In 1910 an International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. Clara Zetkin, leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed that every year in each country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands. Thus International Women’s Day was born.
In my strong, matriarchal society of Unangan women in Unalaska, I have had many stellar examples upon which to base my life attitude. My mother, Gert Svarny, continues the values and ethics that her mother Alice Hope instilled in her. Even my younger sister and my own daughters have taught me a thing or two about strength and character. I am lucky to have a public reference about my grandmother to show my children and grandchildren how devoted she was to her community, by the love shown her at her death. In his book Moments Rightly Placed, author Ray Hudson writes: Then on the afternoon of December 4, 1966, Alice Hope died in Washington state. The next day a service for this deeply loved woman was held at Unalaska, and when her body arrived five days later, Anfesia (Shapsnikoff) assisted Father Ishmael Gromoff in yet another service. Anfesia stayed all night with her departed friend, in the company of the Hope children and grandchildren and friends, until the service at the church on December 11th. Anfesia noted in her diary, “had Liturgy with Mrs. Hope’s body; after funeral service walked her up all the way.” Carrying the coffin the length of the village from the church to the graveyard was an act of uncommon devotion.
Who is the woman, or women, in your life who have guided you on your path? Gentlemen…this is a question for you also.
I have come to the possible conclusion that when I post something to a ‘page’, it doesn’t get recognized by wordpress as a real post. Tell me if I am wrong. I have posted the above titled piece on my Subsistence page.
When you live in Alaska there are just certain things that you expect. You expect the long days of summer when the sun barely sets before coming above the horizon again. You expect to spend a majority of your time hunting and gathering from May through October. You don’t know when, but you expect that first dusting of snow on the mountains, more commonly known as termination dust. And you expect it to be cold. In the Aleutians, we also expect wind.
February was called Qisagunax^ by the indigenous people of the Aleutians prior to 1834. This means famine. February was the month when you were gaining about 4 minutes of daylight per day. It was the month when you had already braved the storms of November, December, and January. It was the month when you were coming to the end of some of your subsistence foods. So food was scarce. The communities were hungry. It was a time when you needed to get out there and find something to eat again.
It is amazing that February is also the month during our long winters that can have some of the most beautiful weather. Perhaps my ancestors knew this about February, so they were not particularly careful about their food stocks. They did like to party and were generous to a fault. Perhaps they knew they could count on the most gorgeous, brilliant sunny days in February, when the tide was out really low. And the winds abated. They could get out in their iqyan and fish, or hunt for that stray sea mammal. Or access the tidepools for delicacies like sea urchins, mussels, clams, octopus, limpets, chitons, and seaweed. Then they would hunker down when those north winds picked up again, coating everything in ice from the sea spray.
On days like these ones, I like to pull a fish out of the freezer and enjoy the fruits of our labors from the summer months. I like to be warm and toasty in my little home, not caring what is going on outside my doors. Like the windows, everything has a hazy, muted feeling of being cut off from the world. Especially if the wind is blowing and your ability to hear anything besides the wind is gone. Yes….just hunkering down and enjoying my solitude.