Visions of fishing


My mother and I have noticed that time seems to be whizzing by particularly fast this year.  We are already into May.  Mom informed us she is not fishing this summer.  That is a daunting statement coming from her, as she had taught all of us that salmon is one of the most important components of our lives.  Her reason?  No time.  She is in the final preparations for a show at the Anchorage Museum.  When she announced that she would not be fishing, we were all a little stunned.  Not that she actually “fishes” anymore, but she is still the catalyst that drives the process.  She is an unrelenting stickler for perfection in her subsistence practices.  From catch to filleted and prepped for final process is typically never more than 15 minutes or so, depending on the number of fish hitting the net.  Usually we must twist her arm to let us do the filleting.  She just loves the whole process.  So, we shall all step up to the plate this year to see if we have learned well and have what it takes.  I have the faith.  It is unfortunate that one of the best fish cutters will be self-exiled for an intense language immersion opportunity this summer.  This is an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up.  Our language, Unangam Tunuu, has only fluent speakers who are over the age of 70.  So, while we all have our own visions this spring and summer, we know in our heart of hearts that we will fill our freezers, our drying and smoking houses, and our salt buckets to the best of our abilities.  Having had the best teacher in life, we will be successful.

6 thoughts on “Visions of fishing

  1. You will be successful! You must be successful! Only to make your “best teacher in life” proud about you. And good luck to your mom with the show she is preparing for. And what about the new generation? The youth does not learn your Unangam Tunuu language? I believe they have this obligation to keep the Unangan language and culture alive for generations, and not only they, but, I also think that it’s a global tendency nowadays to not keep our language, culture, traditions and customs alive. We experience a mixture of everything, and we forgot the god origins.

    1. Well, it is my daughter who is going to the language immersion class to bring her teaching skills back home. She will host my grandson, her nephew, for 2 weeks of the class, so he is also learning. It has not been a choice to lose our language. It was, unfortunately, the policies of assimilation of the United States when Alaska was purchased. It is not as easy as 1,2,3 to bring a language back from the brink. We have been working at it for many years. We are hopeful.

  2. I am curious about your mother’s show in Anchorage. Could you elaborate? Also, Unangam Tunuu: could you tell us how to pronounce it?
    I appreciate your posts. I used to live up there in the 70s. I miss it.

    1. My mother is Gert Svarny. When she won the Most Distinquished Artist Award from the Rasmuson Foundation last year, it set in motion an invitation to show at the Anchorage Museum. The show, “Ukuqanaadan (oo-koo-kuh-naaw-thon) Visions: The world of Gert Svarny’s visions”, will open September 7th and run through January 20. Her vision for the show is to showcase the continuity of an enduring culture by bringing together generations of artists, her family, beginning with her grandfather down through the generations to her grandchildren – maybe beyond; each generation taking from the other to learn and create and to show the resilience of art as a means of bridging generations, of adapting to new circumstances, of being able to raise consciousness to an issue, and to raise spirits. So she has the world on her shoulders….we all just have a little piece. So we’ll do the fishing. Unangam Tunuu, the Aleut language is pronounced oo-nung-um too-noo.

      1. Thank You! This is very interesting to me and, I’m sure, exciting for you all. I appreciate the pronunciation. I’m practicing. 🙂

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