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Gathering of Alaska Native Wisdom Bearers

I wish there were more extensive notes on the talks. But the audio/video and maybe a transcript will eventually be available.

Ethel Lund said she was a bit taken back about being called a “Wisdom Bearer.” “I feel that with gray hair, wisdom doesn’t come automatically, so I’m still in the stage of learning myself. My grandmother said you’re always learning until the day you leave and I find that to be true,” she said.

Words of Wisdom
By Robinson Duffy, Published October 25, 2007

Since 1968, the University of Alaska has awarded honorary doctorates to 43 Alaska Natives. At a meeting Wednesday morning, dubbed the Gathering of Alaska Native Wisdom Bearers, many of the surviving holders of honorary doctorates spoke in the Davis Concert Hall to an audience of high school students, visiting Alaska Natives in town for the Alaska Federation of Natives annual conference, and other community members.

The nearly four-hour meeting was recording on audio and video and will be archived by the university… More than a dozen elders spoke during the meeting. What follows are brief gems of wisdom gleaned from some of those speeches.

…The Rev. Walter Soboleff, the first Alaska Native to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska… was born in 1908 in Killisnoo.

At least two are nonagenarians. Unfortunately, Rev. David Salmon did not live long enough to give his address.


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Reverend David Salmon, Athabascan nonagenarian

The first link to the audio story is quite good. Father Salmon and Peter John (another nonagenarian) were extraordinarily accomplished.
Rev. David Salmon

Flags are at half-staff across Alaska today, following the death of an Athabascan elder and leader. The Reverend David Salmon died yesterday. He was the first traditional chief for the Tanana Chief’s region, and the first Athabascan ordained to the Episcopal ministry.
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
http://aprn.org/2007/10/12/alaska-remembers-tanana-elder-david-salmon/

  • The 95-year-old cherished Gwich’in elder has been first traditional chief since August 2003, following the passing of Chief Peter John of Minto. The position is … held in high esteem.

  • Last Modified: October 12, 2007 at 02:43 PM
    Athabascan traditional chief Salmon dies at 95

    FAIRBANKS — The first traditional chief for the Athabascan people of the Interior died Thursday at his home in Chalkyitsik. The Rev. David Salmon was 95. “He was sitting in his favorite chair when he passed,” Salmon’s granddaughter, Patricia Salmon”

    http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story/9374481p-9287881c.html

    Father Salmon’s biography is here, from the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments,

  • http://www.catg.org/gallery/elders/DavidSalmon.html
  • and another one is here, Tanana Chiefs Conference–

  • Chief Salmon, who was first made Chief of Chalkyitsik at the age of 29, helped shape the community and was instrumental in building a school and starting a store. He introduced the first Christmas tree and potlatch, and built the church by hauling 90 logs at the age of 70, using only a chainsaw.
  • Chief David Salmon – “My father saved my life”
  • He received an honorary degree from the University of Alaska.

    “Athabascan elder Rev. David Salmon, traditional chief of Chalkyitsik and second chief of Interior Alaska villages with the Tanana Chiefs Conference, just celebrated his 90th birthday, was the first Gwich’in to be ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church where he served for more than 42 years.

    Salmon has had a life-long interest in education and sharing his cultural knowledge with others through programs such as UAF’s Elder in Residence program and the Academy of Elders, an intense immersion program for certified teachers intent on developing K-12 curriculum and teacher training programs. Salmon has collaborated extensively with UAF’s anthropology department and has been a Geist lecturer at the University of Alaska Museum for the past five summers. Salmon is considered a master toolmaker and his tools, fish traps and canoes are on display at the museum and in other university buildings. Salmon is a founding member of Denakkanaaga nonprofit elders’ organization. In January, the David Salmon Tribal Hall was opened in Fairbanks and dedicated by TCC in recognition of a lifetime of service. Salmon will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws.”
    http://www.uaf.edu/commencement/2002/hdr.html

    Chief David Salmon 2006
    Chief David Salmon Traditional Athabascan Tool Collection, a new art acquisition purchased jointly by Doyon, Limited and the Doyon Foundation.

    “I knew that if I didn’t make the tools, that they would just stay back there to be forgotten… How can the young people learn without seeing the tool? The Athabascan way is to teach by showing you; then when you see, you will learn. That is why when I speak about a tool, it must be in my hand. That is how it always was; that is how it should be.” — Chief David Salmon

    … in the summer of 1994, Chief David Salmon began to craft a collection of tools, illustrating the pre- and early post-contact technology of theAthabascans of Alaska’s Interior. Most of these tools were used in the Athabascans’ subsistence lifestyle into the 1920s.

    http://www.doyon.com/pdfs/news_august04.pdf

    Both Chief Salmon and Chief Peter John spoke widely about their religious faith.
    “The history of this country is not known,” Salmon explains his reasons for doing that book, plus another on the oral history of his people. “Young people do not know it. Old people die with it. Well, I don’t want to die with it. I want the young people to have it.”O’Brien, Thomas A. 1997. Athabaskan implements from the skin house days as related by Reverend David Salmon. Thesis (M.A.)–University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1997. OCLC: 42066842

    The Gospel according to Peter John
    # Publisher: Alaska Native Knowledge Network (1996)
    # Language: English
    # ASIN: B000BSFGQY

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    Gladys Jung nonagenarian

    5-9-07, by Greg Lincoln, Delta Discovery

    Beloved elder Gladys Jung of Bethel celebrated her 90th birthday last week. Many friends and loved ones came to wish her a happy birthday at her comfortable home near the Kuskokwim River.

    Gladys was born on April 30, 1917 in St. Michael to parents Oscar and Annie Hall. Her mother was from St. Michael and her father was from West Virginia. … Gladys is a University of Alaska Fairbanks Alumna, graduating from college with a teaching degree. She returned home where she taught in the old village of Nunacuaq, which has long been gone. In Nunacuaq she worked as an apprentice teacher. She remembers burning coal in the stove for heat. The teacher she worked with had the main school and she would send the little ones to Gladys, who was learning how to teach.

    “There were no chairs and the kids would stand at the table and do their work,” she said.… Shortly after, she married Henry Jung and together they had nine children. The couple was asked to open the school in Napaskiak, which had not had a school before.

    “My husband made little tables, there were no desks,” she recalls. “We traveled by dog team and by […]

    Gladys was also an active member of the Senior Center. A few years ago she recorded a radio ad against the use of iq’mik (sometimes ikmik), a mixture of chewing tobacco and “punk” or tree fungus ash, which is used by adults and even children. She then became known to the latest group of schoolchildren as the “Iq’mik Lady”
    Gladys Jung iq’mik YKHC ad


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  • Iq’mik
  • Add this to Bookmarks:

    Dr. Lydia T. Black

    Dr Lydia T. Black, at Kenai Fjord, July, 2002 by grandson, Andrew McEvoy

    Dr. Black survived Stalin, forced labor under the Nazis, refugee status, and never suffered fools, the pompous, the bully, nor laziness or sloppy scholarship. She was fond of cats, dogs, children, and those needing a friend in a strange land.

    The following is summarized from documents at Lydia T. Black 1925 to 2007 and from the Kodiak Daily Mirror

    Widowed with young children at 44, she went to college and finished her BA and MA in two years and her Ph.D. in another two years.

    She studied at Northeastern University and Brandeis University in the Boston area before receiving her doctorate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She joined the faculty of anthropology in 1973 at Providence College in Rhode Island. She moved to Alaska in 1984 as Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks, whence she “retired” in 1998.

    She continued her work in Kodiak, where she helped translate and catalogue Russian archives of St. Herman’s Seminary. The Orthodox Church in Alaska recognized her contribution by awarding her the Cross of St. Herman.

    She wrote at least 66 more books and articles appearing in publications as diverse as Natural History, Arctic Anthropology and Studies in Soviet Thought and was a contributor to various exhibits and conferences on the Arctic, including the Library of Congress’ Meeting of the Frontiers, the New York Museum of Natural History’s Jesup Centenary Congress and the Smithsonian Institution’s Crossroads of the Continents.

    One of her best-known books, “Aleut art — Unangam aguqaadangin” is a collection of beautifully photographed and carefully documented art made by Alaska Natives of the Aleutian Islands. Another, “Russians in Alaska, 1732 to 1867,” was published in 2004, the year Lydia turned 79.

    In 2001, Russia awarded her the Order of Friendship, honoring her contribution to promoting cross-cultural understanding between Russia and America. She received the Alaska Anthropological Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 and the Alaska Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for the Humanities in 2005.

    Lydia was born in Kiev, where her grandmother came to live with the family. Her grandmother instituted an educational regimen for her which included two days per week of speaking Russian, two days per week of speaking French and two days per week of speaking German. On Sundays, the family could relax and speak Ukrainian. It was decreed that Lydia would study English in school. Lydia’s grandmother would take her to the ‘secret church’, hosted by three elderly women – the KGB eventually did arrive to arrest them.

    Lydia’s father was executed when she was eight years old. At 16 (1941) her mother died of TB. Lydia was picked up into forced labor for Germany. At war’s end, Lydia was in Munich and got a job scrubbing toilets in American officers’ quarters. They realized Lydia could speak six languages (she had learned Polish during the war) so she became a translator at the UNRRA’s displaced children’s camp.

    Lydia met and married Igor A. Black. They then emigrated to the U.S. in 1950. Igor became a thermodynamics engineer whose work on the Apollo Mission was officially commemorated by NASA. Lydia was a full-time wife and mother. Suddenly Igor died in 1969, leaving Lydia alone with three teen-aged daughters and a toddler. With her older daughters’ consent, Lydia returned to school as a full-time college student.

    Dr Black died in Kodiak, AK, with family, friends, Orthodox services, and the feline sibling companions Masia and Vasia present. Masia, brother Vasia, and companion human Lydia Black
    Masia, faithful guardian during Lydia’s illness would wake Lydia in the middle of the night, to great complaint. However, Masia seemed to be sensing something physically awry in Lydia’s breathing while asleep and was waking her to “reset” her. Masia would reach over and: Slap-slap-slap, at which point Lydia would sputter and tell the cat to stop it. [Click on small picture to enlarge.]

    Anthropologist Lydia Black Dead at 81
    Casey Kelly, KMXT

    KODIAK, AK (2007-03-13) Anthropologist Lydia Black, author of many books on Alaska Native culture and Alaska history, died Monday morning of liver failure at her home in Kodiak. She was 81. © Copyright 2007, apti

    audio file (mp3 format), click to play or right click to download and save.


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    On-line history making

    How to organize photos and text across time and space (collaboration amongst multiple people, known and unknown, the quick, the will be, and those who came before)?

    The Al-Can and Aleutians WWII special project has been interesting for finding the limitations of the the existing “cyberspace” and “virtual communities” of “Web 2.0” that are all the buzz. [Running into the barriers came from day one; inadvertent trouble-shooting is a specialty skill of mine.]

    While Flickr and blogs (MySpace, LiveJournal, and the new one for the middle-ageing, eons.com), are by definition solipsist and therefore especially useful for exhibitionism and voyeurism; they aren’t yet easy for creating and retrieving information.

    from an E_lder-mailer, RE: On 8/15/06, A social networking Web site for Americans aged 50-plus went live on Monday — complete with an online obituary database that sends out alerts when someone you may know dies and that plans to set up a do-it-yourself funeral service.

    http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2006/08/15/ new-social-networking-site-for-age-50-plus-americans/


    Indeed precisely what I was looking for. The automatic obituary and the self funeral! All these while the new definition of planet assigns 53 to our solar system. School books re-writers will be in demand [i.e., hire the over-50].

    There are speciality websites for recording genealogy and family history. The more extensive ones require an annual fee. Many of the data sites are free, such as the Latter Day Saints archive. The web log might be an ideal venue for people to record anecdotes– one can record brief remembrances or notes as they occur; each post is dated; the text can be archived (a little more difficult, currently); and the postings can be collected into a more polished history or biography later. WordPress.com now allows for private posts. However, as I hope becomes clear, the interaction with others is needed.

    Family histories can be done without the Internet, of course— The archival quality rag bond notepaper and Noodler’s permanent ink with “copperplate” script writing, recorded in great detail everyday by great great so-and-so, a nosy Parker with nothing better to do and who didn’t mind answering even the “cheeky” hygiene questions of the great great grandrelations to be — is exciting to look at (unless the fourth cousin thrice removed that one has never heard of lost it in a move or for gambling debts).

    Life is interactive (see Erving Goffman’s work on social interaction). It is difficult for most people to conceive of what may be interesting of their lives to others. Strangers tell me they want to read about my “interesting life” but from this side it’s just ordinary and gets overlooked (fish in water, etc. I wouldn’t wish to undo an interesting life, but I’m too thoughtful to wish one on anyone else).

      What’s needed is a personal ethnographer or oral historian. Someone to ask questions.

    Charlie King’s son points this out very well in a recent E-mail.

    Spent virtually the whole morning reading some of the interviews from 341st ? guys. I copied out a bit that described the difficulty of creating the corduroy roads.

    Too bad I never recorded any of Dad’s memories of the experience. He wasn’t one to elaborate greatly but could if he was pressed and I’d bet his would have been as detailed and well spoken as this guy who advanced from private to Master Sargent while up there indicating him to have been a uniquely talented guy:

    http://www.livinglandscapes.bc.ca/prnr/alaska/wallace.htm

    In this one example, you can see some of the strengths of using the Internet, especially the world-wide web and E-mail. But also look at the Dawson project description,

    http://www.livinglandscapes.bc.ca/prnr/alaska/history.htm

    The project was done with face-to-face (F2F) collaboration and tangible artifacts (photos) and only then assembled for later on-line use. Other projects come in “jukebox” format, CD-ROM or DVD and/or on-line.

    Project Jukebox is the digital branch of the Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Project Jukebox was originally developed using hypercard in 1988, with initial support from Apple Computer’s Apple Library of Tomorrow program, and is a way to integrate oral history recordings with associated photographs, maps, and text.

    http://uaf-db.uaf.edu/Jukebox/PJWeb/pjhome.htm

    None of this has solved the problem of linking pictures at Flickr or elsewhere with comments and annotations from others (moderated) and downloadable with metadata intact (unless one has money for a personal website and server). The work-around here doesn’t work — photo index CKing — even if one had highest speed internet, multiple monitors, touch-toe typing, Dragon Naturally Speaking transciption, multi-feed document scanner/fax, a cat that won’t walk the keyboard, ….

    Oh, and even with the bestest of tech help 😉


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