A Happy Village Boy

I was a straight up village boy when I lived with my grandfather Steven Peter Sr., dinjii zhuh k'yaa Tsee Gho Tsyaa voozhrii (in my language, Gwich'in, they called him Beaver Teeth) and uncle Wally Peter in Vashraii K'oo (Arctic Village, Alaska). They were two of the happiest people, always smiling. Our village had no running water (still doesn't), no electricity, and plenty of dog teams. There were about a hundred people living there when I was a boy and we were seventy miles from the next village down river, Venetie, and a couple hundred miles from the nearest piece of cement. I learned much of what I understand about being an honest, helpful, and authentic human being, a Gwich'in, from my grandfather and the people there. For that gift I will be forever grateful. Mahsi' choo shijyaa naii (thanks to my friends there).
The land was also one of my greatest teachers. I spent most of my time outdoors, winter or summer. I loved the land and the animals. There was no real separation between us as people and the land. It was so clear that it provided for our survival. I would have to haul five gallon buckets of water from a hole in the ice, up a snow covered bank to my grandfathers house, so we used the water sparingly. When I caught a fish, a muskrat, a duck, or a ptarmigan, we would eat fresh food. I learned young that being out on the land was true freedom.
To this day it is my sanctuary when I need to be alone and relieve some of the stresses of modern life. I just don't get out there as much as I would like to, which is one of the dilemmas of modern life. That it is so fast paced, we can't live in harmony with nature and enjoy what that provides to us, otherwise we fall behind and get kicked out of our house :) I say that as a joke, but it is no laughing matter. The trajectory and pace at which we live as humans is harming us on an individual and collective level, it is literally
unnatural. This is on top of the fact that we are rapidly depleting limited resources on a global scale. It would do us and all our relations that share the earth with us a big favor to slow down a little. What's the rush for anyways?
Back to growing up with a happy uncle and grandfather. This was the best. It took me until my twenties to realize that my grandfather had taught me how to live a happy life, without ever having to say a word to me about it. I would follow him into his friends cabins, like a ch'an jyaa (elder) named Jummus (how we pronounced 'James' in Gwich'in back then), and sit on the couch. I attentively watched and listened to how they would share stories, laugh, and drink tea. Every so often I might say "luh ghaii nihthan" ("I would like a pilot bread cracker") and Jummus would point to a large bowl full on a shelf. I wish I knew my language better, but I'll save that for another post. Those were important moments in my life. Memories and ingrained lessons from childhood.
A great thing is that learning how to be a happy person, how to live a good life, can last our entire lifetime. We just have to choose to pursue it, practice it, and find those who support us in it.
Blessings to those out there facing a hard time right now. May you be uplifted, held, and comforted.