Spotlight On Rebekah Contreras

Rebekah Contreras

Lighting up the sky with success in recognition of May 2021 as Mental Health Awareness Month

Waqaa, I want to start off by saying: Every one of us has our Sovereignty, sovereignty is an individual right, it is a Human right, and its an inherent right: Inherited from who you are and where you come from, My name is Rebekah Contreras, my Yupik name is Lurvurlia, (Pictured on the right) inherited from my great Grandmother, just like my cousins, I come from Hooper Bay or Napayamuit.

Photo credit:  Wanda Culp

Photo credit:  Norma Hoelscher

My Story

Rebekah Sawers Contreras

I am honored to be in the spotlight for speaking on Mental Health Awareness.  It is not an easy subject to unravel!  For me, it starts with Identity, and although I didn’t grow up in my village, I still use my voice to amplify issues such as: bullying, home issues, choices, academic problems, peer pressure, social media, cyber bullying, anxiety, rape, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse.  These are all definitions that have been forced on us, I will no longer allow these terms to define me!

We can change, and we can learn every day!  It’s not easy at first but there will be better days, I believe in you, we carry the knowledge of our ancestors!  Let their voice within you be stronger.  Let the names that you inherit be louder!  You know what’s best, don’t let peer pressure or repeated cycles continue to let you down! All of these things happened because of intergenerational trauma!

Is it hard to say?  YES but we need to be heard. We need to speak up!  It hurts to say, it hurts to be said, but we hold the answers to making it better.  I have seen all these things myself, and still!  Were here choosing resilience!

Healing Journey Through COVID-19

Interviewed by Laura Knapp

How have you been taking care of yourself during Covid-19 (mentally, physically, and spiritually)?

Physically, I caught Covid last year, I try and take care of myself by taking my vitamins, drinking tea from the land, drinking lots of water. It was more of a mental battle, I wanted to keep elders and high-risk people safe. I made sure to ask for help when I needed, I called around, yea it actually felt weird, but I reached out!

Spiritually, talking to my best friend keeps me feeling good. She is someone that I can be real with, I can ask questions that I struggle with and gives honest feedback.

And taking care of myself mentally, I made sure to go outside and connect with nature around me, breathing in the clean air, and closing my eyes in the sunlight, and being thankful that I am able to be.

Facing adversity: What is your message of hope to other youth who may be struggling during this time?

It isn’t easy everyday, but there is something about myself that I want to continue, I know that there is something that I am destined to do.  I really don’t know what it is, but I keep following the feeling.  I want to share this feeling with you, I want you to know that there are jobs and ideas that haven’t been created yet, there is a way of life that needs to be reimagined.  Literally a new world that we are molding, YES, YOU! Choose yourself, choose your health, turn to your aunties and uncles, your grandparents.  Speak up, it will not be easy.  But that’s not why we’re doing it, we’re doing it because we know we can change!

Photo of my mom, Gladys Lake and her auntie, Maria Friday.  Photo credit by their best friend Nastasia Ulroan

Sharing of Stories and Languages

Interviewed by Laura Knapp

Do you have other resources and important matters that Alaska Native youth should explore more deeply?

I am currently learning about ANSCA and ANILCA. There was one amendment that changed the way we use our lands, changed where we lived, change the rules of living. Changed the way we defined ourselves, our names have been changed, but we have the power (sovereignty) to define ourselves! We can redefine what our future with rights of lands, rights of food, energy, rights of water, rights of and Policies that affect Alaska Natives!!

Let’s continue to learn our language every day!  Let’s read stories about what travelers thought of us Villagers. Combined: our Youth’s ideas, and Elders ideas can create a future like no one else can! Alaska Natives are smart and innovative, and creative!

The Resource Basket

This is a RurAL CAP affiliated program.