Mongolian Delegation visits Nome
A group of 15 Mongolian officials arrived in Nome earlier this week to learn how Alaskans address domestic violence. The delegation included law enforcement, medical and social workers as well as two translators.
All but one of the members of the delegation were women. The National Center Against Violence and the Mongolian Embassy organized and funded the trip, the first of its kind. The delegation visited Anchorage and Juneau, and stayed in Nome for about two days.
During their time in Nome, the Mongolians, who are all affiliated with the National Center Against Violence, met with members of the Nome Social Justice Task Force and the Bering Sea Women’s Group.
The purpose of the trip was to form a partnership with Alaskan organizations and to take what they have learned here back home. One of the main differences, legal reform coordinator Arvintaria Nordogjav said with help of a translator, is that the American structure is more systematic than the Mongolian way. Here, she said, each organization has one specific purpose and all the organizations work together for the larger goal of ending domestic violence. Mongolia, however, does not have any countrywide programs to combat domestic violence.
The delegates toured the Alaska Department of Law office, Anvil Mountain Correctional Center and Norton Sound Health Corporation to learn about the organizational aspects of each. Another important theme was how to deal with domestic violence, and it’s origins, on a personal level.
Four members of Nome Social Justice Task Force, a group that started as a program for racial equity but took on other problems, spoke at a lunch meeting on Monday.
Kawerak’s Lisa Ellanna summed it up, “We talk about not so fun things, but important things.” Three of the attending members work with Kawerak and are Alaska Native. They spoke of the oppression of the Native people during colonization and how that trauma has lead to many issues today. “People don’t understand why things are so hard,” said Ellanna.
The Mongolian-English translator looked a little perplexed when women began speaking in Inupiaq, but that is how many attendees introduced themselves. The women’s Inuipaq choir sang for the delegation, which in turn sang a song in their Native language.
The Alaska and Mongolian populations have several similarities. Tsernajav Altantsetseg Director at Law School of Otgontenger University said that Mongolia, like the indigenous American population, also has a history of colonization. In 1990, the once communist country adopted a democratic government. Since that time, the rate of domestic violence has risen. Nordogjav noted that the level of domestic violence in Mongolia is high, in part because the once nomadic population was forced to settle in cities.
The only way to combat the issues facing the Alaska Native community today, such as alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence, is to talk about it. “Silence is just agreeing with it,” said Kari van Delden, Cooperative Extension Agent with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Northwest Campus and member of the Task Force. The conversations seem to be working so far. The Social Justice Task Force members agreed that, although the positive changes have been small, they have been noticeable.
At the end of the meeting, Bertha Koweluk spoke about Beauty for Ashes, a program she plans to bring to the Nome region. The faith-based initiative works with both victims and perpetrators, or “those who have harmed and those who have been harmed,” as Koweluk put it. The five-day program includes 14-hour two-way conversations, during which each person contributes equally. The goal is to conduct healing through story, to trace problems back to their roots in order to work through them. “Until we look at the past, we can’t move forward,” Koweluk said. This rings true both for individuals and for the Alaska Native population as a whole.
The delegation ended their day in Nome with Eskimo dancing and a potluck.