Shareholder Spotlight: Luke Titus
Elder Luke Titus is from Minto, Alaska. He serves as the First Chief of Denakkanaaga and on the culture advisory board for the PBS show Molly of Denali. Titus shares his story to inspire and encourage others to seek sobriety and healing.
Growing up, Titus was immersed in his Native language and culture. He was raised traditionally nomadic, moving with the seasons to fish, hunt, and trap. He was raised with a strong sense of community and learned to look after others in the village.
When he was 12 years old, Titus was sent to boarding school in Wrangell. This sudden transition from the village to a dormitory school was a very traumatic experience for Titus. In boarding school, children weren’t allowed to care for each other and were separated based on age.
“It was very difficult because, in the village, we were taught to care for each other and to look after the small children. At night, you can hear children in another dorm crying and we were not allowed to go console them,” Titus said. “It was really sad and one of the things I learned was how do I cope with that, how do I cope with the change of transitioning from the village.”
“When we spoke our language or sang Native songs, we would get severely punished for it. When we came back from boarding school our parents didn’t know how to treat us and I never spoke my language to my parents anymore,” Titus said. “It’s so traumatic what we experienced. Our Elders tell us not to think bad about what others do to you and it’s really difficult to do.”
After high school and forced assimilation into western culture, Titus turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism. After many years of heavy drinking, he made a choice on February 5, 1985, to never touch alcohol again. This choice was simple and, with the right support in place, he has been successful to this day in his path to sobriety.
“We made an agreement with the boarding school that we weren’t going to talk about what happened to us,” Titus said. “I have a chance to talk to our young people. I tell my story and it’s part of my healing and if I share my story it will enable others to heal and receive sobriety themselves.”
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