From the land of saints, the faithful Orthodox in Unalaska, Alaska wish you a Merry Christmas. This evening was the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord. Tomorrow we begin our tradition of following the Star of the East. For three nights we will visit parish homes and sing carols. We call it starring as we carry a large, decorated star and the star spins as we sing.
The title of this post is in Unangam tunuu, or the Aleut language. We also say the phrase in Slavonic. Khristos Razhdayetsya!! Slavite Yego! And in English. Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Ugigdada, or share, is a very important Unangan value. It relates to anything that can be shared, as opposed to just sharing a resource. Examples are work, joy, responsibility, happiness. Most importantly though, the Unangan shared the food that they acquired from hunting and gathering. It is still one of the first values that is taught to youngsters who are learning to provide for their families. You are responsible for providing for your family, but you are also responsible for ensuring that your community has enough. If someone cannot hunt due to illness, you share what you get with them. You are responsible for making sure that the Elders in your community have enough traditional food to keep them not only healthy, but happy. You can expect to be treated the same way under the same circumstances.
My husband Caleb and I fish. It started out that we would help mom and dad as they got older, but has evolved from the first moment. We fish, but we wouldn’t be fishing the front beach if our brother-in-law didn’t share his boat, engine, and net with us. We wouldn’t be very successful fisherman if we didn’t have the help from sons, nephews, grandsons, daughters, and friends who share their strength and time in helping us pull in the net. With all the new regulations in fishing, having to monitor the net makes it hard for us to take care of the fish immediately like we have been taught. So my mother shares not only her most excellent filleting abilities by being responsible for filleting the fish, but she also shares her knowledge by teaching all of us how to fillet. This comes in handy when we just tire her out and then we step in. My dad shares his knowledge in producing the final product whether it be dried fish, smoked fish, canned, or frozen. There is no one who knows more about the brine, the wood, and the timing.
Eating the foods that we grew up eating is so important to us. Not only are the foods healthy and good for us, but they provide a feeling of well being. Because of this, Mom and Dad make sure they send food to family who does not live here. But she also thinks of her “old pals”, so we have food going to the Pribilofs, Anchorage, Juneau, Seattle, and where ever someone may be spending time.
Just a quick note about basket weaving grass. A longer post will be in the subsistence pages shortly. Mom, Diane, and I are in the process of splitting the grass we picked in July. We are looking for the inner blades to use in weaving Unangan baskets. It is a long process from the picking to the splitting; and the splitting is pretty slimy and dirty!! Just one more thing to do to keep us honest and out of trouble!!