Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
We began Easter service this morning in Arctic Village
singing this familiar hymn written by Charles Wesley
in the 1700's, except we sang it in Gwich'in! I could not
understand the verses, but chimed in for the Alleluia's.
May every nation, tongue and tribe praise the Lord!

As we sat in Church this morning I thought of many fond
Easter memories.....

I remember sunrise services with my Mimi and Papa in
Chattanooga at Rivermont in the atrium. It is a good
thing we don't have sunrise services this far North.
We would have to get up at 5am for a sunrise service
in Arctic Village, even then it would already look like the
sun is up because twilight begins at 3am. By May 27th
we will have 24 hours of daylight!

I remember getting new Easter dresses and hats, complete
with white shoes! Today I wore snow boots to church with a
skirt and saw little girls with Easter dresses over snowpants!

I remember Easter dinners of ham and sweet potatoes.
Today we will have caribou and rice.

I remember taking pictures in the driveway by beautiful
blooming flowers on Easter day in Delaware, Indiana,
Virginia and Tennessee. Green grass, fresh blooms and
a sweet smell in the air...spring had come! It is a beautiful
sunny day here in AV for Easter, but it is only 30 degrees
and there is still snow everywhere. We will still be skiing
for quite awhile!

I remember Easter egg hunts in our living room and out
in my grandparent's yard. I even remember one year that
Papa found an egg in his wood pile in August...of course
it was a real egg and very rotten by that point! Today we
had an Easter egg hunt with the whole village! Over 100
eggs were hidden, one with each person's name on it.
We all had to search for our eggs. It took Sam and I
awhile, but we found our eggs. I even found a prize egg
worth $10! That will buy one gallon of gas for the snow-go!

This Easter, our first in Arctic Village, will definitely be
one that I remember!

Blessings to you all! Christ the Lord is Risen Today!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Carnival Games

Spring Carnival is a well loved Arctic Village tradition. The kids have been telling us about Spring Carnival since the day we arrived in the village back in August. They absolutely love all the games, food and fun! Finally the darkness is over and the weather is warmer. Everyone comes out to play for Spring Carnival!

The races kicked off with the little kids piggy back race.

Then, the big kids piggy back race and finally an adult piggy back race. We don't have a picture of the adult race because Sam and I were racing! He carried me to a second place finish!

The little kids were great three-legged racers! I think they must practice!

There was fierce competition amongst the older kids.

The middle schoolers compete in a toilet paper wrap relay race.

The high schoolers toilet paper wrapping.

Even I got in on the adult toilet paper race. It was a lot harder than it looked. My fingers were really cold and the paper kept ripping!

Sam runs a sprint in his heavy winter boots and Carharts.

After the races everyone enjoyed a big caribou feast. Here Gideon stirs the caribou soup.

Jack takes caribou meat off the fire. Ah, more meat!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Culture Week - Part 2 - Food Prep

A big part of Culture week was spent learning about traditional foods and how to prepare them. This is how the Gwich'in people survived for hundreds of years before contact from the outside. Traditionally, they have been hunters, following the caribou. Hunting, especially for caribou, is still a primary food source in the village. Some hunters brought four Caribou to the school and the kids got to cut them up for the potlatch later in the week.
Notice the heads have already been removed. They used the heads for a "Caribou Head Skinning Contest" as a part of the Spring Carnival, so those were skinned and prepared separately. Don't worry, we got pictures of that too.

Grandpa Alo, one of the elders, explained to the kids how to skin and cut up caribou. They started with removing the lower legs. The caribou had already been gutted by the hunters right when the caribou were killed, so the kids were just cutting up the caribou for meat.

Here they cut down the bottom of the rib cage and they have already removed some of the ribs. Later we got to eat the ribs roasted for hours over an open fire pit. Every part of the caribou was cut up and used to make fry meat, stew meat, roasted meat and soup. They even ground up some of the meat to make "Indian ice cream." Yes, you read that cream made of meat! They grind caribou up very fine, mix it with marrow, spread it out on cookie sheets, bake it, then freeze it. They cut it up in pieces like brownies and call it "Indian ice cream." It was my first time every having it. I have had "Eskimo ice cream," which is made with seal fat and berries, but I had never had ice cream made of meat! I personally would call it an acquired taste. Calling it ice cream really through me off. It is rich, but not sweet.

The kids also had the chance to cut up beaver. I have seen people cut up and prepare caribou before, but I had never seen someone skin a beaver before. Check out how big those teeth are! Man they are huge! Beaver meat is really rich and fatty! A cholesterol rich treat that isn't a daily staple, but a special treat for potlatches and big events.

Boys will be boys! Across all cultures, in all settings, children will find ways to have fun! Here the boys decided to start fighting with beaver tails. They also tried to take turns smacking each on the arm with the beaver tails to see if it would hurt. Answer: Yes, getting smacked with a beaver tail sure smarts! Beaver tails are very hard and stiff.
The kids each got to try their hand at ice fishing in the Chandalar River, just outside the school. It was beautiful to just stand back and take in the majestic mountains across the river. They had to drill through 4 ft of ice to create fishing holes in the river.

Alo and Jack show the kids how to tie the line to their fishing poles and explain to the kids how to gently pull their lines up and down to keep it moving as you wait for a fish to bite.
Like any type of fishing I have ever done, ice fishing involved being patient and waiting. Thankfully it was a beautiful day and not too cold. It was well above zero degrees. As you can see, this student didn't even wear his coat, insisting that it is now "sweater weather." Only in Alaska is 20 degrees "sweater weather."

The kids caught this grayling. There are also lush in the Chandalar river. Unfortunately we are way to far inland for salmon, but people in Arctic trade with friends and relatives to get some salmon occasionally too.

Here the kids cut up Salmon brought up from Fort Yukon. Caribou may be the meat of choice here, but salmon is still my personal favorite!

So you may have noticed a theme here; meat, meat and more meat! The bounty of the land up here is definitely animals. It has been a wonderful week of eating traditional foods, but I will confess I snuck home and had a salad in-between meals!

Arctic Village Culture Week - Part 1

It has been a busy week up here in Arctic Village. We had culture week at the school and the community hosted Spring Carnival. Students came from all over the Yukon Flats to participate in Culture Week. We had students from Beaver, Chalkyitsik, Fort Yukon and Venetie, doubling the school's student population for the week.

Each day the students participated in Gwich'in classes to learn their Native language. This picture shows how to say each of the numbers one through ten. I made myself a cheat sheet with phonetic spellings of each word, because they do not always sound like what you would expect when writing the written words. The students practiced their formal introductions; saying their name, their family members names and where they are from.

The students also had the opportunity to learn Native games as a part of culture week. The game pictured above is a string game where each participant has a string tied to both wrists and they are intertwined. The secret to getting free is something with the wrists, but it was really fun to watch the kids try and figure it out.

The students also learned how to use an "Eskimo Yo-Yo", which are two balls made of seal skin. The goal is to get one ball going one direction while the other ball goes the opposite direction. It is pretty challenging, but a lot of fun once you get the hang of it. Yo-yo is actually an Inupiaq game, but the Athabascans of Yukon Flats enjoy playing it too.

One of the main events of the week was dancing! Pictured here, Gideon, one of the elder, and Jack, a teacher at Fort Yukon play a jig for the kids.

Edward teaches the girls the ribbon dance. They also learned a caribou dance, a duck dance and a whole bunch of square dances.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

New Testament Finally Translated into Western Gwich'in

After several weeks of canceled services due to travels and ill health, there was finally worship again his morning.

At the end of service, Trimble the local Minister held up a brand new copy of the Bible, recently translated into Western Gwich'in. I don't know the complete history, but the Bible was translated into Gwich'in near the turn of the century by several Episcopalian Missionaries. The only problem is they were working along the Eastern Porcupine and Yukon Rivers, across the Canadian border so the Bible was in Old Crow Gwich'in, a slightly different written language and dialect then what's spoken in Arctic Village. This has been a project in the works for many years, but finally, a Western Gwich'in New Testament has gone to press and been released to the people whom need it most.

What better way to preserve a dying language then to capture it in this form. I was excited to hear the news, but did not anticipate getting my own copy. As I left the church and shook the Pastors hand he said "Mahsi for coming". Then one of the Elders in attendance handed me my own copy of the Bible in Western Gwich'in as seen below.
This is only a translation of the New Testament.
John 3:16 - "For God so loved that world that he gave his only begotten Son..."
This edition is complete with wonderful illustrations.
"... cast down your nets.... and they pulled in a multitude of fish!"
The Western Gwich'in New Testament was translated through Wycliffe Bible Translators. It was printed and distributed thanks to the Bible League International. Check out these sites, you can make donations to both- I think I will!