Commentary: Rise up and work together

Village students and Cordovans now have a chance to learn music virtually with Dancing with the Spirit new music education program. This 2016 photo shows Mike and the Rev. Belle Mickelson with the Rev. Helen Peters and Tanana’s junior high and high school students. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Belle Mickelson

“Rise up… and work together.”  That was the message on a recent Facebook post by Steven Charleston. What a great idea — and one that Cordovans are known for accomplishing.  Cordovans are leaders — and great at helping each other.  Think what we did during the oil spill.  We jumped right in and took boats and buckets to clean up the spill.  We were on TV and in the newspapers — spreading the word, organizing flotillas, and caretaking the kids and elders who were left at home.

I’ve been feeling energized lately — excited about the future as I see Cordovan leadership again — this time during a pandemic!   We are wearing our masks, social distancing, supporting a phenomenal medical response team, offering free COVID tests, quarantining, gearing up our food banks, used clothing, and housing options, sharing our fish, moose, and berries, checking in on elders, calling friends, exercising outdoors, and offering shopping services at all our stores.  I’m so proud of our hospital, clinics, and city officials spending so much time developing mitigation plans — and our school teachers, staff, and students working to keep students safe — and in school.   Cordova Arts and Pageants, Cordova 4H, Stage of the Tide, Current Rhythms, the library, museum, school sports teams, Bidarki, the Bob Korn pool, and the Ski Hill are revising plans and following pandemic guidelines to keep students happy and involved.  Parents and grandparents, aunties and uncles, friends and neighbors — have all stepped up to help care for our kids.  One reason I’m extra enthused is because we are getting ready to launch a whole virtual Dancing with the Spirit music program to the villages and beyond — based on our Cordova 4H Music Camps.  

With a divisive election coming next week — I think it is extra important for us to reach out to our neighbors with different political viewpoints.  Look for common ground.  We all care about fish, this beautiful place we live, and keeping Cordova strong and healthy.  We all love our kids!  And we can remember times when other families helped us — and we helped them.   Let’s work together and come up with more projects to bind us together and make us strong.  Last Friday night, some of us lit candles on the breakwater to remember children lost along the southern United States border as they and their families tried to seek asylum.  Cordovans do care about not only what happens here — but people in other places.   And we can help here and around the world, too.   I’ve often thought that we can make a big impact toward world peace — just befriending all the people from the many nationalities that come in the summer to help us harvest and process our fish — our fish that help feed the world!

I would like to end with much love, many prayers, and blessings — and this post from the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, retired Episcopal bishop and member of the Choctaw Nation that has so much wisdom for people of all faiths and nations.

“Rise up, rise up, rise up people of faith, rise up and work together. Now is the time when you are needed, now is the time of your great witness. The shadows of sorrow still linger over many homes, the old fears still wait at the street corner of our cities. Look, you can see the Spirit already at work in the lives around you, bringing comfort to the elders, food to the families, healing to the sick, mercy to the poor. Rise up, rise up, rise up, people of faith, for your help is needed now, your chance to make a difference has come. The world is weary of the illness that has taken so many, the hearts of your neighbors are longing to see a sign of hope. You are that sign. You are the messenger of good news. Rise up, people of faith, rise up and work together, for you are grace that can be seen, you are love that can be felt, you are joy in a land that needs to remember joy is still possible.”

The Rev. Belle Mickelson is the priest at St. George’s Episcopal ( and and director of Dancing with the Spirit (, a program to teach guitar and fiddle in the villages.