If In Doubt, Fall Back on Number 9

by Rhonda Anderson


I chirped every school morning as I buckled my daughter into her seat on the school feeder bus. I was saying in Iñupiat, “I love you!” Sometimes I added “Paniq,” which means Daughter.

What my Daughter didn’t know is that I was teaching and following our Tribal Iñupiat values. Our Elders teach us between 12-17 values throughout our lives. 

Trust me, the older the Elder, the more values. 

By saying “Nakuaġigikpiñ!” every morning, I was hitting about 3 Iñupiat values on the daily: 

1. Knowledge of the Language. 2. Love for Children. 3. Love and Respect for one another. 

That is not easy, living so far away from our Iñupiat culture. The routine went on from Kindergarten to about second grade. When my Daughter noticed no one else knew what I was saying, she asked me to stop. She felt different. 

I then had to adhere to the Iñupiat values of Numbers 6: Humility. 7: Compassion. And ultimately, the Big One, Number 8: Avoidance of Conflict. 

Not being one to give up easily, I decided to lean on Good Ole Number 9: Humor;  Teaching my Daughter to say phrases like, “Niliqpiqtutin??” and responses like “Naumi!!”

The Living Presence of Our History Series — Ohketeau Cultural Center
Sourced from: https://www.ohketeau.org/living-presence-series

“Did you fart?” “No!!”

That led to giggles, more phrases, and eventually more acceptance.  Dare I say, aarigaa (cool) even? Or as my now Teenage Daughter might say: Tasty.

Doing the HRiA work through Ohketeau Cultural Center as a Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Serving Organization (TIPSO) requires these same values. As individuals, we must do our part to show up with Numbers 2 and 3: Our love, honor, and respect for our children and Elders. Number 10 is our Responsibility to Protect our Tribal Citizens, the most vulnerable population during this pandemic. 

These values are nearly the same across hundreds of different Indigenous communities and our many varied cultures. Add in 11: Sharing, and 12: Knowledge of Family and Kinship, and we are all on the same page. I’m sure many of you can feel this too. That is how we see our shared humanity. And, yes, we have all learned that reaching across the aisle is not easy. Heck, nothing has come easily these past two years. Thankfully, you know I don’t give up easily either.

One of the most rewarding spotlights in this work is beautiful Number 13: Cooperation. We are genuinely showing up for each other, listening, learning, and creating new relationships to carry us forward. The new relationships and understandings will remain for the next generations to come. 

We can do this with love and respect for one another. Together, we can do this! 


Rhonda Anderson is a director of the Ohketeau Cultural Center. Please consider helping support their work; Ohketeau is a cultural, educational, and creative space for Indigenous people – the first of its kind in Central and Western Massachusetts!