Thursday, July 30, 2009

Learning About My New Home...

"Every view of the world that becomes extinct, every culture that disappears, diminishes a possibility of life." Octavio Paz

"They are representing their cultures daily, they're really young ambassadors."
~This is a quote from the video above and I particularly liked it because all day I was inspired at how these kids were so beautifully representing Alaska and all the different Native Alaskan People.

Today I visited the Alaska Native Heritage Center and dragged Derek, a friend who works with the boys, along to enjoy the cultural/educational/inspirational experience. I like to think he was glad he came along. Who couldn't be after what we were invited into! We learned about the different Native Alaskan groups and where each is from, heard stories, watched traditional games, enjoyed traditional dances, ate traditional foods, wandered through a trail that has a traditional structure from each group, in each structure there were students who would share with us about the culture of that particular group of people and what was important about the structure. I was saddened to learn that one of the groups on the pan handle, the Eyak, are nearly nonexistent, they lost their last fluent speaker several years ago. It made me think of home and appreciate the importance placed on our students at LCO in learning their ojibwe language. How necessary it is to know who you are and how much of that is in a language. We don't always realize it but, if you've ever had the opportunity to speak another language, it really is interesting. There are thoughts and feelings that you can not translate to other languages. Therefore if you were to lose a language, dying with it are those unique pieces of life that only it can share. It is sad, but also something we can all be aware of and supportive. On a happier note as we traveled the trail, in and out of the different living quarters, we came upon the Inupiaq structure in which there were a few tourists ahead of us asking typical touristy questions to the sweet young girl who was stationed at that particular site. I'm thinking to myself that these poor kids must get sick of answering the same silly questions repeatedly. Not minding my own business, I overheard the inquiry "So what is this?" and thought that peripherally I saw a rather mystified man pointing at an obviously 'polar bear rug/hide' draped over a bench. I snickered under my breath, but when the witty gal shot back her answer I literally doubled over laughing out loud, "Oh, that's our Seal Retriever." It was too much, simply hilarious, I applauded her and snorted around laughing. The entire group of them, including herself turned and looked at me puzzled. Apparently, I was the only one who got it? "Seal Retriever??" I laughed again "Polar Bear-Seal Retriever, that was a good one..." She smiled at me pitifully and held up (this time in my clear view as well) a maraca looking device with two very sharp ivory tines sticking out of it, which the man had been inquiring about. "This is our seal retriever" she stated again and chuckled while the man just turned his back to me probably offended at my insulting assumption that he was asking about what a polar bear was. "...oh, I see." I responded sheepishly..."I thought you were making a joke, golden retriever...seal retrie...yeah anyway, I'm just gonna go now. My work here is done." I am so me. Foot in mouth. Maybe she'll use it sometime to keep her day entertaining, who knows. Derek thought it was funny. Of course maybe he was laughing at me, I didn't give him time to share either way, quickly moving on to the next 'structure' which turned out to be the public restrooms and he just kept on laughing.
This is where we spent the better part of today taking in so much incredible information that I need time to process! Absolute must see if you get up to the Anchorage area.

These are pics of the traditional structures that the Yupik/Cupik people lived in. If you look real hard you'll be able to find Quinhagak on the orange map too.

"...that’s one of the ways you build community -- you sit and listen to the other guy’s story. Don’t ask how long have you been here (every Alaskan asks each other that), or where’d you come from (most Alaskans ask each other that too). Let’s go back further, and really build an intercultural connection and ask who were your grandparents? How did your parents meet? Where’d they come from? How’d you ever wind up here should be further down the list."
~Father Michael Oleska
I just finished reading a great book by him Another Culture/Another World and the link below is a speech he gave that covers a snippet of what his book covers, I recommend it. I like the above quote.

"Love from the center of who you are, don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle....Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with (everybody); don't be the great somebody."
Romans 12:9-10,15-16

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rach,
    Your mom and I just had dinner together. She said you missed a good meal. I made Penne Vodka. We miss you but know you are happy and that makes us happy. I am going to look at your pictures now and will call you later. Have a great night. Love ya, Amy