The Alaska Native Male

The Alaska Native Male

By Larry Merculieff


Summary: Merculieff shares a beautiful vision of the embodied Alaska Native male.


The primary role models, although not the only role models, for young Alaska Native men and boys were the Elders and hunter/fishermen in the villages. The qualities that define both are: soft spoken, not aggressive, patient, kind, non-judgmental, courageous, protective of family-women and children, keenly observant, respectful of all, honors tradition, expert in hunting and fishing, is cooperative and abides by local traditions of sharing with others-especially the needy like the Elders and widows in terms of sharing subsistence foods.


A good hunter, fisherman, and provider is one who respects nature and all creatures. When he takes an animal, fish, or bird, he takes it with respect and is willing to share with his hunting and fishing companions as well as with those in his village. A good hunter and fisherman always shares his harvest with others, even if they don’t ask for part of the harvest-it is offered. I recall many, many times when the men in my village came back with halibut, ducks, or sea lion meat, they would make the primary cuts in butchering the fish or animal and instruct his children to take certain pieces to particular individuals, like the next door neighbors and elders. A good subsistence harvester never had any ego when it comes to being out in the wilderness or on the water because they understood that pride and ego could endanger the lives of others as themselves. A good hunter always deferred to the most experienced hunter when initiating a shot to take an animal, and the oldest hunter was always offered first choice of which part of the animal to take, then the hunter takes his cut, and then allows all the others in the group to take theirs. No one was left out.


A good hunter, fisherman, man would always patiently mentor young boys in the myriad of things the good harvester knows…reading weather, safety on land and sea, safe hunting techniques, respect for wildlife/land/sea, proper ways to butcher what is taken, proper relationships between men and others, and ethics and values of sharing, supporting, and reciprocity. Rather than tell the boy what to do or explain something, the hunter/fisherman would provide the opportunity for the boy to learn and answer questions if asked-but not offer answers otherwise. He expected and respected the boy to watch, listen, and learn using his own observation and mental skills.


A good man always respects everyone, especially the women as it helps the boy to learn and practice such respect. A good man provides for his family as best he can and protects his wife and children from harm. A good man is humble but strong in mind, body, and spirit. He is a spiritual warrior, demonstrating courage in the face of life’s trials and tribulations. He is kind and considerate, with a very good sense of humor. A man, rather than chastise children because of any misbehavior, will instruct the child lovingly, gently prod the child, or gently tease them so they pay attention and learn the lessons. A good man never uses emotional or physical violence against himself or anyone else. A good man takes responsibility for his thoughts, deeds, and actions and teaches this to younger people. A good man faces his fears with courage, even when afraid. Courage in this sense means working through the fears to take action of some sort, even if it means speaking the truth even when truth may hurt.


A good man loves open heartedly and is loyal and trustworthy. A good man is attentive to his loved ones.