Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hunting Tradition in a Changing World: Yup'ik Lives in Alaska Today

Fienup-Riordan, A. (2000). Hunting Tradition in a Changing World: Yup'ik Lives in Alaska Today. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.

This book shows changes the Yupiit went through in their hunting experiences. They are connecting their communities with the larger world. By that I mean that the Alaska Natives are working around the environment changes to keep hunting. It’s hard work to subsistence hunt and fish, including the rules and regulations everyone has to follow. Fienup-Riordan mixes her essays and individual Yupiit narratives in this book to show experienced hunters and their view of the hunting traditions. Some examples in this book are hunters teaching themselves and others about their past and present lives; how they maintain their cultural identity, even when they move away from native villages; and working with museums to show the exhibition of Yup’ik ceremonial masks. Ann Fienup-Riordan has lived and written about the Yupiit for twenty-five years. She knows a lot about the Yup’ik history and oral tradition. After reading her articles it influenced me to know more about the traditions and cultures in Alaska.

Alaska Native Ways: What the Elders Have Taught Us

Natives of Alaska, (2002). Alaska Native Ways: What the Elders Have Taught Us. Portland, OR: Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company.

The Alaska Native Ways book is about Natives who realize that the traditional values and practices have maintained their cultures for over 1000 years. It shows respect to the first Alaskans and their old values they needed for survival. Today, Natives of all ages know they have connections to their origin. It will interpret a new character in the next century. This book will give the viewer a peek into the cultural life of Alaska Natives. It announces the cultures are living and the traditions are growing. Some of the values include show respect to others, see connections, honor your elders, accept what life brings, have patience, pray for guidance, live carefully, take care of others, share what you have, and know who you are. This book is powerful because it is written by many Alaskan Natives who believe in their culture and traditions. Understanding of your ethnicity and background is important.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Politics of Wilderness Preservation

Allin, C.W. (2008). The Politics of Wilderness Preservation. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press.

Craig W. Allin explored the history of wilderness preservation politics in the United States. Preservation politics in America have stories that can be further developed in American history. Allin has very good points and facts to support his arguments. The wilderness was seen by the Americans, as an enemy to destroy. In the 1900s, there was a drop in resources and the American citizens saw the wilderness as a valuable and vanishing resource. They seen their mistake to want to destroy it, so they created environmental policies. Public policy is what we value as a society. The policies have a significant political and economic impact. Allin explores their status today and their uncertain future. This book helps people to see the importance of our wilderness, just as the Alaska Natives see it. I am happy that there are policies that citizens have to follow; otherwise, our wilderness will be no more. This is a good book for environmentalists and policymakers.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Alaska Native Art

Fair, S.W. (2006). Alaska Native Art. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press.

Susan W. Fair is an original, brilliant woman, who just did not bring artwork alive, but brought life to native artists, who were neglected to scholarly studies. She includes in her book the years of experience she had working with Alaska Native artists. She represents a particular contribution to our understanding of Alaska Native art. There are many great descriptions of the artwork and the artists. My relative, Ellen Savage is in this book, famous for her doll making. She was Deg Hit’an Athabascan from Holy Cross. Most everyone loved her dolls for their uniqueness. The dolls were used for play, but nowadays they are used for display. That is an example of what this book contains. This book has a lot of beautiful art that makes me want to read the whole thing. I have not seen or heard of many of the art that are included in this book.

Alaska Federation of Natives

The Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) is the largest Native organization in Alaska. 178 villages participate in this convention. There are also 13 regional village corporations and 12 regional nonprofit and tribal consortiums that run federal programs. AFN is supposed to enhance and promote the cultural, economic and political voice of the Alaska Native community. The convention encourages culture, be satisfied with the government's decisions, help with Alaska Natives needs, protect the lands of Alaska Natives, and have programs to give natives pride and confidence.

Eskimos and the Real World

This image is of eskimos on the Bering Sea. This is pretty much what people out in the states think of all eskimos in Alaska. They see them as people, who wear fur and have round faces, live in igloos, run dogsleds, and ice fish. They don't see that Alaska is just like the other states, but colder. People who don't know about Alaska make a fool of themselves by making assumptions. They think that we are the humor, but we are really not. This is just some arguments that I have, and thoughts that I had when I saw this image. I would like Alaska to have a different image in peoples minds, instead of being all about eskimos.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Native Youth Olympics

Native Youth Olympics is about the spirit of our ancestors. Four-hundred youth from across Alaska compete in Anchorage to show their skills in traditional Native games. It first started in 1972, and it is based on Alaska's cultural heritage and promoting a healthy lifestyle. The events are games and life skills of past generations to test their hunting and survival skills. They also increase strength, endurance, activity, and balance the mind and body. Anyone who is 7th to 12th grade can participate even though they are not native. The games are called stick pull, one arm reach, wrist carry, foot high kick, kneel jump, scissors broad jump, seal hop, foot high kick, arm pull, and Alaskan high kick. These activities are easier if you really put your mind to it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Baskets in my Culture

In my jr. high years I went to school in Holy Cross. The district would have workshops or camps to learn more about our Athabascan culture. The surrounding villages would take turns with us every year holding a workshop at our schools called Yukon Innoko River Days. They would have all kinds of different classes based on Athabascan ways. People in the community would volunteer to teach whatever they knew. I attended the willow root basket making. The roots are died a different color and soaked in water. While making the basket you must keep the roots wet at all times, so they will not dry up and break. There is a little poker tool that you use to get the roots through to the other side of the basket. My basket only got about 2 inches wide and long because it's time consuming and I had a few hours a day to work on it. Baskets were very reliable a long time ago to hold food for people in the tribes. They worked very well to feed the young and working men.

At Culture Camp, also called Spirit Camp, they taught us how to live in the woods. The camp lasted for one week. When we got to the camp grounds, we would set up camp and everyone would take turns helping out to cook dinner. We only cooked native foods over the fire. The volunteers of the camp would take us moosehunting and fishing. We also got put in groups and had to make a fire with one match that was wet. I was happy because my group was first, and if we didn't make the fire right but succeeded anyway, they showed us the proper way afterwards. The thing I liked most about the camp is that I made a birch bark basket in that week. We used everything around us. We dug up willow roots, peeled bark, and used berries to die the roots a different color. The only thing we didn't get from nature was the poker to poke holes in the bark. I was very proud of my accomplishment!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Passing it on!

"Everything that is made causes us to remember." "Let us make our ancestors' known to our younger generation, allowing them to see through the eyes of our few remaining elders as they explain the use and construction of these cultural materials" (Fienup-Riordan, 1996).
This quote made me think about our ancestors and all the hard work it took to develop the culture we have today. I think we are disrespecting them by not carrying on their traditions. We are losing our resources and destroying our land because of this. When we catch and kill an animal, we have to respect its spirit so more animals will provide us with food. We have more tourists coming to Alaska every year and I don't think they have any idea about our respect for the animal spirit. I'm glad that people are teaching about our tradition and trying to keep it alive. Maybe if more people know about our tradition they will teach others who don't know about it, so they will know to respect nature.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Living in two Worlds" and The Converging Knowledge Streams

Converging streams of knowledge means coming together in Western and Native knowledge systems. Students who learn of both are living in two worlds. The old Minto culture camp is an example of the streams. "Our mission is to honor our ancestors by preserving and protecting Athabascan values, knowledge, language and traditions. We aim to facilitate the passing on of these things from elders to youth, and to share our culture with others in the land of our grandmothers. We carry out these goals in the spirit of healthy lifestyles and education, and with respect for ourselves, the Earth and all life" (Barnhardt, 2005). The old Minto camp can help to learn the knowledge and value of the masks in different cultures.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Masks and the Spirit World

The masks represent images of powerful ancestors, animal spirits, and mythological beings. They are carved into wood or bark and there are many sizes. The smaller ones are used to teach children traditional stories. They are also carried by adults to protect against evil or injury. The bigger masks are used in ceremonial performances. Some masks you hold up with your hands or teeth and others were tied around the dancer's head. A long headed mask is a sign of power and authority. The whistling mask brings in spirits. After ceremonies the masks are broken and thrown out. They are part of communicating with the spirit world, which is dangerous. They are also used to respect animals so they will keep providing us with food. The masks are still used in Kodiak today and the traditions are mixed with Russian Orthodox and American beliefs.

Video about Pinart and the masks

The masks coming back to Alaska is a great way to show the importance of them in the Alutiiq culture. The masks are powerful and you can see this just by looking at them. They might mean nothing to one person who does not know about them, but to a person who has lived to know them, they mean the whole world. This link takes you to a site just for the masks:

Giinaquq: Like a Face Exhibit

At the University in Anchorage, I am taking two classes that link with each other. We are learning about different cultures and heritage of our native people. We went to the Anchorage museum downtown to see the Giinaquq Exhibit. Giinaquq sort of means "like a face" but it also means the place that carved the images of people, animals, and birds in the Alutiiq society. In the winter of 1871, Alphonse Pinart went to Kodiak to learn more about the natives. He visited all the little villages around Kodiak, getting around with a kayak. On his journey, he collected 70 masks. He knew they were important and had a lot of value in the native culture. They represent the spirit world, and are used to communicate in dances. He put them in a French Museum; it is the largest set of Alutiiq masks. They have survived two world wars. The masks are amazing, and they have interesting faces and meanings. They are back in Alaska for a limited amount of time in the Anchorage museum until January 2009.