Graduation Day

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A group of gowned men and women stand two by two in a line. I’m at the end. Outside our waiting room comes the sound of deer hide drums and chanting in Tlingit.  Members of the Auk Kwan Tribe are drumming us into the auditorium with their welcoming song. In an hour or two I will be a graduate of the UAA writer’s school.

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Aki isn’t here but she had a good walk earlier up the Perseverance Trail. It was dry but overcast for our walk. White mountain goats gorged themselves on new growth on the flanks of Mt. Juneau. Alders and cottonwood trees along Gold Creek were yellow-green with new growth. For the first time this year, it felt like spring.

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Chief Kowee of the Auk Kwan once lead Joe Juneau and Richard Harris up the creek in a search that would lead to the discovery of a rich vein of gold. Someone named our town after Mr. Juneau. But most public events in our town still begin with a thank you to the Auk Kwan people, usually in Tlingit, to recognize them as the traditional owners and caretakers of the land upon which we live.

We process into the auditorium and take our seats. As the last drum beat fades, the college chancellor opens the proceedings by introducing himself in Tlingit and then formally thanking the Auk Kwan for their permission to proceed. I should do that now. Gunalchéesh Gunalchéesh hó hó Auk Kwan people and my writing school mentors.

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