My Name Is Not Easy - By Debby Dahl Edwardson

My Name Is Not Easy



When I go off to Sacred Heart School, they’re gonna call me Luke because my Iñupiaq name is too hard. Nobody has to tell me this. I already know. I already know because when teachers try say our real names, the sounds always get caught in their throats, sometimes, like crackers. Th at’s how it was

in kindergarten and in fi rst, second, and third grade, and that’s how it’s going to be at boarding school, too. Teachers only know how to say easy names, like my brother Bunna’s.

My name is not easy.

My name is hard like ocean ice grinding at the shore or wind pounding the tundra or sun so bright on the snow, it burns your eyes. My name is all of us huddled up here together, waiting to hear the sound of that plane that’s going to take us away, me and my brothers. Nobody saying nothing about it. Everybody doing the same things they always do. Uncle Joe is cleaning his gun and Aaka—that’s my grandma—is eating maktak. Jack is sprawled out on the 3

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bed reading Life magazine, and Mom’s dipping water from the fi fty-fi ve-gallon water drum to make tea for Aapa, my grandpa.

Bunna’s chasing Isaac across the fl oor on the opposite side of the room, showing him how to play cowboy with his authentic Roy Rogers gun and holster set. Pretending there’s a whole pack of Indians under the bed. Th e only thing under

the bed is one little Eskimo: our youngest brother, Isaac, mad about the fact he’s always got to be the Indian.

I know that pretty soon Aapa’s gonna fi nish his tea, and when he does, he’s gonna belch and say taiku. But he isn’t thanking Mom or Aaka or anyone, he’s just saying it. Taiku.


ank you.

Some things are good to know, like knowing what lies on the other side of that smooth line the tundra makes at the edge of the sky. When you don’t know, you feel uneasy about what you might fi nd out there, which is how I’m feeling about Catholic school right now. Uneasy. Wondering if it’s gonna be good or bad or both messed up together.

I never met them Catholics, yet, but I heard about them.

If you give them a kid ’til the age of seven, they got ’em for life.


at’s what Catholics say. I watch Isaac scuttle across the fl oor, an uneasy feeling stirring in my stomach. Isaac is only six.

Aapa stands up from the table and belches good.


I wonder if Aapa knows what Catholics say. Probably not. Jack’s the one who told us about them Catholics and he wouldn’t say it to my aapa because Aapa is not a Catholic.


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M Y N A M E I S N O T E A S Y / L u k e Jack is Mom’s boyfriend.

Uncle Joe wipes his rag along the barrel of his gun and hands it to me, like he always does. “So. You going off to that place where they make you eat Trigger?” He leans down next to me when he says it, too, like he’s sharing a secret.

I think about Roy Rogers’ fancy horse, Trigger, in the movies they show at the community center sometimes, and I get an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Joe smiles the kind of smile that says he knows stuff that other people don’t know.

“You mean your momma never told you? Th em Catholics,

they eat horse meat.”

Mom doesn’t hear this because she’s too busy pouring tea for Aaka. But Jack hears it, all right, and he’s not happy about what he’s hearing. I can see it in the way he looks up from his magazine real sharp, fi xing his eye on Joe. Jack keeps his mouth shut, though, because Uncle Joe don’t think much of white men, and Jack knows it.

“What they want to eat horse meat for?” I ask.

“Cheaper,” Joe says.

Aaka is still eating maktak, and even though no one ever said it, I know them horse-eating, kid-stealing Catholics aren’t ever going to feed me what I like—whale meat and maktak.

And I’m all of a sudden so hungry, it seems like I could never get enough to fi ll me up.

Bunna fl ops down onto the bed next to Jack