Building Both Toolsets

By Nyché Andrew

“The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” – Audre Lorde

Date of publication – The quote above suggests that better treatment of others cannot exist on the terms of the oppressor. In my first semester of college, I felt as if I was leaving my home and family in order to earn an education and the skills to equip me for the future, like I was completely disregarding a set of Traditional tools for the Master’s tools. The tools of the Master in this case reflect the dominant, Western societal structure.  Oftentimes, Indigenous youth share the same feeling of having to sacrifice time with family in exchange for a Western education that comes with the hope of comfort for their future. But what if we as Indigenous youth did not have to let go of one set of tools for the other? We are not solely living in the Master’s house since we have our very own house. There are two houses: One house, the Traditional house, built on generational knowledge of our values of love and respect for our family, ancestors, and land. The other house, the Master’s, was built from Western values and standards of education and business. What if we built a toolkit with tools for both houses?

Learning how to use the Master’s tools is critical for understanding how the Master’s house is built. Knowing how the Master’s house is built helps us see how we can rebuild the foundation of the Master’s house to support Indigenous people. By building tools for both houses, we can expand our arsenal and be equipped with a mix of skills prepared for the job of maintaining and thriving in both houses. With our toolkit for the Traditional house, we are empowered to carry the tools of culture that strengthen us to build our Traditional house; at the same time, our toolkit for the Master’s house empowers us to move around bravely between the two. The strengths of both tools give us the powerful ability to cement the foundation in our Traditional house and rearrange the foundation in the Master’s house to be livable for Indigenous people.

In times when I doubt if I am on the right path, I am reminded that I am doing what is best for myself, and therefore my community. I am strengthening myself with two toolsets. It would be dangerous for our people to not be equipped with the Master’s and our Traditional tools. The Master’s and our Traditional tools are the items we use to survive in the Master’s house and protect our Traditional house. We are emboldened to build our Traditional house upon the land of our people, it is our right to do so on behalf of those we have lost. 

To my fellow youth who worry that they are not strengthening their Traditional tools enough because they are sharpening their tools for the Master’s house, be assured that you are doubling the power of your multipurpose toolset for the future of our families.

Nyché “Skavaq Sivulliuqti” Andrew is Yup’ik and Inupiaq Alaska Native, from Anchorage, Alaska and a student at Yale University. She has worked to uplift Native people, specifically within education.

Nyché is a member of the Native and Indigenous Student Association at Yale, a research assistant within the Yale School of Medicine department of psychiatry assisting in research regarding Alaska Native and American Indian communities, and a part of the Yale Undergraduate Legal Aid Association. 

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