As a child, I never grasped how different my life was from others. It wasn’t till I got older that I realized I had experiences that not many other people have. My heritage is a very pronounced part of who I am. I grew up in a very diverse household in Juneau Alaska, my mother being white and my father being a Tlingit Native Alaskan. Being apart of the Tlingit tribe I was taught different values than the norms of modern westernized society. I treated the land I walked on with the absolute utmost respect to being able to name every plant and animal in the forests I spent almost everyday exploring. I ate foods many would never dream of eating. Learning hunting, dancing, singing, traditional art, all the beautiful parts of a life not many people today know of.
My father and my grandparents changed my views on the world around me. I remember all the traditional stories I would hear as a child. Our creation story, how the raven spirit stole the light of the world from the greedy chief and gave it to the people. Tlingits believe in the idea that everything is spiritually connected, that is why you must have respect for everything around you. I feel the pride of belonging to the raven clan, and remembering the strength in my grandfather’s voice as he spoke about our people and how we have persevered through many hardships. Or how he would speak in our native language that so few of us know fluently to this day.
I will say that my life hasn’t all been full of wonderful experiences, as many minorities know well. Growing up ethnically mixed, I’ve felt the harsh bite of racism. I’ve listened to peers and even adults talk as if my culture no longer exist or I hear the use of insulting language towards my people out of ignorance. I’ve been faced with the facts that my culture is dying, that I can’t speak in my native tongue.
These challenges of being radically different from my peers taken time to overcome, I use to feel ashamed when thinking or hearing negative remarks about my culture, but I have come to embrace who I am no matter the opinions of others around me. I am proud of my family and where I come from. Being part of a diverse culture makes me see the world differently and has shown me how I should treat it and others. No matter how far my future takes me from my homeland, I will always celebrate and practice my people’s way of life.