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Nome - Beautiful yet dysfunctional

  • Author: Marie Tozier
  • Updated: January 25, 2017
  • Published January 25, 2017

Aerial view of a historic gold dredge sitting idle on the frozen landscape near Nome, Alaska. (Bill Roth / ADN archive 2013)

Editors' note: We asked 14 of Alaska's best writers spread across the state — from Tenakee Springs to Dutch Harbor to Utqiagvik — to grapple with a question we all face in our lives: Why do I live where I live? This piece is part of that collection.

NOME — My family has been in Nome since the late 1940s when my grandfather left Deering to find opportunities for work. I live and write here for the same reasons, good and bad, that we have chosen to stay. Nome is at once a beautiful, culture-rich community and also the epitome of dysfunction and socio-economic injustice.

So I live here to maintain my own sense of identity. This place is full of memories of family and friends. The land affords yearly activities, which comprise our living history. My husband and I chose to raise our family here, making our own traditions along the way — fishing and berry-picking in the summer, hunting in the fall, working hard through the winter and always spending time with family.  This connection holds us.

I write here to express the truth of our existence. Historical trauma is a topic that pops up from time to time as indigenous people attempt to shed light on our way of life, our quality of life. But it seems that nothing ever changes. Forty years ago, folks were talking about how to improve education, how to address suicide and today these topics once again fill, and fuel, our dialogue. I hope that my writing will strike up a conversation, one we need to have to address these issues.

My MFA studies focused on identity and the creation of voice in poetry. I found it interesting to delve into the core of my own identity to understand the concept of creating identity through writing, to share the truth on the page, to reach out to the world and effect change. Change begins with stating the truth of where we are now, so we can envision where we want to be. My writing life is a balance of praising the good and exposing the bad, sharing my witness about life in Nome.

Marie Tozier is an Inupiaq poet who lives in Nome. Her book, "Open the Dark," will be published by the Boreal Books imprint of Red Hen Press. Tozier's poetry has appeared in Yellow Medicine Review and Cirque. Tozier and her husband share their home with seven children and three huskies.