Life lessons learned from Eskimo women

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By Norma Kirkpatrick

I recently wrote a column about a visit I made to the Aleutian Chain of Alaska back in the seventies; receiving many favorable comments and emails from my readers.  Suddenly Alaska is back in the news, and Mt. McKinley has been renamed Denali.  That is the name given by the original divergent Athabascan people; it means “The High One” or “Great One.” It is the highest peak in North America.
Thinking of Alaska again brought to mind a teaching the Eskimo women had shared with me while I was there.  They said a person should never run from a bear, but turn and face it.  Pick up the largest stone you can hold in your hand and run toward the menacing beast; the women often kept a bear stone handy.  They said it would surprise the bear and cause it to stop.  When it stands up to fight, get as close to its body as possible and jam the stone into the bear’s mouth.
With a little luck, the surprised bear will be distracted as it paws at the stone in its mouth, giving the woman time to escape.   She had also kept the bear busy while her children escaped.  They taught that if you run, you are dead; but if you are brave, at least you have a chance.
Now that’s a life lesson if I ever heard one.  We probably will never face a situation that dire, but most of us have faced a bear of a situation.  No hope.  Not a chance.  There was nothing we could do.  If we turned and ran, we could not outrun it; and we knew it.
Unlike the Eskimo woman facing a bear, we have more time to think about our own dilemma.  If we are still convinced that our specific situation is hopeless, let us find the courage to look for a stone, and reach inside of ourselves for bravery we did not know we had.
If we must accept the fact that the only option is to face what is before us, because there is no other recourse except defeat; let us face it.  That is our victory.
Kirkpatrick is a guest columnist for the Opelika Observer. She is a wordsmith who has contributed to teaching materials, magazines and newspapers. She also collaborates with authors on literary projects and writes an occasional poem. She can be reached at normakirkpatrick@gmail.com.

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