“What kind of Native are you?” I randomly ask someone.
“Inupiaq.” they said.
“No, I mean what kind.” I joke at them. “Like… city, hub town, village or camp?”
“Oh… city.” They replied.
I was poking fun at a different way to answer that question of what kind of Native we are. It's a normal question to receive in the city — where are you really from? Who’s your family? Why are you here?
As we adapt more into the urban lifestyle as a community, it's important that Natives maintain connection with each other. Many of us have settled in the city and we are living in a transformative period as technology grows and the economic resources shift. Accessibility takes a different form in the 2020’s than it did even just a decade ago.
For instance, there are now many Native influencers who teach cultural activities through social media like Tik Tok and Instagram. You can learn to cut fish, hear some history and consume Native humor at a much faster rate than you ever could before.
Bored in bed? Curious about your identity? Insecure about how much you know? Just open your phone and scroll through some apps. A lot of information is being shared and creating a global impact right now.
Village City is this virtual Indigenous space—a place to gather these stories, personalities and communities.
Village City is a lifestyle campaign produced by Native Time in partnership with the Alaska Humanities Forum. It is a digital nod to the spectrum of identity Natives have today. Our virtual community will be strengthened through personal stories to connect rural and urban Native youth across the state.
Village City starts out with the stories of 6 teenagers who share a little about their lifestyle and community. From the south of Anchorage to the ancient traditions of Utqiagvik, Native Time and The Forum will be reflecting on the diversity of what it means to be young and Indigenous in the 2020’s.
The big media influences society to see Natives as a monolith, a generalized population that can blend together as one people. But, even just in Alaska, we have 12 distinct regions with 20 different Indigenous languages. We are not solely represented by saying quyaana and wearing qaspeqs. Like our land, we are expansive. Not just traditionally, but we are creatively diverse, too.
Not only is there some shame behind being a city Native, there’s also a completely different societal judgement towards being a villager. Many people experience being called too Native along with not being enough, depending on their context. A lot of students are bullied for being from the village, by those who are from a hub town or city. Some are oppressed simply by skin color, both for being too dark and too light.
This is lateral violence and internalized racism, something Village City is created to resist.
Being Native is complex. Both the city and the village come with their own benefits or hardships. And, growing up in a hub town has its own story, too. We are geographically varied and Village City exists to express that. We want to validate all experiences within the spectrum. Whether you’re a brown kid in the Southcentral valley or a light skin Native from a village, we are all a part of Village City.