Peace Teams News, PO Box 10372, San Antonio TX 78210-0372, Tel: 877 814 6972







SPRING, 2001: Volume 6, Issue 1

Same Language, Different Worlds

Father Michael Oleksa, who gave a presentation during the training for listeners, pointed out that even when Natives and non-Natives think we are speaking the same language, we aren’t. As an example, he gave the word ‘animal.’

To most non-Native people, the word means animals other than humans, and carries the connotation that animals are less than human. In Alaska Native cultures, animals are equal to human beings in status, and must be treated correctly. Hunting success, survival, depends on animals giving themselves to hunters, and the animals will not give themselves to disrespectful people. A hunter or community that behaves wrongly toward other animals will suffer direct repercussions of that behavior.

He illustrated the difference between the two cultures with children’s stories. In Western stories, the hero is rescued from an animal shape cast onto him by evil influence. In Alaska Native tales, transformation into an animal form is often the hero’s happy ending. “He was rescued from being a frog, became human again and lived happily ever after,” versus, “After many trials he was transformed into a muskrat and lived happily ever after.”

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