When I was growing up, my mother could not say anything worse to me than, “Shame on you.” It immediately brought on humiliation caused by something I had done or by my foolish behavior. Once reminded, it was something I tried hard never to do again.
Many in our world today seem to have lost any sense of shame. In the world of politics, it has become a free-for-all in behavior. Yet, there are still things that cross the line in civility. Most certainly when it forces others to unwillingly become part of that shame.
At Alaska Federation of Natives convention, in the place that has always been, that line of shame was crossed. Gov. Michael Dunleavy and his wife were invited to speak at AFN. It was especially honorable to a small quiet Native woman dressed in her usual Kuspuk, who stood beside her husband, a man from another land who came to her village as a teacher many years ago. Together they had three beautiful daughters and showed how those two lands could meet in a loving, caring and respectful manner. She is so proud of this man she calls husband. He knows the Native ways because of her and his life in their land.
One can only imagine the pain Rose Dunleavy must have felt in her heart as she and her husband stood before her people and heard a large group shout, boo and turn their backs as he spoke.
The heartache was visible on her face as she held her hands tightly in front of her looking sadly at her husband. What would her three daughters think when they heard about such disrespect? She had taught her daughters respect learned from her elders. How could she explain such behavior from some of her people?
She was there to present the Shirley Demientieff award, which was based on respect. How was she going to be able to walk to the podium after such disrespect? This quiet woman had worked so hard the past year to stand in front of others in such a public manner.
As a woman of her word, she walked to the podium obviously shaken about what had just happened. Oh, the sadness she and others must have felt.
There are so many Rose Dunleavys in Alaska. Many I have met and now call friends. They are strong, independent women who love their Native land but have also learned to love those that once visited and decided to stay. My heart is sad as I know it was not a proud moment for them in the land that has always been.
Judy Eledge, Anchorage