Sugtanartukut - Trust
Stories of trust speak of a power that generates from a place of confidence. Recorded by Alutiiq language apprentices with the Alutiiq Museum, Elder Nick Alokli tells a story of his first bear hunt with his father that illustrates the value of trust. After he shot his first bear, Alokli’s father led him through an Alutiiq rite of passage, instructing him to put his arm down the bear’s throat so that he would not be afraid of bears after that. When he tells this story you can sense that it is with great pride and love for his father, built upon the trust he felt for him as well as the development of his own sense of self-trust established through this rite of passage.
In turn, stories of broken trust or betrayal, and the negative feelings or consequences that this elicits, are also an indicator of its significance as a core Alutiiq value. A well-known story of betrayal from historic times is told by Arsenti Aminak to Holmberg in 1805 (1985 translation) about how Kashpak betrayed the Alutiiq people at Refuge Rock when telling of the “unknown portage across the island to the Russians” (p. 59). His betrayal cost the lives of hundreds that day in 1784 and resulted in the conquest of the Kodiak Alutiiq. Perhaps Kashpak saw no other option after witnessing other atrocities during his own captivity and hoped that the people would surrender. Regardless, his name has gone down in history as a traitor.
Just as we see the deadly consequences of betrayal in “The Woman Who Became a Bear” (discussed in Chapter 8), the same broken trust appears in the “Old Man of the Volcano” (Golder, 1909), “The Girl Who Went in Search of Her Lover” (Golder, 1903a), “The White-Faced Bear” (1907) and “The Unnatural Uncle” (Golder, 1903b). In the “Old Man of the Volcano,” we see the first in a series of betrayals after the mother transforms into an eagle. She seeks vengeance upon her faithless husband, and then flies home to equip her son with the means to survive trickery that will one day befall him. She gives him a feather, a pebble and a needle to each help him escape the various betrayals he will be faced with. In “The Girl Who Went in Search of Her Lover” there is an interesting cycle of trust and betrayal that the heroine goes through in order to defeat the evil shaman who killed her lover (Golder, 1903a). Arguably, her willingness to trust him, and his betrayal of his promise to not seek to harm her, renders him powerless against her evasions. In the “White-Faced Bear,” the bear gives his trust to the hunter that he will cease hunting bears if he spares his life, but in the end the hunter breaks his promise and suffers with his life (Golder, 1909). In “The Unnatural Uncle” we see a strong sense of self-trust when the boy is confident that he will survive his murderous uncle’s attempts on his life (Golder, 1903b). Trust as an ethic manifests differently depending on context.
Excerpt from Alisha Drabek's dissertation: