The statistics are well known: Alaska Natives and other Indigenous Peoples are more prone to addiction and other such ills than the mainstream population. But what rarely get talked about are the success stories.
This video changes that.
“Substance abuse has threatened our native children and our determination to share, pass down knowledge and grow as a people,” the narrator begins in this video titled Mamit, which means "to heal."
But after outlining the problem, the video takes things in another direction, with testimony-like commentary from community members who have turned their lives around. And it’s their connection with one another that helps them do so.
There’s Fred Miller, who has not taken a drink in 12 years. In that time, he says, he has gone back to college, remarried and bought a house.
“These are the best years of my life,” he says. “And I couldn’t do it without the help of the community.”
Dawndee Ipalook, living in Barrow since 1994, started substance abuse in elementary school. That’s when abandonment issues led her to try medicating with drugs and alcohol. It didn’t work.
Now, though, she has a new life.
“Being sober, this is probably the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire life,” she says, speaking to the notion that not being high is boring. “My worst day sober is still better than my best day high.”
The overall message: “There is help; they just have to reach out and ask for it.”
See these and other inspiring stories in the video below, put together by Michele Danner, a Native Inupiaq-Eskimo freshman at the University of Alaska Anchorage, for North Slope Borough Health and Social Services.
“It’s good to wake up sober,” Miller says. “I’m grateful for sobriety. And I always wish and hope that other people can get it too.”