Modify Ways of Thinking

I'll never forget my first day at school. I had waited for this day for years -- to enter the white frame building where my two older brothers and sisters read books and learned to write their names. I was six years old, and didn't know a word of English. Excited, I jabbered away to all my friends in Inupiaq. From the front of the room, the teacher studied us closely. He was a big man with giant hands, dressed in a white shirt and tie. He walked slowly around the room and suddenly, out of nowhere, his great big hand grabbed me round the neck. He shoved a big bar of soap into my mouth, right in front of all my friends. "No one here will speak Inupiaq," he ordered. I worked hard to master English after that. I never again wanted my mouth washed out wth Fels Naphtha for speaking the language I'd grown up with.

John Tetpon, "Between Two Worlds: Growing Up in Alaska," Alaska Native Magazine (summer) 1988.