Open letter to Eddie Skookum, chief of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation:
I am writing this as an “open letter” in light of the unfortunate and ugly events that you were involved in this last summer, namely the beating of the young woman in Haines, Alaska, your driving while impaired and the shame and embarrassment that you brought upon yourself, your family and your community as a result.
I write this as an open letter because of your visible First Nation heritage, your position as an elected leader and because so many First Nation peoples in Yukon and across Canada are working hard to regain their spiritual integrity and heal the wounds of the past, and you have painted them all with another stain of disgrace that adds to their burden.
Like many of us who read of the events that brought you to be arrested and jailed, I was filled with revulsion and anger at your actions.
I felt concern, sympathy and a deep sadness for the woman whose body you damaged, her spirit you degraded, the extra burden of shame and resentment that your people must endure, and sadness for you, Eddie Skookum.
I am sad because of the circumstances and conditions, both present and long past, that caused you to lose your human spirit and act with such viciousness.
You have brought a spotlight to be shone on an ugly and disgraceful part of your being.
I also accept that there are other sides of who you are in the world.
Fortunately, there is a possible positive side to this whole sorry mess in that while this public light is shining on you, and making you deservedly uncomfortable, you have a real opportunity to be a significant example of how to heal, become a truly honorable man and be of value to your immediate community and the larger community of humanity.
You have already portrayed yourself as a bad example. Now is the time to turn the tide and do what is necessary to move this event from a tragic incident to a healing catalyst for yourself and your community.
The young woman that you beat up was described as your “girlfriend.”
That cannot be.
To be a friend to another, one cares for, respects, recognizes their nature, wishes good things for, will be there to lighten a friend’s burden when they are struggling in life, and will certainly never cause pain or hardship.
You were not a friend to this woman, Skookum. To love another is to have those same features, only at a deeper level. A level where one opens their heart, shows tenderness and starts to see the other’s soul and reveal their own. You did not love that woman. Your sickness was in the way. The sickness that cuts one off from their essential human spirit.
The sickness that brought you to beat that woman is a sickness that affects male children around the world.
I cannot call males who beat on, exploit, neglect, abuse and cause indignities to women, men. Or at least not “real” men.
Real men show care and consideration to women because they know in their souls that to damage a woman’s spirit is to damage their own spirit.
When a spirit is damaged a being is not fully whole. When many human spirits are damaged by abuse and violence, we have a humanity sickness that must be exposed, the poisons removed and the wounds healed.
Punishment will remain part of the transformative process for some, but true healing will have to come from shifts in societal attitudes, and deep spiritual medicine. The two will go together. It is time for women who are the victims to come forward and shine the light on the perpetrators. These women must be supported by their community so that they can move from the sickness of fear and lack of self-worth.
Real men must stand up and say, “No! This is not right!” and bring about a deep change in attitude and steer young people to a path that leads to compassion, wisdom and wholeness.
When the spirit is missing or damaged the human becomes a dangerous and unpredictable beast.
I understand that many in your community and across Yukon would like you to resign. That is a justifiable request given that your past actions have caused you to lose the respect of many and credibility as a leader. Given what we on the outside of the situation see as your lack of heartfelt remorse by qualifying your actions as “a mistake,” and not much more, I too would like to see you leave your post in favour of a more honorable and responsible candidate.
However, treating you as an outcast and pariah will not help you or your community heal, and an opportunity will be lost for you to become an example of how to be a “real” man, a real leader and a good and honorable human being guided by your authentic and embodied spirit.
And the truth is, and this is where I am in partial agreement with your claim to being a “victim” as well, that so many Amerindian peoples were the victims of a campaign of physical, cultural and spiritual genocide.
There was exploitation, indignities inflicted and an unconscionable attitude of many arrogant, ignorant and negligent European invaders, that indigenous peoples were less than human.
It was tragic, a sin and a true crime against humanity.
As a white person I carry some of the legacy of shame.
And it was that degrading of spirit and selfworth that added to the severe levels of spiritual disconnect and apparent “lost souls” that plague so many First Nation communities.
Of course, there are lost souls and hurting spirits across the spectrum of humanity.
In this case, however, it is you, Skookum, who has shone the light on you and your people.
And where there is light there is an opportunity to see the ills, find one’s way and avoid the tragic pitfalls.
May this light, albeit uncomfortable light, be part of a necessary healing.
I send healing wishes to the young woman whose body and spirit you damaged, to the souls in the community that you live in, and to you, Skookum. May you find your healing and may that healing touch those around you and serve the world well.