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100 Native Men: Reducing Alaska's High Rates of Abuse and Violence

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Patrick Anderson thinks Alaska’s Native men can spearhead change in their home state by reducing the state’s astoundingly high rates of child and sexual abuse, drug abuse, alcoholism, violence and poverty, reported theAlaska Dispatch.

“The solutions have to come from Native men,” said Anderson, the chief executive officer of Chugachmiut, a nonprofit health consortium of seven tribal organizations in the Chugach region, reported the Dispatch.

Anderson’s mission is to get the men to openly discuss and confront their childhood traumas—the underlying source, he believes, of pervading and recurring evils in society. Molding adult male survivors of abuse and violence into mentors and role models, he feels, will beat the state government’s programs aimed at nipping these societal ills in the bud.

The government tends to reapply the same solution tactics with little results, according to a Juneau Empire article by Paul McCarthy, who has worked in domestic violence in Alaska for nearly 13 years. “Part of the problem is old thinking that inhibits innovation,” McCarthy wrote in the Juneau Empire.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell cited a 10-year plan to combat domestic violence and sexual assault in his Dec. 3, 2009, speech: “We’ll make it intolerable, unacceptable and the ramifications for those committing these crimes against Alaskans, unbearable,” Parnell said, according to the Governor’s Web site. Among other initiatives, his plan calls for increasing law enforcement and pro bono legal services available to victims; raising funds for shelters to help victims escape from abusive situations; and coordinating prevention between state, federal, tribal and non-profit programs.

At his Oct. 21, 2010, Alaska Federation of Natives speech, Parnell encouraged the men in the audience to become warriors "for the survival and future of our people and communities." He asked, "Men – will YOU stand together with me and Choose Respect?"

Anderson is not impressed with the governor's efforts, describing them as a “blame and shame” tactic. “He's recycling old ideas that are worthless in my mind,” said Anderson.

Part Tlingit Indian from Yakutat and part Alutiiq from Cordova, Anderson thinks that Alaska Natives can band together to tackle the social problems plaguing the state.

He envisions Alaskan Native men embodying and promoting the change they want to see in society—something that emulates the national program 100 Black Men of America, which was formed by concerned African American men in 1963 to improve the quality of life for their ethnic group and other minorities, in addition to largely focusing on youth development, according to the organization’s Web site.

Anderson dreams of modeling an Alaskan version: 100 Native Men, according to the Dispatch. His plan inched closer to reality at his first “Alaska Native Men’s Dialogue” held at the Cook Inlet Tribal Center in Anchorage in January. At the meeting, about 40 Alaska Native men discussed their hopes and ideas for improving the lives of the members of their community.

"It opened my eyes that there is a foundation of men willing to acknowledge the need for men to raise their voices and be heard," said Auggie Seville, a basketball coach and teacher’s aide from the village of Nanwalek, told the Dispatch. "It showed me there are leaders and men in other communities across the state that are trying to help and who want to instill good morals, beliefs and values and help young men have an identity."

Anderson, a self-described survivor of childhood adversity—including living in an abusive home, coping with divorce and facing chronic hunger—-realizes the proclivity to repeat inflicted abuse as adults. By recognizing this issue, which is exacerbated by “historical trauma and related intergenerational abuse,” according to McCarthy, Alaska Native men can overcome their inner demons and halt the downward spiral, Anderson told the Dispatch.

McCarthy similarly recommends “extensive community involvement” to confront the issues, “using both traditional and mainstream assets.”

Nick Pavloff of Eagle River, who spoke at the meeting, thinks that now is the time for Alaska Native men to take a stand. "We all agreed that we have all had the answers for a long time," he told the Dispatch.