vanessa, Ootut, Janet, and more.  And one that I hope my daughter remembers just as well as I do with her grandparents, and all her cousins. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How to beat the cold

It's been fa-reeeezing here for the past two weeks or so.  The wind chill gets to about -40 and stays there.  The ambient temperature isn't "too" cold, maybe -20 to -10ish. 

But it's still cold.  I had to pull out my warmer down jacket. 

Because I don't have a parky.  But everyone else in my family does.  Well, I guess technically I do have one, from my aana Katak, but I rarely use it, only to travel with because it's pretty big.  Maybe what I'm saying is I don't have a parky made by me.

But EVERYONE else does.  (PS there's two more being "fixed" so they're not hanging up!)

and now, even Rea has one!  I made this cute little parky with some trim and stretch velvet I got as a gift from a friend who was recently in Korea.  He plopped a big bag of trim, velvet and silky material at my friends house and said, "have fun!" I also used a fox isilgvik (hood trim) one of my friends gave me because it was too small for her daughter.  Perfect.

That's how finnskimo's battle the cold.

Well, that and sauna's!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to my parents!  I always know how long they've been married by subtracting three years from my own age.

Cause wasn't I cute!?  (and yes, my mom's first and last time in a dress, too!)

And check out my tatta's awesome mukluks!  That's what I want to make myself.  I NEED THOSE MUKLUKS! 

Coincidentally, my parents were the FIRST couple married at the Kotzebue Senior Center, and Dean and I were the LAST couple married there.  We also flew the pastor in from Noatak (Dean picked him up from Noatak in our plane, and after the ceremony one of our pilot friends flew him back!), the same one who married my parents.  And as an homage to my tatta's awesome mukluks, we also wore mukluks.

Pretty cool, eh?!  I hope my marriage is as long, happy and fulfilling as my parents.  AND I hope Dean and I can retire to a huge cabin in the woods someday too.

Friday, January 3, 2014


Before we get to that, here's a little video of my then 8 year old daughter cutting fish.  So if you don't know how to cut fish, then maybe that should be a resolution for you... that is if you have fish in your area!  :)


1. Make myself a fur parky. I'm the only one in our house who doesn't have one. (And yes, I made everyone else theirs...)

2. Make myself a pair of hard bottoms that go all the way to my knees. (Same reason as above!). I'd really like tutuliks, but calfskin will do, too.

3. Start shooting, skinning, tanning Sisualik squirrels for a really fancy parky for Kaisa. (Gotta be ready for MAC!) 

4. Say "no," more. 

5. Read over 100 books.

6. Eat more fish. Even though we do eat it, I'd like to eat more for dinner.

7. Ski at least twice a week as long as the weather cooperates.

8. Teach more people how to sew. (I really enjoyed teaching skin sewing and atikluk making.)

9. Learn and use more of the inupiaq language.

10. Drive the boat across by myself. ichikaang!

We will see how far I get this year...

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."