Átway Wakámlat (by Roger Jacob)

Congratulations to Roger Jacob for winning 1st place in the adult category of the #SuperAuntie Writing Contest! Please enjoy reading Roger’s interview responses and winning entry. Thanks again to everyone who entered the contest, the awesome panel of judges, and to all of you who’ve read the winning entries from our fabulous youth and adult authors! The Auntie Way is all about honoring the kindness, fierceness, and creativity in our communities and ourselves–all of our award-winning stories demonstrate this in really powerful ways. Thanks for being part of The Auntie Way community!

Name: Roger Jacob

Hometown: Wapato

What is your advice for other writers?

  1. Come up with an idea or theme, and start typing whatever pops into your head onto your computer. Just start cranking out sentences and paragraphs.
  2. When you feel like you’ve got a decent amount written, go back and begin rearranging and editing.
  3. Then let whatever you wrote sit for a day to cool off. After one day, re-read it and make your final edits.

What are some of your favorite hobbies? Digging, picking, shooting, and catching ndn foods.

What is something you enjoyed about school when you were a youth? Girls and sports.

Anything else you’d like to share? In writing my Super Auntie essay I followed my own writing advice. After writing for what seemed like just a little bit, I did a “word count” and surprisingly had about twice as many words as the 500 word limit. I couldn’t believe it. In my initial writing I merely scratched the surface in listing some of the ways my Auntie Wakámlat cared for, inspired, and mentored myself and so many others. The fact I had to cut and leave out so much is a testament to the sheer super-ness of my Auntie Sue. This writing contest proved what I and all her other nieces and nephews have long known. Our Auntie Sue was truly a 1st place champion super Auntie of not only the Yakama Reservation, but the whole wide world. Kw’ałanúushamatash.

Title of story: Átway Wakámlat

My Super Auntie is Átway Wakámlat, a.k.a. Auntie, a.k.a. Sue Rigdon. Auntie Sue was one of only two Indians I recall being on staff at the Wapato public schools I attended K-12 on the Yakama Reservation. My Auntie Wakámlat was a Jr. High school counselor and Mrs. Miller was a playground aid.

Auntie had a husband (Uncle Mel), three sons and a daughter close to me in age who are my cousins, like brothers and sister Indian-way. The first time I remember Wakámlat auntying-up on me was when I was in the 4th grade. Her oldest son and I were in the same grade and got into a fight on the playground. I don’t remember over what. Probably something important like who was better, the Dallas Cowboys or the Washington Redskins. The person who hit the hardest in this fight was the principal, as he hacked us both with a board. The next time I saw Auntie she asked me why I was fighting. I told her I didn’t know. She told me when the principal called her about us fighting it made her sad. That simple statement had a powerful effect, as it made me feel both terrible and like I never wanted her to hear about me fighting again.

Wakámlat wasn’t just my Auntie, she was Auntie to hundreds of Indian kids who went to Wapato public schools. She not only told us to get good grades, play sports, speak our language, sing our songs, and practice our dances, she facilitated it. Auntie started the Wapato Jr. High Indian Club and designed and purchased blue satin Wapato Indian Club jackets as an incentive. All the Indian kids and even some White and Mexican kids all wanted one of these jackets. You couldn’t buy one. You had to earn it. Auntie set up a system awarding points for grades, participation in cultural performances, sports, and extracurricular activities. If you earned enough points, you earned the jacket.

After I graduated high school, my dad was being nch’i tútanikni ts’ɨ́x̱aas (repugnant) and I got the boot. When I was a homeless 18 year old, it was Auntie Sue and Uncle Mel who welcomed me into their home. Shortly thereafter, I joined the Navy and they continued to mentor and encourage me to be good and to do good. They both have meant and done so much for me that when my first child was born, I humbly asked them to be the godparents.

A few years ago Auntie passed. Her funeral was held in a church on the Reservation. I couldn’t get into the church as it was already full of Auntie’s nieces and nephews. I paid my respects outside the church with their godson and several rows deep of more of my Auntie’s nieces and nephews. As I stood outside the church I prayed in Indian and asked my Auntie, why’d you have to die? It makes me sad.

Credit: Quote from Yakama Rising by Michelle M. Jacob

Engage with more awesome Auntie stories in The Auntie Way. Order autographed copies here.

Published by Michelle M. Jacob

Owner of Anahuy Mentoring

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