Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bubba doesn’t like the rain. She sleeps curled up on her bed for as long as possible without moving on rainy days. Then, when the poop and pee are about to pop out of her because she’s waited so long, she jumps up like she was shot from a cannon, races to the nearest pee pad, does what she has to in the fastest time possible and is back curled up on her bed before I can scream, “No, wait. Go out!”.
I guess ending my life as the chief pooper scooper for birds and dogs isn’t the worse thing in the world.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:19 AM •
Friday, June 27, 2014

You’ve got to give it to him… just when we thought he couldn’t be more embarrassing, he went and one upped himself. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:14 AM •
Thursday, June 26, 2014

Last week I asked where Alaska Native men were when their sisters, mothers, daughters and classmates were being abused within their own community. I asked because I firmly believe this problem will never be resolved so long as we continue to view it as only a woman’s issue. I asked because if Native men are not part of the solution, they automatically become part of the problem. Those women and children who suffer violence and sexual assaults in their homes are often damaged twice – first by the abuser and then by a community that looks the other way.

This week I ask why the good men in those communities are often so reluctant to say or do anything to stop the violence.  What are they waiting for? What is holding them back from taking a stand and making it clear that they will not tolerate anyone who so distorts the values of their culture?
The answer seems to be that some of those cultural mores stand in the way of men taking action. Most Alaska Native cultures are communally based. Unlike Western civilization, which is based on the achievements of the individual, Alaska Native cultures do not encourage standing up and being noticed above others. Their survival in a harsh land was based on the critical need for everyone to cooperate and pull together. The person who stood out was someone viewed with suspicion and fear that he would not work well for the survival of the group.
So it seems that for many Alaska Native men the problem is twofold. Many worry that by standing up and standing out they will be violating long held cultural norms. Many also feel that their culture gives status to Elders to address these problems and they have a long way to go to reach that stage. So they say nothing while being internally conflicted over what they see happening. They don’t seem to realize that time is running out. They don’t have the luxury of waiting until they are old enough to be considered Elders. If today’s Elders are not stopping the carnage, then the young men must step in no matter what their age.
The reality is that Alaska Native cultures, which have withstood enormous pressures from an outside world wanting them to simply disappear, may ultimately succumb not to anything outsiders are doing but to their inability to confront those destroying the culture from within. For any culture to survive, it must have strong family bonds – whether those bonds are within a nuclear or extended family – that pass along the cultural heritage as a part of everyday life. But women and children who experience the ravages of sexual assault and domestic violence on a regular basis are unable to pass on any culture other than a culture of violence and fearful submission.
So here’s the question to those worried that by standing up against the men who perpetrate this violence they are somehow violating a cultural norm. What culture do you think you will have left if nothing is done? Will your culture become so perverted by multigenerational violence that the original values are completely lost?
If Alaska Native men are unwilling to confront the abusers, they risk losing their culture altogether.  This is already evident in many small villages where the best and the brightest leave and make a life for themselves in the cities. They do this both because that’s where economic opportunities are greater and because it is a place they can raise their families without daily reminders of the violence in far too many village homes. In the city, men do not have to explain to their children why their neighbor’s wife always seems to sport new bruises and black eyes after every weekend.
But this kind of village exodus means that those left behind to carry on traditional village life are too often the people who are perverting and distorting the culture. The good people in those villages are sometimes fighting a losing battle to pass on their true cultural traditions in the face of such horrifying violence.
By doing nothing, Alaska Native men are ceding the definition of what it means to be a man in their culture to those men who rape and abuse women and children. That has to change for their culture to survive.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:45 AM •
Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The good news is that mosquitoes are not half as bad as they were last year and I can sit in my office and get my work done without first having to smash a dozen of them against the wall.
The bad news is that their incessant buzzing and annoying hovering has been replaced by political ads.
The good news is that I can turn the tv off or use the mute button.
The bad news is that I have to because those damn ads make me long for a dictatorship.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:50 AM •
Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My body will be found crumpled next to an overturned chair beside by office desk, a bloody magazine clenched in my fist and a dead mosquito on the back of it. I will go out swatting!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:53 AM •

Today is my Bird TLC shift. It being summer, there will probably be over 50 hungry baby mallards, gulls and goslings waiting very impatiently for their meals. At this time of the year, you really, really have to love birds to keep showing up.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:47 AM •
Monday, June 23, 2014

Because he is not polluting my television with commercials that make me want to take a shotgun to the screen. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:54 AM •
Sunday, June 22, 2014
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“Will she remember to give me the chicken skin in my dinner tonight? Will she try to throw my toy out of bed just because it’s a bit moist from my gumming it? Will she ever understand how much the world will collapse if I don’t jump out of bed at 3 AM barking wildly at the noise being made by passing geese? When will she finally let me chase those fun toys she keeps in cages all over my house? Will I ever convince her that licking your own butt is actually kind of fun?”
Such are the deep thoughts of the dog philosopher.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:44 AM •
Saturday, June 21, 2014
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but BuddhaBubba is clearly contemplating fall and getting her autumn color palate in order.
Note to my sister Judy… no, you can’t make a snide comment about my dog having more fashion sense than me, even if it is true.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:41 AM •
Friday, June 20, 2014

Am I the only person in the world unable to get a second use out of a jar/bottle/tube of super glue. It seems if I wait more than an hour between uses, nothing more ever comes out.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:53 AM •
Thursday, June 19, 2014

Another group has come through Anchorage to talk about the problems of abuse and violence in our villages. Panelists take testimony, listen to horror stories of lives lived in fear, collect data on Alaska Native children showing them on par with returning war vets for PTSD and declare the situation intolerable. Each time this happens, I wonder where the men are. The only time men get mentioned is as the problem. But there is no solution without them.

A few years ago I wrote that for Native women to be respected, that respect must begin at home. Since the majority of Native women are abused, assaulted and raped first in their home villages, clearly Native men bear a great responsibility for the subsequent disintegration of traditional family life and subsequent damage done to the next generation of Alaska Native children.
I got a lot of angry responses, mostly from Native women telling me how wonderful their husbands, boyfriends, brothers and fathers were. I don’t doubt there are strong, good, ethical and kind men in the Alaska Native community. I’ve known many of them. Bu the reality is that most Alaska Native women first suffered abuse in their homes as children, sisters, wives and mothers. And that abuse came from within their communities.
So I again ask the question – where are the men in this discussion? While some of them may be the perpetrators of the abuse, most of them aren’t. And it is those good men who must be pulled into the conversation if any real solution is ever to be found. Not the drunk who sobers up at 60 and demands to be a respected elder.  Not the “community leader” who chairs a meeting at eight and drunkenly beats his wife at 10. Not the “good Christian” who takes his granddaughters for long solo rides down lonely roads and returns them silent and haunted. They should not be the men showing boys what being a man in their culture means.
There is a lot of debate in America today about the importance of fathers in children’s lives. I don’t see how there can be a debate about something so obvious. Clearly if the father is an abusive drunk, the family is better without him. But that does not translate into meaning that fathers are extraneous to healthy family life. They are, and should be, more than just sperm donors. While women have raised children alone for millennia, there is little doubt that a healthy, intact family produces the best results. But if dad teaches his daughters that they should suffer abuse quietly and teaches his sons that rape and violence is just part of another Saturday night at home, then there is no chance that we will ever stem this tide.
Alaska Native men need to get involved in this discussion in a vocal and visible way. The good men of the community have to make a very public statement about their culture’s family values. They have to take steps to shun those men who make a mockery of those values. They have to take the time to mentor their young men who are all too often growing up with a twisted vision of what it means to be a man.
By the time we take a young boy out of a violent home, he’s already absorbed the lessons of his family life. The person with the strongest punch wins. By the time a girl is removed, she’s learned it’s best to shut up and take the punches. No amount of therapy will ever truly erase those lessons.
But the male leaders of every Native community can make a major difference just by standing up and proclaiming, “No more. Never again. Not in my community. Not in our families.” Without the involvement of the male half of the village, the battle will always be uphill because it will always be about mopping up the mess and not preventing it.
Where is the council of Alaska Native men addressing the problems created by their peers, their sons and brothers? They have the power to make a difference. They should make clear that domestic violence and those who perpetrate it are no longer welcomed in their circle – not as hunting partners, not as corporate board members, not as village councilors.  The power is in their hands. They need to exert it.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:29 AM •
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Is it just me or does he remind other people of the villain in a Tom Clancy novel?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:07 AM •
Tuesday, June 17, 2014

So does anyone think Don Young will even bother coming back to Alaska to campaign for re-election? I mean, it’s not as if he has to. Most Alaskans will keep voting him back into office in an attempt to keep him out of the state anyhow. When he comes back here and we see him up close and personal, well, let’s face it, we’re all a little abashed that he’s the only thing representing us in the House.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:04 AM •
Monday, June 16, 2014
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Sigh… four different dogs beds, two couches, three soft chairs and still they all gather on one determined to be the last dog sitting.
As my friend Stewart so wisely wrote, “Mommy, he’s touching me!”
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:04 AM •
Sunday, June 15, 2014

Today is Father’s Day. My father is gone now so I can no longer wish him a happy father’s day. But I can wish it to all the wonderful fathers I’ve known in my many years of work in social services and with the Alaska Court System in Barrow. Some were foster fathers. Some were grandfathers. Some were uncles. Some big brothers. All stepped in to help kids whose birth fathers were unable or unwilling to be the dad the kids needed. These other wonderful men stepped up to the plate and tried to provide love and guidance to kids in desperate need of both. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it was simply too late. But that doesn’t matter today as much as the fact that these men were willing to try. Hats off to all of you. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:38 AM •

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