Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Celebration 2014 Begins

This is the reason we are here – Celebration 2014. I had never heard of it, it is not well publicized. It only began some time in the 1980’s and I came across it by accident, researching a Native Alaskan hunting mask my Mother gave me. I found a blog written by a young girl from Nome, showing early Celebrations, and explaining it was a gathering of the Alaskan clans.

Wow. This was so totally new to me. Growing up, there was little or no acknowledgement of the First Nation tribes. We were told not to play with the native children; they had knives, they were dangerous. LOL, tell a kid another kid has a knife and guess who they want to play with?

All us kids went to school together. Even as a young child, you recognize discrimination when you see it. Kids have a strong sense of “Fair”. We knew, at a gut level, that not playing with our Native classmates was not right, not fair, and . . . we went right ahead and did what kids do.

I do kind of cringe, thinking of playing cowboys and indians with real Indians, LOL . . . . but anyone could be whoever they wanted to be, so often as not, cowboys were Indian. It’s funny now that I think about it; kids see things differently.

I am not Native American, but this is my connection, my early classmates. You know how sometimes the pieces just come together? Now I know why I worked so hard to attend those nomadic festivals in Douz, in the Sahara south of Tunis, the falcon festivals, why I urge locals to gather the stories and dances and clothing traditions and to preserve them – it’s because I learned to treasure the arts and crafts of the earliest Alaskans.

So I came back not as participant, but as witness. I wanted to see the First Nation people Celebrate who they are, and their own cultures and traditions. I had no idea how very moving I would find it, but once the drums started beating and the chants started, I was weeping.

The best part was the multi-generational participation. The groups were led by elders, but at their feet were the grand children and great grandchildren, all dressed, all chanting, learning the steps, learning the songs, learning the traditions, learning more about who they are. Their faces were full of joy, and pride, and I get a little choked up just writing about it.

The opening parade was not until evening, so we were on our way to the hotel for a quick snooze and we saw the dugout canoes headed toward Juneau, full of chanting rowers.

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AdventureMan quickly turned the car around so we could watch them approach and land. It was haunting, beautiful, the drums, the chant, and a woman next to me, around my own age, turned to me, weeping and said “I never thought I would see this again in my own time.” It was a moment of pure joy.

(This was the end of a one week canoe trip by several canoes: read about it here)

The opening parade was a small problem; we looked and looked for where the parade was due to start and finish. Many in town knew there was supposed to be a parade sometime, but were hazy on the details. Finally, we found the right places, the right street and were scouting parking when a parking police person told us that all the government workers go home at five and the parking enforcement people go off duty at 5:30 so show up after 5:30 and you can park where you want. Wooo HOOOO! Thank you, City of Juneau!

The parade started promptly at 6, led by elders carrying the American flag. Tsimshia’an, Tlingket or Haida – all American. One of the lead dancers was a Marine who took leave to come back and dance with his tribe, leading the younger men in the movements to the hunting dances.

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More images to come 🙂

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June 19, 2014 - Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Community, Events, Generational, Local Lore | ,

2 Comments »

  1. Awesome story! I really love your point of view and the inside look into your childhood. The pictures are very colorful and beautiful. Thanks for sharing with your audience!

    Comment by alaskansonya | June 20, 2014 | Reply

    • Thank you, Sonya, it was an awesome Celebration!

      Comment by intlxpatr | June 23, 2014 | Reply


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