The girl from Nowhere

Growing up, my village was my world, some may consider where I am from
: nowhere. I am the Eskimo girl from nowhere.
Nowhere is where I want to be
Being there is where I can be free
Nowhere is where I’d rather be
Nowhere will always be,
Home
A poem for my childhood: Guggeelee guggeelee, I see you! Guggeelee guggeelee! I will catch you. Let me be the one to set you free, Guggeelee. Out of the lake into the river, here I will help you swim better! Guggeelee guggeelee, I set you free, you can swim faster, thanks to me!
In our language, Inupiaq, we call minnows Guggeelees. As a child, I vividly remember catching these tiny fish in an old tin coffee can, usually red with Hills Bros. labeling.
My childhood was well spent, with much of the time being outside. I knew where all the best flowers grew. Even though I was afraid of bumblebees, I was still willing to pick flowers. It was one of my favorite things to do. Purple wild Iris, wild pink bumblebee flowers, yellow buttercups, white daisies and another white flower smaller in size, purple forget me not flowers, pink rosehip flowers, of course not to forget the pink fireweed blossoms and bluebell beauties.
When I go for hikes, I am always excited to make a bouquet of flowers and sometimes other plants and greens as well. Whatever is appeasing to my eyes. I call it the gift of an eye for beauty. Seeing the beauty in all of creation.
Perhaps you are watching a movie, paying very close attention to every detail, then imagining the brain behind what you are watching. The beauty, or the suspense, maybe the horror, or the joy, or bone felt sorrow of a scene. All so captivating and all from the mind of a beautiful unique human. Someone you most likely do not know. From the script to the costume designs to the area of the shoot of each scene. All so unique and different but all from the mind of a human.
Story telling has been our form of passing information down to the next generation so that they may have a better chance of survival. Now it is assumed, we will always survive. We are taught how to survive just from what is available as a food source in our area. I did not edit my journal entries from the seventh grade. I thought I would share a piece of me growing up in rural Alaska.
The Journal of Gertie Ann Johnson: 7th Grade
3-19-97
Yesterday, I went riding with Amber, Venessa and Cheryl. I also watched TV. And I did my homework. I’m writing with my left hand. I like school, I can’t believe it is almost over. I can’t wait till the picnic. I remember in 4th grade I had to write with my left hand. I think Chris is a lot more cuter. I don’t think he looks good with his hats on all the time. I am so happy I am not a lefty. I think Frank is cute as a little guy! Gertie Johnson Sorry so messy I wrote with my left hand.

March 20, 1997
Dear Journal, Hello, I wrote my letter to my pen pal. Gee, whenever I look at this boy I get butterflys in my stomach. I think Frank is perfectly fine. I really think Chris is a lot cuter, more fine, and more of an babe. I guess it is the hair-cut and perm. I think It is not right to sin. My mommy wanted to buy eggs but we are going to wait till they get bigger. Yesterday Jamie and I fed my dogs and her dogs, rode around and worked on our fort. It was fun.
3-21-97
Dear Journal, The fort Crystal, Jamie and I are building is almost done. It is so big Crystal can stand up in it, so can I and Jamie. Today is Friday. I do not know what I am going to do. I might ride around. I am still in school and have to go. Have a nice day, Gertie Johnson.
3-24-97
Dear Journal, Tomorrow I went to St. Micheal. This weekend I did a lot of things. On Friday I went to suerside with Cheryl and Jamie. Then Jamie and I worked on the fort and fed dogs. It is real sad. Yesterday someone trashed our fort, but just the ground. On Saturday I stayed at Dawns house all day with Crystal. We were cleaning and mating socks for her. I guess they are going to move to Washington. Well, we helped her pack. We also watched a couple movies while we were there. Then I played out, watched Eddie. Crystal rented it. It was a good movie. And that day my cousin Joey was going to Shaktoolik with Doy’s rig. The ice was thin and he sunk by blueberry. He tried to go into Ricky’s cabin because he was wet. Then my Dad and Doy went to find him. They helped him get into that cabin. Took off his clothes and warmed him up. Doy came back to town with our rig, got extra clothes and got Shane and Bruce. Shane and Bruce got out Doys snow machine and my Dad brought Joey back. Then he slept at my house that night. It was fun. Gertie J.
3-26-97
Dear Journal,
Yesterday was so fun! I went to St. Michael. At first it was boring but when Kellen, Greg and Louis showed up it was like going on a roller-coaster. We played basketball, went to the store and talked a lot. Out of Louis, Greg and Kellen, I think Kellen is the nicest. He was real nice to me but I don’t really like him. Denny was ok. We placed first for 7/8 and High School placed first also. When we went to go and get the trophy we all held it and screamed/yelled chickens. Their was all sorts of cute boys. Their was this cute boy and his name was Dennis. And their was Ryan Washington, the judge with a green vest and plenty more. At night Andri, Chels, Bev, Dana and I stayed up late and just talked. It was fun. Then this morning when I said goodbye to Kellen, Greg and Louis I hugged Kellen and Louis. It was a lot of fun, I would like to do it again some day. Gertie J.
3-27-97
Dear Journal,
Yesterday I slept all day. I never woke up until 5:00 am. I did my homework and fell back asleep. Then woke up at 7:45 and washed my hair. I can’t forget about St. Mike’s. I guess it will always stay in my mind. I just had a pop earlier and broke up with a friend. I miss all of my friends in St. Michael’s. It was really fun. Have a nice day! Gertie Johnson
3-28-97
Dear Journal,
Yesterday I watched TV and did most of my homework. Les is sick and ugly. Denny seems to be getting nicer (in a way). I wish I was president of the class. Jeremy is so immature! The way he acts and everything is so kiddish. He is bright (in some way) but his attitude. The most mature people in this class would be me, Chelsea, Wags, Isaiah (most of the time) and Gabe, maybe Angela. In school I guess I am mature. Man! I miss Kellen so much and Louis and Greg. Greg is so cute as a little boy. In St. Michaels their was this judge (not Brisco) that was a babe. He wore a green vest, I mean everyone thought he was cute, even Andri. Have a great week! Ps Happy Easter! Gertie Johnson (Hope you had a wonderful Easter -Mr. Ross)
4-1-97
Dear Journal,
My Easter was fine, but I feel bad because I never went to church. I ate lots of boiled eggs. Spent quality time with my family. Me and my sister Crystal hanged out with each other. So it was a great Easter. This weekend was fun. On Monday I did my homework. I can’t believe I never went to Suercide this week. I usually do. Today after school I need to finish my Africa HS. -Gertie J.
4-2-97
Dear Journal,
Today I killed a chicken. So did Andri, Sonya and Mr. Holmguard. Mr. H really killed it. He twisted it in circles. I started crying and almost pissed in my pants. But I didn’t. Andri is real brave, Sonya just laughed all the time and helped a bit. The bird flew away after and opened its eyes after we cut its neck. It saw Andri last. I hope she doesn’t have nightmares. I will never forget my Seventh grade year. -Gertie J. (Hope you’re ok. We should have video taped you girls. Mr. Ross)

Sewskimo Gertz Craft Table

Today was the 10th Annual Tribal Celebration and Health Fair in sunny Palmer, Alaska. There were so many talented artists along with informative health and educational opportunity booths. Door prizes consisted of unique hand crafted items donated by each table, bicycles for every age group, fishing poles, a grill and other Knik knacks. Outside there was a rock wall climbing set up and a bouncing set up along with a bubble station and chalk art. Drumming and beautiful Native dancing were ongoing and amazing! The foods served to our elders first included fresh Salmon and Halibut, moose stew, cheeseburgers with all the fixings, hot dogs, fry bread, rice, salmon spread, cole slaw, lemon cake and carrot cake. I was able to participate in judging the salmon spread contest. My favorite part was the hula hoop contest for all ages, including ages 80 and up. I had many items available at my table and received nice compliments. Many potential commission opportunities. My table consisted of slippers, mukluks, birch baskets, punk art and ornaments. I made everything except my mom made the seal skin women’s slippers, calf skin infant mukluks, the largest birch basket and the girl’s hat. The lucky rabbits foot found a lucky home along with some ornaments.

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When the Celebration was over, everyone gathered around the drum in a prayer circle, with each persons hand laid on the person in front ending in a closing prayer. Knik, Cook Inlet, Chickaloon and other tribes hosted a great event. I plan on attending again!

Alaska’s spring harvest.

There are many greens available to harvest on public lands in Alaska. One of the first to arrive is the fiddlehead fern. The young unfurled fronds of the ostrich or lady fern. They usually grow in a cluster circle. I’m always sure to leave half of the 8-10 fiddleheads. It is important to clean them and boil or blanch the raw fronds to rid the natural toxins. For long storage I pickle mine and they are good for winter.

Around the same time beach greens and willow leaves show up. We call the greens tikyuks and the leaves sura. Both are picked clean and wilted then stored in seal oil for longer preservation. Both have a bitter taste but are a great source of nutrients. When they are mixed with seal oil the bitterness is cut and they make a great side for niqipak or Native food night.

There are roots that are ready to harvest this time of year we call masu. I am hopeful to find some before they harden out of the white flesh form they are in spring.

Enjoy spring and the lands bounties!

-Sewskimo Gertz

The Word.

Sometimes, just sometimes, when I write, I can hardly see the screen. My eyes will be watered and I can feel a heaviness leaving. So when we write, there are times we write to heal. Other times, my eyes are almost shut because my smile makes me squint. And yet again, a relief is felt that my heart can be happy and I needed to say what was put on my heart. I experience all three emotions not just when I write, but when I get into the good book, the Bible, God’s spoken truth. We are not asked to love the Bible, but to love the living word which is Jesus. I stumble, as we all do, but getting back up is easy when you do not rely on people, but rely on God. We had a great speaker from Acts 29 ministry, she was from Sweden and shared about the good Shepherd, Jesus. His people will hear His voice, look inward and listen inward rather than outward. A good message. Encouragement from people is good, but getting into the Word every day brings a sense of goodness and it does not matter how many times you’ve read a passage, sometimes it’s the 76th time that really speaks to your heart. A Aha moment of ok, it may have taken this many times to finally get it, but perseverance often leads to a battle won for the day. Love and be love.

Parental necessity.

Mommy and Daddy
It is my belief that each parent is a necessity in a healthy upbringing of any child, Duke is no different. Duke spends the majority of his life with me, when it is possible he also spends weekends with his dad. I maintain a semi-civil relationship with his dad. I do not have to have any type of relationship with Ash, but Duke needs his daddy time. Any mother who thinks it does their child good to keep their children away from their father is in the wrong. It does not matter what happened between the two parents, the best solution is to pray for them along with allowing visitation. This is an important part of identity for the child. Fair parental rights is what is good for children. Love and be love and always pray every single day.

3 horses

One summer in middle school a family from Nome brought their horses to Unalakleet. This was the first time I saw a horse in real life. I was in love with horses and they were beautiful. They fed along the coastal beach grazing on grass and could not be more picturesk. Nena was the name of the female horse. I was dared to ride her bareback when me and some friends drove out to the old dump site. I was up first, being assured my friends would hold the reigns and with the help of my sister and friends hopped on Nenas back. They started walking her and she took off full speed and I held on for about 30 seconds before she came to a complete stop and turned to her side almost as if to say “this ride is over.” I tumbled in the grass and did not get hurt. My knees were covered in grass stains, a small price to pay for my first horse ride. Then a younger friend was next, she got on, held on and was taken very far up the beach. We had to go get help because the horse did not stop for her, it just kept going.

The second time I rode a horse was in Fairbanks when I went to Rural Alaskas Honors Institute. We got to pick the horse that we wanted. I chose a male horse named Jessup. He was amazing and while all the other riders stayed on a slow pace, Jessup would stop to graze and then do a sprint to the group when they got a good distance from us. I got to go fast if only for a few seconds, I was in heaven and he did this the entire journey.

The third and last time I rode a horse was at the Cincinnati Horse Derby. My ex husbands Grandma owned horses she raced in Cincinnati, Ohio. She had a beautiful male white stallion. For exercise they tied them up to a rod with a leash that goes in a circle. I was able to ride him for a couple of minutes. We went round and round in a circle, posed for some pictures and that day her horse won at the races. We got to pose for pictures with the Jockey and her horse along with the blanket of flowers for the horse as well. It was all a splendid memory.

Someday I hope to own my very own horse. That would be amazing and the kind of work needed to take care of them, I’m willing.