Unangan traditions revisited.

Gert Svarny teaches Unangan design.
Gert Svarny teaches Unangan design.

Consider giving your time to supplement programs at the local schools.  Gert Svarny, winner of the 2008 Alaska Governor’s Award for Native Art and an internationally known Unangan artist (and my mother) is currently working with the third graders at Unalaska’s Eagle’s View Elementary School.  She is teaching the students about traditional Unangan design.   Thanks to the Unalaska City School Board of Education and administration, and the Ounalashka Corporation for funding to provide this after-school program for the students. 

Gert  worked with the fourth graders last week and they created some beautiful paper full-crown hats. 

4th grade faux Bentwood hats waiting to go home.
4th grade faux Bentwood hats waiting to go home.

The third graders will be working on the same project.  The first and second graders, in the coming weeks, will be making rattles from clam shells utilizing traditional Unangan design components.

The students have been very diligent workers.
The students have been very diligent workers.

The design portion of the Unangan Program was preceeded by a segment taught by me on the medicinal and edible uses of plants by the Unangax in the Aleutian region.  We got to make fun concoctions with plants such as Wormwood Oil, Angelica Salve, Yarrow Lip Balm, Cranberry Sauce, and Bering and Pacific Bath Salts.

Olive oil being infused with the angelica plant.
Olive oil being infused with the angelica plant.

Future segments will include a study of birds in the Unalaska area with local expert Suzi Golodoff, and a class hosted by Laresa Syverson (my youngest daughter), the content of which I know not, but know absolutely that it will include a strong language component. 

Thanks go to Mary Downs, Program Coordinator, for her great coordinating skills,  and Ms. Pat Ellis, ESL teacher, for the awesome help she has been to the classes and for the use of the resource room. 

If you want to volunteer to help the teachers in this program, call Mary Downs or Heather Jones at 581-3979.

3 thoughts on “Unangan traditions revisited.

  1. What a great post! Thanks for sharing, it’s so cool to see what’s going on in the Unangan progam, I wish I had kids in that school still!!

    1. I can’t believe that all of your kids are in the big school! Even though we only have 40 minutes with the kids, we can do a lot and the kids are having a ball.

  2. Sharon, love this blog! What great stories. I was in St. Paul for 5 weeks last summer and one of the things I got to see was learning how to make wallets from seal esophagus, along with all the birds and seals. It taught me a lot about what wonders are within a small isolated island.

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