Saturday, 28 May 2016

Alaskan Journal Part 11

A day of culture and celebration. Culture when we visited the Native Alaskan Heritage Centre for a few hours. Celebration when we joined our friends of 35 years for their 40th Wedding Anniversary, which coincides with their son's wedding over here.

The Native Alaskan Heritage Centre was a fascinating place as it enabled us to learn more about the Native Alaskan peoples and their customs and to put their present position in Alaskan society into context. It's not all eskimoes and igloos: in fact it's never eskimoes and igloos. Taking the long view, it's a tale of colonisation, the possessed becoming the dispossessed, the haves becoming the have-nots. It's a tale of cultural desecration and partial cultural resurgence. We've read this sort of scenario so often in other countries and with other cultures. Sadly, it's what we white people/Brits do. I/we do get angry at the injustice of it all.

After the doom and gloom of cultural repression, we had an evening of liberated fun with around 40 people in a hotel on the outskirts of Anchorage. An interesting place as it was directly under the landing path of float planes on a neighbouring lake. Every few minutes something flew in with a splash or flew out with water dripping off the floats: an out-of-the-ordinary scene.
Native Alaskans doing a Native Alaskan dance with Native Alaskan insouciance. I probably should have been more impressed than I was.
Forget the detail on this poster. Just concentrate on the patterns and colours. These represent the many languages and 'tribes' of Native Alaskans. I didn't know about these.
The representative dwellings in the centre were all variants of a theme: underground or built up with soil for insulation.
The business end of a smokehouse. Photograph taken as a design reminder for future use.
A collection of husky dogs. Forget Hollywood's depiction of woolly bundles. These are slim working dogs. A very animated dog-handler gave us a chat about their treatment and what they do. They all seemed pretty relaxed and enjoying the sunshine.
Some of the tribes have a tradition of carving totem poles replete with symbolism. And, no, I don't know what this one means.
And a detail from another. The God of Depilation?
White-crowned sparrow.
It may be small but once it threw its head back and swelled its chest, it really belted out its song.
Some of the celebrants at the anniversary meal.
The Harry Laws Memorial Joke: "These must have been running at a hell of a speed when they hit the wall". RIP Harry Laws.

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