Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Inequality: No Respect For Our First Nation Citizens (Blog Action Day)

I grew up in a small town, Juneau, Alaska, and not even in the main town, but on Douglas Island, across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau. My neighbors were fishermen, hunters, pilots, entrepreneurs and hard-working people struggling to make a living.

It was an upside down world. In most places, those who live there the longest are the leaders of society. In Southeast Alaska, those who lived there the longest were at the bottom of the heap, the Native Americans, the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. I went to school with them. Yes, the boys carried knives. No, they were not dirty, and none of my little friends in elementary school were drunks. We were kids, we played together, we were all in the same classes all through elementary school – it was a small school.

Many of them did have family problems. There were problems of alcoholism, unemployment, domestic violence and hunger. They weren’t the only ones. The big problem was no respect. Although there were a few pieces of Native Art in the city museum, Native culture and Native craft were given little value. The Native way of life, living off the land, hunting and fishing, had greatly diminished as lands were apportioned off and hunting and fishing activities regulated.

In 1971 a huge lawsuit was settled and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act provided some restoration for the damaged peoples. Alaska Natives now have regional corporations to administer and grow funds to support the culture, to provide education for the children, to provide health clinics and hospitals. SEALASKA began to organize a biennial Celebration, a gathering of all the Alaska natives to share their stories, to celebrate their culture, to dance and to transmit culture to their children. It’s a great opportunity for people you might see every day in their western life to remember where they come from and to be proud of who they are. This Celebration is held every two years and includes Alaska Natives from all over Alaska who want to participate. It is a very inclusive Celebration. The next Celebration will be June 8 – 11, in 2016. You can read a little more about Celebration 2014 here.

They learn the legends of their clans – the Eagles, The Ravens, the Beavers, the Bears and a number of other clans. They spend the time between celebrations stitching together elaborate costumes for their parade and dance exhibitions, hollowing out canoes from trees, making elaborate hats and masks.

We first learned of the Celebration gathering in 2012, when we already had tickets to go back to Zambia at the exact time the Celebration was taking place, but my sweet husband promised we could go back for the 2014 Celebration. As we researched, we discovered just how much of Alaska we wanted to see, and did a reconnaissance trip in 2013. We loved our time there, and we were delighted to be able to return this last year for Celebration 2014.

It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life, to see the gathering, to see the old women cry as canoes came into sight full of young Alaskan natives, and say “I never thought I would see this again in my life”, to watch the exhilaration of the dancers, to feel the energy of the parade and especially – to see the children. To see the pride in marching, in dancing, to see the joy in being able to express who they are and to share that with others. I was moved beyond my ability to express in words; it was a feeling that in one small way, a train of events that had gone very off track had moved incrementally back in the right direction.

Here are some photos from the joyous Celebration of 2014:

 

 00CanoeTrip

00PreParade

00Ravens

00ClawDancer

00Eagles

00Beaver

00TransmittingCulture

Advertisements

October 16, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Generational, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebration 2014: Friday Afternoon Dancing

For the first time ever, the announcer tells us, the groups are all ready on time and the dancers ready to go – they are astonishingly ahead of schedule.

We return as a group of mixed dancers, from many Alaskan tribes, and some dancers with roots in classic “lower 48” tribes, so they all respect one another’s traditions, share, and do a little bit of everything. I kind of like this kind of flexibility. Some of the female costumes are a little ummm . . . skimpy . . . for the cold Alaskan climate, LOL, and some of the tattoos a little un-Alaskan and it doesn’t matter, they make it work.

The Celebration Hall is full and brimming over, dancers and their families in the waiting rooms, behind stage, in the halls, in the gift stores, children wailing for their Moms or Dads, it is totally a family affair. Grandma’s step in and help, and the dance goes on.00Afternoon

00Afternoon2

00Afternoon3

00Afternoon4

00Afternoon6

June 25, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Events, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Interconnected, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Dancers, Costumes, Transmitting Culture at Celebration 2014

I am getting questions about the clans and tribes. I can’t answer your questions. I know there are the Ravens, and the Eagles, and I know they are not hostile but two halves of a whole. I know the raven legend; raven steals the sun – knowledge – and shares it with everyone. He is often shown with a long beak and/or curled around a ball. Eagles have short curved sharp beaks. But, with dispensation, an Eagle may marry a Raven. There are also subgroups, so you can be at once a Raven and a Bear, or a Killer Whale, or maybe a Wolf.

I try to understand, but it is a lot to absorb, and sort of complicated and flexible. As I look at my photos, I can see I was most interested in focusing on the costumes / textiles and less interested in the story. I wish I could tell you more, but you will have to read it for yourselves!

Here is a mural in downtown Juneau that demonstrates some of the artistic traditions of some of the various clans:

00TribalMuralDowntown

It’s important to remember – this is about them. It’s about holding on to traditional values and core beliefs, and transmitting knowledge of the culture to children and grandchildren. It’s not about us. As I said, we are there to witness and observe and celebrate, but they are there to celebrate who they are. Meanwhile, you can share the experience with these photos:

00Dancers

00Dancers2

00Dancers4

00Dancers5

00Dancers6

00Dancers7

00Dancers8

00Dancers9

00Dancers10

00Dancers11

00Dancers12

00Dancers13

00Dancers14

00Dancers15

00Dancers16

00Dancers17

00Dancers18

00DancersAnnouncerSoboloff

The front and center rows were reserved for the elders, and once the dancers started, every seat was filled. There were wet eyes, and open weeping. There were joyful moments, too, when the dancers would invite ‘all the Eagles’ or (something I didn’t understand) to rise and join them in their dance. My own heart swelled to witness their joy.

00DancersElders

00DancersEldersDancing

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Exercise, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hanger at the Wharf in Juneau

First, we really love eating at the Hanger at the Wharf. So does just about everyone else. Twice, we got really lucky. It is easier getting a table if you are just two people, and it is easier getting a table if you eat early. As we are still on Pensacola tummy time, we are in luck. As the Celebration 2014 parade ended, we zipped straight over and as larger groups waited, we were immediately shown to a table for two.

No wonder The Hanger is so popular. The food is terrific and this is the view – straight down the Gastineau channel with Douglas and the cruise ships. As the sun slides behind the mountain, it is a stunning view:

00ViewFromHanger

Some hardier souls were eating outside on the deck. I used to be this hardy, but my years in the Middle East have softened me, made me not so good at eating in cool and drafty places, even in the middle of the Alaskan summer.

00HangerDeck

Inside The Hanger: great, courteous, friendly and efficient employees

00HangerPickUpOrders

Every table taken, the bar is packed, and people are waiting in the hallway to be seated:

00HangerInterior

My halibut tempura:
00HangerHalibutTempura

AdventureMan’s halibut burger and fries:
00HangerHalibutBurger

We liked the food and atmosphere so well that we went back a second time during the ceremonial dances and were happy to see a lot of the dancers eating there, too. I had the first mate’s plate, with salmon and halibut and a berry chutney and AdventureMan had grilled halibut. We both left happy. We would go there again in a heartbeat.

There is only one little thing about The Hanger that makes me uneasy, and it has nothing to do with The Hanger. When I was a little girl, living across the channel, I would watch for my Dad to come home – this was the airport for the amphibious planes, Alaska Coastal Airlines (now part of Alaska Airlines) and Ellis Airlines. When his plane would land, we would all rush to the car and drive like crazy across the bridge to pick him up (no cell phones then, LOL). So I still feel a little frisson and feel the ghosts of the past when I eat there.

00AmphibiousPlanes

June 23, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Photos, Restaurant, Road Trips | , , | 2 Comments

Celebration 2014 Parade Continues

I hope you will forgive me; I am not able to do the same work on the iPad I can do on my computer, so these photos are uncropped, unenhanced, they are what they are. It isn’t about the photos, it is about the people they are celebrating. These are more photos from the opening parade, which was rich with colors and sounds:

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

 

image

image

image

image

 

 

June 19, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Generational, Heritage, Local Lore, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Paradise Cafe Near the Juneau Airport

AdventureMan spotted this gem, near the airport, and said “I want to eat there!” We went inside, and what a surprise – it is eccentric, and quirky, and full of local people eating lunch. We noticed that thanks to the gorgeous display of sweet desserts and pastries, everyone also left with a box for ‘later on’ like coffee break.

They had a selection of ‘grillers’, no menu, everything is listed on the board or on display. It is so hard to focus on lunch when you are looking at flaky pastry confections . . .

I had the tomato pesto sandwich, and AdventureMan had a ham and cheese griller – both rich and filling. We sat at one of the tables, each table different, sometimes people share tables. On each table is a carafe of water, but we also saw a lot of people ordering specialty coffees and teas.

The Paradise Cafe is not a well-kept secret. You and I, as tourists, may not recognize it is there, but all the local helicopter pilots and airport workers know it is there 🙂 It is a well loved and busy place!

image

image

image

June 18, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Restaurant, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Bear in Mind . . .

As a kid growing up in Alaska, I learned to respect bear, and all wildlife. I don’t think they are cute. I think they are creatures like us, who struggle to survive, and who will hurt, maim or kill us if we get in their way. It’s not personal; it’s just the way it is. I’ve seen the damage bear can do; I steer clear.

I did not go with AdventureMan on his bear safari. Hmmm. Let’s see, spend a lot of money to tromp around on a stony beach, maybe cold, often wet, fighting mosquitos and no-place to potty with dignity? Hmmm . . . No thank-you!

But he did get some spectacular bear photos, one I absolutely love, it looks like bears doing the polka, it makes me laugh. I am hoping he will share with me so I can post some bear photos for you later on the blog.

image

image

June 18, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Beauty, Environment, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Travel, Wildlife | , , , | Leave a comment

Juneau and Tracey’s Crab Shack

Getting close to Juneau, we spot these very strange cloud formations:

00WeirdCloudsEnRouteToJuneau

As we dock, we call the hotel shuttle from Country Lane and they are there within minutes. They drop us off at the hotel so we can unload our bags, then take us over to the airport so we can pick up our car.

You know me and public art. I love these sculptures in the Juneau airport, and especially that they have the traditional Haida forms as part of their form:

00JuneauAirportBirds

00BirdCloseUp

It is a gorgeous day in Juneau, 70°, hey, the sun is shining, it is very warm, this is a great day. We head immediately in to town for lunch at Tracy’s Crab Shack.

This is for my Mom; she likes to see the prices 🙂

Screen shot 2013-09-11 at 8.54.20 PM

Tracy’s Crab Shack is one smart operation. First – location location location. They are right on the cruise ship docks. First thing you step off one of those giant ships, you see Traceys. Second, they don’t rely on location. They have a first quality product. They don’t compromise. They cook the crab legs right out in the open, fresh, while you wait. They have crowds standing in line to get these crab legs, and you eat outside at butcher paper covered tables; the crab meals are served in paper containers and you SHARE tables. It works.

00TraceysCrabShack

00TraceysCrabShackSeating

00TraceysCrabShackOrderAndPay

00TraceysCrabShackKingCrabLegs

We share a table with two rough young men and have a fascinating conversation. They drove up, have had fabulous adventures and we shared information. I said that the thing that surprised me was that I expected Alaska to be more wired than it is; one of them said that his big surprise was to find Alaska as wired as it is, and that wifi is available at a large number of cafes and restaurants. That was fascinating to me, to opposite perspectives. Part of it, I think, was being on the ferry system – all the ferries in Seattle are wired, so it was a shock to me that the Alaska ferries were not.

One of our tablemates had now visited all 50 states, and the other had visited
49 states.

We saw people from all over the world lined up and eating King Crab at Tracy’s. AdventureMan had the crab bisque over rice and I had the crab cakes. Eating King Crab legs is messy, and I didn’t want to smell like crab for the rest of the day.

00TraceysCrabShackBisqueAndRice

00TraceysCrabShackCrabCakes

Tracey’s is the number one rated restaurant in Juneau on TripAdvisor and UrbanSpoon. I think it must be the combination of the crowd they attract and the product. Juneau people eat there, too.

September 12, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Public Art, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , | 2 Comments

A Whaling Adventure with Captain Alan on The Scania

This is what we were waiting for – a trip out to see the whales! We researched all the companies offering these outings, and Adventures in Alaska caught our attention because of the maximum number of people they carry – 12. On our trip out, there were 7 customers, Captain Alan, and his brother Andy.

Other whale watch trips were leaving at the same time – with twenty five or more passengers seated side by side in rows INSIDE. On The Scania, there is an upper deck, a lower deck, and an inside cabin and you can move freely up and down and from side to side for the best view, and the best angle if you are shooting photos.

Once we were all aboard, we zoomed down the coast, hoping to see Orcas, and there they were! It was such a thrill.

This is what other boats looked like:
00WhaleWatcher

Passengers have to shoot from inside:
00WhaleWatchers

Leaving Auke Bay en route to the Orcas:
00LeavingAukeBay

Captain Alan moving out to insure that we see Orcas:
00CptAlan

Our first glimpse of Orca
00FirstGlimpseOrca

At first we saw dolphin . . . and then we saw Orcas moving really fast and then some commotion and then . . . no more dolphin. The Orcas are feeding:

00OrcaTailFeeding

Orca diving
00OrcaDiving

These are my favorite moments of all – the baby Orca was just irrepressible, dancing, twisting, diving and twirling – so entertaining, and so cute!
00OrcaBabyGyrating

00OrcaBabyTwirling

We also saw Humpback whales, sea lion, and eagles. It was a truly grand day.

00HumpbacksBlowing

00HumpbacksFeeding

September 3, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Cultural, Entertainment, Environment, ExPat Life, Travel, Wildlife | , , , | 1 Comment

A Trip “Out the Road” to Eagle River

 

One of the things AdventureMan and I did in Juneau was to drive every road. It’s not hard. You drive all the way south, and all the way north on Douglas Island, then you drive out to Thane, then on the Juneau roads, up behind in the basin, and then “out the road.” Everyone in Juneau knows where “out the road” is.

 

When I was a kid, the road got bad just past the airport, on the way to Skater’s Cabin, which I thought was on Auke Lake, but discovered is really on Mendenhall Lake.

00Glacier and Lake

You had to go out the road to get to the airport. You still do, but it is only like six minutes, the road is so good, unless you hit a deer (which we saw happen) and have to stop and call Fish and Wildlife Rescue. You can’t leave an injured animal on the highway.

So we have a morning, and it is not raining! The sun is even peeking out now and then! It’s a beautiful day, we dress warmly and head out the road, out driving all the roads. Look closely, and you will even see blue sky in the photos 🙂  We drive the Lena Point road, looking at all the cabins where we used to go picnicing, then to Amalga Bay, with it’s beautiful still lake and reflections.

00AmalgaBay

You’re just going to have to bear with me as I show you photos with a lot of green in them. It’s not that Pensacola doesn’t have green, but it doesn’t have Alaska greens. I remember in Germany, a long time ago, years ago, having a discussion with AdventureMan about how many different shades of green there are, and ever since then, he has reminded me of that conversation. This year, on this trip, he said “Now I know why you are so sensitive to greens!” Alaska is full of greens, and mostly they are blue greens, and oh, I love the spectrum of blue-greens. 🙂00AmaglaBay2

00AmalgaBay3

As we approached the end of the road, there was heavy road construction going on. Winter is coming, to quote Game of Thrones, and in Alaska that means a short window for all the road reparations that can happen as a result of brutal, icy, rainy, snowy winters. The construction traffic controllers told us it would be about twenty minutes before the pilot car would be back to lead the next line of cars over the broken, rocky, off-road paths, and we decided, in our little 2 wheel drive rental, that we would forego that pleasure. We headed back for Eagle River Picnic Grounds, which were beautiful and serene:

 

This is one of the covered picnic cabins, heavy duty timber

00EagleRiverPicnicShed

 

You can see one of the ferries departing nearby Auke Bay from the ferry terminal00FerryDepartingEagleRiver

00EagleRiverCampsiteView

We head on a little further to the Eagle River Camp Grounds. We are in love! This place is beautiful, with hidden campsites with cabins and campsites for RV’s, but all hidden from sight. No indoor plumbing, but the public restrooms are clean and well kept. You can hike around, there are many trails.

 

Salmon spawning in the stream – the ranger tells us a mother bear and her two cubs were by earlier, but we missed them. You can smell all the rotting salmon on the banks and know that the bear are eating well.00MoreSalmonSpawning

An old dock, long gone, from Eagle River – and look at all those beautiful greens in the background 🙂00EagleRiverCampSites

Seagulls feasting on salmon the bears left behind. Bears are not very efficient eaters; they strip parts of the salmon and leave a whole lot:00SeagullsFeastingonSalmon

A Stellar’s Jay, the kind I grew up with. The Jays in Pensacola are more white with blue markings and much bigger. But look at the blues on his feathers, so intense, so radiant!

 

00StellarsJay

 

We love Eagle River campsites so much you will see more on our way back out through Juneau 🙂

September 2, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Birds, color, Exercise, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , | 2 Comments