Monday, October 16, 2006
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
In 1964, the year of the big earthquake, the village that I grew up in was washed away with the resulting tidal wave. After that devastation we found "arrow heads" washed up from under the ground in different places. It made me wonder what else we could have found. During that time noone was interested in finding out what else could have been found buried around there from years past of our people's history.
In recent years, interest in recovering artifacts and customs from the past is growing. Travel to other places in the United States and even to other countries which have exhibits of our Alutiiq heritage are also part of this restoration.
Dad told a story that was told to him of a stranger who came to Old Harbor. This unnamed man spent time with the villagers and gained their complete trust. The people accepted him, fed him and danced with him. One morning after a big dance/celebration they could not find him or any of their "sacred" masks, drums, regalia, and items that were used only during special Alutiiq celebrations. These items were always stored in a special barabara (sod house) which held only sacred items. That barabara was empty. Antique items including carved masks which were passed on to newer generations, all gone.
As I read of the recent trip to France that our Alutiiq carver's and artist's had traveled in the Alutiiq Hertage's Newsletter, I could not help but wonder if the guy that took all that stuff carried it off from here all the way to France. How did it all get there? We have heard of other different places Alutiiq artifacts have turned up including some items being stored at the Smithsonian.
One of the recent findings are the Alitak Petroglyph's. I haven't read the book Alitak Petroglyphs: Llirluni Cuuliraq Suuiut Alitak Patriitaq From the Old People" by Woody Knebel yet, but I want to. (I just ordered it!) I have done some reading online about petroglyphs though.
The beadwork shown in this post are the necklace and bracelet I created using pictures of the Alitak petroglyphs that I received when I contacted my Native Corporation, Koniag, Inc.
If you are interested to know more or even if you would like to support the Alutiiq Museum (which funds a lot of the work going on to preserve the Alutiiq culture) you can become a member by contacting them from their website. Alutiiq Museum. Their site is loaded with good information and you can even listen to Alutiiq words there. I especially enjoyed the Alutiiq songs sung by Phyllis Petersen. Sharing Words. Quyanna!
The language of the Alutiiq was dying but the Alutiiq Museum & Archaeological Repository suports and has been encouraging teaching these to school kids in the area. It is a very good thing. Personally, I never did learn to speak my parents language as they were taught that their children woud fare better in this world if we only spoke English. What parents don't want their kids to do good in this world? Dad passed away and I don't get to see my Mom as often as I would like to. If I attempted to learn the language it would be better to have someone to converse with. I also find it difficult to speak Alutiiq (or Sugpiat) --- my tongue and throat won't do the right things!
From what I know and have observed of the Alutiiq people, they were a gentle and kind people. It is not a wonder that their culture was almost completely wiped out before this recent surge in interest to preserve the Alutiiq heritage. I find myself to be proud of the people that have worked and continue working towards that end... or should I say beginning.