“We come from Point Hope [Alaska], the oldest village in North America. Our ancestors have been passing these songs on since time memorial.
I myself have composed over 20 songs. That dance that we do that they call the ‘Walrus Dance,’ has got pretty popular. The second time we performed it, I told the crowd that this song is actually called ‘My Brothers Keeper,’ and is a song that I would like everybody to understand. It’s more than a walrus dance, it’s more than goose bumps; it’s a song about domestic violence. It’s about one brother who is trapped in the cycle of domestic violence, and his other brother is one that has been in that cycle but has been freed from it, because he got in tune with his culture and with who he is as an individual. And throughout the confines of the song, he is trying to help his brother out of the cycle. In the middle of the song, when they stand up, that’s when he is helping him to rise, and his brother can finally rise and dance again and know who he is as an individual. And then they start to dance together.
I myself have been personally affected and entangled in that trap, so in its own unique way, it’s a song about my story of getting out of that trap of domestic violence and understanding how ugly it is. Especially in rural Alaska. We tend to not want to talk about it and want to say ‘It’s that individual’s or that family's problem,’ but I think its good to talk about it.
I published a book. It’s on Amazon. I would like to travel to villages to talk to young people about these issues. Over ten years ago, I made a wrong choice. It started with small daily choices, and it all boiled down to one day that I made a choice that had me incarcerated. I spent eight years in prison. I experienced things I don’t want people to experience—the realities of choices, the realities of losing family and getting disconnected from your culture.”—Tariek Oviok is Inupiaq from Point Hope, Alaska. Photo taken at the Teller Culture Festival.
- © Brian Adams
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