Ukuganaadan has had a great run at the Anchorage Museum. The show was extended from the original ending date in mid-January to April 14 at the request of the museum staff and the public. If you are in Anchorage by the 14th, go see the show. It is a beautiful show by Unangan artist Gert Svarny.
Happy Thanksgiving was the shouted greeting all last week. Have a great holiday came in second. I know that some folks were wondering if they should wish me anything at all considering the brouhaha all over the news about what the real Thanksgiving was actually like. I could see it in their eyes: What do you say to an indigenous citizen during this holiday?
I say let it evolve. We, and by we, I mean those brought up in indigenous tribal cultures, have long known the real story. We have always known about the hellacious genocide during the expansion of America. We have always known about and managed our assimilation. As my grandmother used to say “It’s too late for sorry now,” meaning that it was too late to change what is, or what was to happen. I don’t mean don’t go there. I mean learn it, embrace it, and add it to your true facts about America. Stand up when you see injustice. Speak for indigenous cultures when you see something unfair or hateful. By doing that you may understand why I can say I am thankful and greatful for my ancestors surviving the genocide and assimilation. I am thankful for my Slovakian father. I am greatful for the father of my children. I am thankful for having been given the gift of indigenousness and being able to pass that on to my children.
We have the best of both worlds and we have the choice of expanding our horizons in so many different directions. Our table is laden with the choices of all cultures. Literally. So we raise our glasses filled with wine, or coffee, or water, or beer, and our shot glasses full of whiskey or tequilla, and the Hungarian who cooked the duck starts with being thankful for all of us coming together and we all chime in with cheers, salute, cin cin, et cetera and clink glasses all around. And eat too much pie.
For millennia salmon has been our lifeblood, touching every community with it’s nutrition. This has been a hard summer. The fish have been scarce all over Alaska with the exception of Bristol Bay. We hope that our salmon are not disappearing and that this summer was just an off year. Our salmon have to contend with many obstacles to make it home to our streams: warming waters, hazardous wastes, plastics, pollution, and becoming by-catch of fishermen fishing for other species. Once they get here, we make sure the escapement for spawning is sufficient for future years. Our subsistence foods feed our physical nutritional needs, but also fill our cultural needs; one is just as important as the other. (Turn the sound down…that is just our constant wind drowning out the sound of splashing salmon.)