Why I Stay On The Rez: A Letter From Grace
Thom Garrett
585

I love your Grace.

I know one or two like her and boy are they rare. I got my teaching certification in a rural Alaskan village on the Iditarod trail. My high school kids were boarders from other villages; the kids whose next stop was juvie or jail. To house those kids, the school converted the gym into a dorm.

I don’t even want to talk about what happens to a coed group of troubled Yupik teens in the winter, when it’s -70°F and dark 22 hours a day and their only physical outlet has been snatched away. Those kids were raised to work out their issues on the basketball court.

It was some kind of mess.

I loved those kids, though. The school asked me to stay on the following year which was unheard of; this village was known for driving teachers away by whatever means necessary. They were driving the teacher I would later marry out as they begged me to stay.

But, I knew what would happen. If I left now, in good standing, then this place would always welcome me as one of its own and I could keep eyes on all the kids that way. The littles up through the bigs.

But if I had stayed, the end would have been very different. I do not have your Grace’s character. I knew myself well enough to know that my end there, unless it was now, would not be pretty.

I still love those kids. I visit all the girls when they come to town to have their babies because I work at the Alaska Native hospital.

And I still think I did the right thing.

Grace was an amazing person.

Life on the Rez ain’t easy. ❤

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