Synopses & Reviews
Velma Wallis shares the love, loss, and struggle that mark her coming of age in a two-room cabin at Fort Yukon, Alaska, where she is born in 1960, the sixth of thirteen children. Family life is defined by the business of survival: Haul water from the Yukon. Kill a moose. Chop firewood. Feed the sled dogs staked around the cabin. Run the trap line. Catch salmon. It is a time of innocence and laughter, too, as the children escape into a world of play under the midnight sun. The once-migratory family has settled at the confluence of two rivers, surrendering much of their language, culture, and religion to white teachers, traders, and missionaries. A knot of silent pain remains from flu epidemics that claimed many loved ones. There is much drinking when the monthly government checks arrive. That is when the pain comes out of hiding. When Velma Wallis is twelve, her father dies. She and her siblings fend for themselves as their mother descends into depression and alcoholism. Velma follows her own path, a journey of persistence, recovery, reconciliation, and ultimately of finding her own strength. "In the spring, we looked forward to the returning sun that melted everything until the leaves let go of their fragrance and it filled the air. My siblings and I fought like dogs over the muskrat tails that we toasted on top of the woodstove until they were crisp and tasted like pork rinds. Beaver meat was also delicious, and we devoured this treat with relish, but there was no comparison to the singed duck soup that my mother made with dried vegetable flakes, adding rice and macaroni. Sometimes this meal would be accompanied by a Pilot Boy cracker spread with margarine, and to this day I can't say I know of a finer meal." -From Raising Ourselves
Born in 1960, the sixth of thirteen children, Velma Wallis comes of age in a two-room log cabin in remote Fort Yukon, Alaska. Life is defined by the business of living off the land. Chop wood. Haul water from the river. Hunt moose. Catch salmon. Trap fur. Take care of the dogs. For a thousand years, the Gwich'in clan had followed migratory animals across the north. But two generations before, the people had settled where the Porcupine River flows into the Yukon. Now, the Wallis family has a post office box and an account at the general store, and Velma listens to Wolf Man Jack on armed forces radio. The author discovers that her people have surrendered their language, traditional values, and religion to white teachers, traders, and missionaries. Flu epidemics have claimed many loved ones. Village elders seem like strangers from another land, and in a way they are. There is much drinking when the monthly government checks come, and that is when the pain comes out of hiding. RAISING OURSELVES is a gritty, sobering, yet irresistible story filled with laughter even as generations of Gwich'in grief seeps from past to present. But hope pushes back hopelessness, and a new strength and wisdom emerge.
RAISING OURSELVES is a gritty, sobering, yet irresistible memoir filled with laughter even as generations of Gwich'in grief seeps from past to present. But hope pushes back hopelessness, and a new strength and wisdom emerge from the lives of the native people of the Yukon River in Alaska.
Velma Wallis grows up in the raw, unsettled aftermath of a cultural invasion of her village on the Yukon River in Alaska. The author's great aunts still speak Gwich'in but their children - the generation of Velma's mother and father - speak only English because the Native language was forbidden in schools run by white outsiders. The village elders seem like strangers from another land. And, in a way, they are. RAISING OURSELVES is a refreshingly honest story of renewal, reconciliation, and strength as Velma Wallis and her people come to grips with alcoholism ans cultural loss. Velma Wallis' first book, TWO OLD WOMEN, is a publishing phenomenon. A decade after its release, it continued to be an international bestseller, having been translated into seventeen languages and selling more than a million copies.
About the Author
Velma Wallis and her husband, Jeffrey, who have lived off the land intermittently for much of their lives by hunting, fishing, and trapping, divide their time between Fairbanks and Fort Yukon, Alaska. They have two children.
Table of Contents
Fort Yukon -- Itchoo -- Nina -- Pete -- Hannah -- Mae -- Siblings and seasonal friends -- Uptown and school -- Life in the sixties -- Times of change -- Turning points -- Back and forth -- Back home -- Neegoogwandah -- Learning new skills -- Struggles -- Going to Oregon -- Back to Fort Yukon -- Barry.