November 24, 2008

Giinaquq "Like a Face"

Coming on the end of this class project. I have attended many different events for the celebration of Native American History Month and after visiting the Anchorage Museum to see the exhibit I would like to say finally, at least Alaska received 34 of the masks back to exhibit.

Like African masks each Alaskan made mask has a meaning behind it and because of circumstances beyond my elders control the art of mask making is dying.

There is an artist in Anchorage who carves masks out of cedar. I have also seen traditional artists work at the Alaska Native Heritage Center to see their work visit

I still say that many of the current artists like Henry Chennault making Yup'ik masks are exploiting a tradition without really understanding what the masks meant to my people. I say that Henry never grew up in Alaska and just studying art does not make you an expert in the field. There are stories, myths, traditions and more that goes into a mask and there is a meaning to them. I do not think that Henry Chennault does not have the history.

My family and I plan on visiting the Anchorage Museum soon.

End of Blog..................

Saturday 22 November 2008 11 A.M.

Willie Templeton and his guests appeared at the Campus bookstore talking about how organizations are preparing for another "great migration" from rural Alaska to urban Alaska...namely Anchorage.

Life has become harder, living out in the villages. The gas prices this past summer went way past four dollars a gallon. With many communities getting gas when the rivers were open they paid even more this year for the gas or heating oil.

With the staples in stores also going up in price many people may make the decision to move to Anchorage where prices are high but not as high as they are in the village.

I don't know if families will make this major step because it costs money to move too.

Do I think that a great migration will happen? Yes, maybe. Look at the village of Igiugiak - they were in danger of closing their school because they did not have enough kids enrolled (10) to keep the school open. Well the village attracted a family to move there with 4 more kids - then they were able to keep the school.
What would have happened if they could not have found a family? How dependent is the school on the community? How much does the school involve the community?
I would like to know more.

Friday 21 November 2008

Too bad the Aleut's do not have a letter stating that the masks in question were only on loan.....If that were the case then Alaskan Aleuts may get their masks back.

Thursday 20 November 2008

In the News

The national news reported today about how the government of Peru is planning on suing Yale University for the return of their priceless artifacts.

The University says that even though a contract says that they were going to "hold on to and study" the artifacts that in fact they are now the owners of the priceless artifacts.

Isn't that stealing? How could the University hold onto possessions they clearly sought only to borrow?

I think that the Peruvian Government is entitled to all the artifacts - and the Yale University granted a letter thanking them for being good stewards and nothing more. If this goes to court they may lose.

Independent Lens November 19, 2008. Marchpoint

The woven story is of three young Swinomish Native American's who are growing up on their reservation. The young men's names are Travis, Nick and Cody.

The beginning of this documentary shocked me because it started with a back story about how the kids at the center of this film are sitting down and being candid to the camera about drinking and doing drugs. They say that they started this documentary because they made a deal with their drug counselors to get out of their therapy sessions for a couple of times so making the film was an alternative like Anchorage offer's Youth Court.

They said that they were approached by a film maker – they wanted to be in a movie about rapping or in action films but the movie they were to work on was about the environment and their tribe.

The first interview is with an elder talking about the old times and the clams.

The next shot shows a shell oil refinery – then the kids are with Todd Mitchell at Marchpoint. It is hard to film or clam there the people say because shell security does not like to let people onto the refinery's property. Todd Mitchell has to analyze the clams. Every year the refinery does a big clean up at the refinery sites and would dump the toxic earth on the reservation. This story is about two oil refinery's.

The Chief says that his dream is one day his people can reclaim Marchpoint. He says that Marchpoint used to be Swinomish land. Allan Olsen the a formal tribal attorney explains the treaty with the United States history and that the land that the shell oil refinery is located on is actually tribal land.

This story is about how making this film changed these kid's lives.

The kids interview family members about their traditions and interview fishermen whose lives are drastically different from their elders (they showed old pictures with racks filled with fish) saying that there is hardly any fish any more. They also interview people who say that they will not stop eating and gathering the fish despite the poisons now being found in the fish.

Dr. Barbara Clure talks about having to talk to her patients about not eating too much of the fish. She says it is hard to give her patients advice to eat like their elders did because their environment has changed so much. A representative of Shell says that all the water discharged from the refinery is cleaned and that the land was purchased in 1958 from local landowners so it is not the tribes land.

I liked how candid the filmmakers were throughout this film. It seemed like these three are so close – even to the point of getting in trouble together and even planning long term of where they would go to treatment for their alcohol.

Billy Frank Jr. a fishing activist who speaks out about the refinery and the ownership of that land in dispute at Marchpoint. He says that in order to prevail – the future the young people will have to carry own the fight to maintain fishing rights. What a daunting thought.

John Trudell even granted them an interview. It was amazing to me because I know how big he is from the Alcatraz 1969 events and the movie “Thunderheart”, he is also a musician and a writer who fights for all Indigenous rights. I was surprised to see him be interviewed. He said that he was a young man when he was involved in Alcatraz Island so it made him proud to see kids like the filmmakers getting involved.

Larry Campbell talked about the people who started to work at the refinery because the pay and benefits were good. He worked there too. He says that his people are very social like marriages, weddings, death, smoking fish he decided to quit because it was ruining his lifestyle (native).

It was hard to listen to one of the boys talk about how the filmaking has changed him – he said “I don't know where I would be if I wasn't doing this....maybe I would be living out on the street or something....I don't know” I also was watching Cody's body language when he was showing his dad the film he was totally different from how he acts around his friends. Cody actually acted embarrassed and shy around his dad. I could see how he loves his dad.

The kids traveled to Olympia the capital to interview the Governor. The director of Indian Affairs for the Governor Gregwire instead the talked to Craig Bill who is Choctaw and Snowmish tribe. So they were talking to one of their own tribal members. He advocated writing letters to Congress. Part of Mr. Bills advice was to travel to D.C. to interview Senator Murray. The day they were to interview Senator Murray they woke up at 7 a.m. The interview was not part of this film. They also spoke to Representative Rick Clark. They did not get any answers about Marchpoint but they thought it was very important to tell the people they talked to about what they were doing. They said it was fun being in D.C.

They said that after they got back from D.C a lot of things seemed the same but they felt different. The elders supported what the kids were doing.

The story then comes full circle where the boys express how they like working with the camera to tell a story. They end the film dancing on a wall back waving their arms back and forth. The film then goes through some still photographs and where the boys are NOW.

What a message and story.....watching the teens grow....learning about their people.....learning about their struggle with environmental and tribal issues and finally the teens fresh eyes to the issue of their tribe.

November 18, 2008


I decided to write some reflections today about a topic that came up after class yesterday.

The topic is civilization. What exactly is civilization? America is modeled on Europe to see and understand this you just have to look at the names of America's cities like New York or New Brunswick, Athens, Bristol, Oxford, Memphis, Paris and more.

Why has the peoples who have immigrated to America tried to re-create the places they have come from? Why after trying to completely destroy the Native Americans, the people who were on this land first do they impose their own identities, past and ideals on the peoples of this country?

Below is a search of the Internet for the definition of civilization:

Definitions of civilization on the Web:

* a society in an advanced state of social development (e.g., with complex legal and political and religious organizations); "the people slowly ...
* the social process whereby societies achieve an advanced stage of development and organization
* culture: a particular society at a particular time and place; "early Mayan civilization"
* refinement: the quality of excellence in thought and manners and taste; "a man of intellectual refinement"; "he is remembered for his generosity and civilization"

* A civilization or civilization is a kind of human society or culture; specifically, a civilization is usually understood to be any type of culture, society, etc., of a specific place, time, or group. ...

* Civilization is a 1916 pacifist allegorical film about a submarine commander who refuses to fire at a civilian ocean liner supposedly carrying ammunition for his country's enemies. He sinks his submarine, but survives, and is taken by Jesus to Hell to see what devastation war can do. ... (film)

* "Civilization" is a popular song. (song)

* Civilization is an album by Vancouver industrial band Front Line Assembly, released in 2004. This album marks the return of Rhys Fulber after his departure in 1996. (album)

* Civilization is a series of turn-based strategy video games produced by Sid Meier. Basic gameplay functions are similar throughout the series, namely, guiding a civilization on a macro-scale from prehistory to the present day. The series has enjoyed long-lasting popularity. ... (series)

* Civilization: The Card Game is "an original tabletop card game [for 2 to 4 players] designed by Civilization IV lead designer Soren Johnson, featuring more than 250 custom cards and rules based on Civilization IV. ... (card game)

* Civilization is a board game designed by Francis Tresham, published in Britain in 1980 by Hartland Trefoil (later by Gibson Games), and in the US in 1981 by Avalon Hill. The game typically takes eight or more hours to play and is for two to seven players. ... (board game)

* "Civilization" is the 8th episode (production #109) of the television series ''''. (Enterprise)

* Sid Meier's Civilization is a turn based strategy computer game created by Sid Meier for MicroProse in 1991. The game's objective is " build an empire that would stand the test of time". ... (computer game)

* A stage or system of social, political or technical development of a large scale order encompassing several or many communities, often on the nation or people scale. (ancient civilisations; western civilisation; the Aztec civilisation. ...

* a degree of human social organization marked by the continual acquisition of new truth from the unknown and right from the chaotic, which in the ...

* In each section, civilizations are in danger of being destroyed, deteriorating, or already devastated.

* An economic engine built on ideas.

* Large coin hoards indicate the profits of raids and trade with the British Isles, Mediterranean, Byzantium, and Muslim Asia. Export of furs, slaves, arms (to eastern Europe), and mercenary services to rulers (eg, bodyguards of Ethelred, Canute, Slavic princes, Byzantine emperors). ...

* Generally understood as a more advanced form of organized life; civilizations usually have more complex forms of social, political, military, and ...

* Societies distinguished by reliance on sedentary agriculture, ability to produce food surpluses; and existence of nonfarming elites, as well as merchant and manufacturing groups. (p. 9)

* W ay of life that includes political states based on cities with dense populations, large buildings constructed for communal activities,diverse economies, a sense of a local identity, and some knowledge of writing.

* A culture with people who have settled in an area and worked together to build a society in which science, the arts, and a form of government are ...

* a complex society with a stable food supply, specialization of labor, a goverment, social levels, and a highly developed culture that includes art ...

* an urbanized society with a large very complex social

* Societies that have advanced culture including a political system, job specialization, written language, and complex religions

* s cannot exist without the ability to produce a reliable agricultural surplus. Civilizations are often defined by the amount of workforce ...

* games are a rare genre of RPGs in which the players either play an entire civilization, or play leaders of those societies. ...

* Term used to denote a society who has reached a level of development that includes producing excess food, building cities, establishing a government, and keeping written records.

To ask why or to reflect on this question one must ask whether we Native Americans were civilized upon the arrival of the Europeans I say that we were. We had societies who had a system of government.

Our system of government has been copied by the government of the United States. So who defines what civilization is?

November 17, 2008

I wrote yesterday about the masks in France and their potential return to Alaska. My Grandmother told me a story once about a huge piece of mastodon ivory our family had in Bethel.

A man from the lower 48 had his eye on it for some museum. But what the man did was terrible, he got one of my Grandma's Uncle's drunk and bought the piece for some whiskey. This is not the first story I have heard about how priceless art pieces have found their way into museums or collections.

It is up to this generation to seek the pieces of the past and bring them home. I believe like my mom, and ancestors that the masks carry a spirit. That spirit is now separated from it's origin.....split from itself. Sometimes I think that there is a growing split in my own culture with the Yup'ik language dying out and not being used anymore, our subsistence way of life under constant attack and urban sprawl coming to our villages.

I have heard about this half Yup'ik man who lives in New York or somewhere back east who carves masks copying them from the Smithsonian. Is that really our culture? How different is that from the Chinese copying our artwork and selling it. There is a difference - the culture, the stories, the meanings are not there anymore. That man copying his ancestors did not learn his craft from an elder, does not know the stories behind the masks he is a fraud but his artwork sells and is in many galleries. He is exploiting the Yup'ik culture like many collectors have for centuries.