“Welcome to my country”

On the van to Seward, I struck up a conversation with the driver and the passenger riding shotgun. 

I offered the passenger a stick of gum and we made our introductions. His name was Jim.

He asked if I had ever met a real Eskimo before. I said I hadn’t. Now you have, he said. 

He said he was of the Yupik people native to Alaska.

“Welcome to my country,” he said.

I could feel my throat closing up and tears begin to sting my eyes. I thanked him and then sat back in my seat.

How many times had I heard someone yell out the side of a car, or walking down the street, “Go back to your country!” or “Go home, terrorist!”?

I had always wanted to retort, in some shape or form, “Go back to yours, squatter.” But I never had, because squatter is really awkward to pronounce and they probably didn’t know that word anyway. 

“We’re the real people,”Jim said. 

It was nice, after 25 years, to finally get a real welcome. 

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