Searching for my Spirit

Maria de Chirikof
Posted June 24, 2009 from United States

Lately I have been trying to discover exactly what it means to be an 'Aleut Woman' and one of the first things I found was that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN ALEUT . Well, so what does that mean? And here I just got used to proudly thinking of myself as an Aleut too!

But I do agree with the idea of the article, that in going back to our culture and traditions they should be the ones and ways we defined ourselves 'pre-contact'. So, I tried to wrap my tongue around that word: Unangas.

I have to admit I found it hard to not giggle as I tried to pronounce it and say "I am Unangas" over and over. I think it took about 10 tries before I could do it without adding a giggle at the end. I found 2 big books of grammar and dictionary for the language but they cost $75 or so together so that will need to be saved up for but I will get them in a few months.

It got me wondering if I am just really weird or do others practice saying things out loud like this.... I think it is because I am a bit shy so there is usually a giggle or 'mmmmmm' sound after I say something but that is lessening over time. I think I managed to Skype without having a fit of giggles so yeah! I was so worried my Mentor would think I was mental (oh funny, almost a tongue twister! Say it 3 times fast, I dare you!) but managed to control that urge.

But in looking for my roots it is funny since it is more 'prehistoric' and how that sounds a bit weird... A modern empowered woman looking for her prehistoric roots. Almost like it wanting to travel back in time to find the Truth and my Spirit. I think it is the western image of prehistoric that partly makes it sound so weird to me. How when they try to picture earlier civilizations they always imagine grunting dirty people in animal rags as the image instead of realizing that a lot of cultures are in existence with little contact and they are vibrant, brightly dressed and have complex social structures even in a simple lifestyle. So, I guess part of my search will be to reinforce the beauty and sophistication of my roots while showing it's living in harmony with Nature.

It is too bad not much is written about the Unangas religious ideas but I will keep looking and trying to connect myself with my cultural Goddesses. It always interests me to find just bits and pieces of it around and hope to learn much more about it all. I think a lot of what happens is it gets mixed in with the Russian Orthodox religion so trying to separate them again will be interesting.

My nephew is inspiring in that the young in the villages are getting back into the culture in a big way and I often think of moving to there but also think it would be better to wait awhile too. It is what I want to be a part of and hope to get my girls more involved in. We are attending an 'Urban Unganax' camp next month so that will be interesting and I will be posting about it more later.

Here is some that shows some of the Dancers: Unangax Dance Troupe

So close, yet so far! The Atka Island and it's dancers is 1103.5 miles from Anchorage where I live... And about $1,500 each to travel there...

Video of the dancers, listen to the music and feel your soul soar! On that same page it links to similar videos. Unangax Dancers - Alaska Fedration of Natives Quyana

But watch the video and enjoy a peek at my culture!


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  • aliĝngix
    Jun 24, 2009
    Jun 24, 2009

    I giggled at the "say it three times fast" parts.

    About this culture though, I want to find out who we really are. Were, as some would like to label it.

    Truth is, a culture never dies, as they would constantly have Native believe. Over 10,000 years of history that is hidden in these lands somewhere, and it is being written off simply as "pre-contact." Boy. How would China or any other country feel if their entire history was written off as "We don't know, and don't care to know what you guys did before we came here to your lands, so we'll just dismiss this great and amazing culture that survived for years in these lands and thrived." Boy. Yeah, I try to learn as much of it as I can, but it's hard without a teacher or even our lands to "live" in.

    Cultures change all the time, new words being developed, new trends followed....and Americans can still say that their culture is %100 American, while Natives are in a countdown? Please. It's called holding a double standard.

    I can't help but think that they would like us to go away, but it's not admissible, not while you count the foundations of your culture "alive" when we are living in exactly the same way. We just have different traditions. So what we live in a city now? Wear Western clothing? Doesn't everyone? Is everyone then American? I think other cultures would disagree(strongly). It almost makes you wonder what, or who is next? Americans who claim African heritage? Chinese, Hispanic, Celtic, British, Other Indigenous Peoples? Will we all be "%100" American"? Who's to say what is American, when now in this time, The lands of America it is of many cultures inhabiting this land under one nation?

    Really, if you support this, or just ignore this, then you can't help but what happens when they come for you. Come and try to take your culture over decades. Tell you your way of life doesn't exist even if you are living it. We just want our culture and habitat back. Is that so wrong? When our ways kept the lands strong and healthy, when our different ways of live allowed many cultures to flourish and survive the generations?

    Gives you a lot to think about. Thanks for posting this article. It gets me mad that they think they can tell us that our culture is dying, "that's the way it is" despite our efforts to revive it and their obious interfing of letting us live our culutre?

    What do they think this is, the 1960's? Ha...See you.

  • Maria de Chirikof
    Jun 24, 2009
    Jun 24, 2009

    I think you lose something in watching the video of the dance. I was thinking of that earlier when watching some of them that the first one (and about only one) was when I was a kid. A group got together to do one dance, but not in costumes like these, just in regular clothes. The feeling in the room was great since you could feel the energy and excitement and the drums in your soul. My cousin's youngest daughter was maybe 4 then and when they were playing the music and watching the 2 young dancers doing the dance that she suddenly stood up and began dancing too. It made everyone smile to see the little girl get caught up and feel the spirit of the dance move her. I can't wait to watch another one in person since you can feel the spirit of our people pulsing between us, like a spiritual thing almost.

    With tickets costing so much to go there it will probably never happen that I can go with my daughters since I would have a hard time getting that kind of money just for one ticket, sigh!

    I think it is in the lower 48 that they want them to believe it is so otherwise they might begin to feel guilty about stealing the land and resources from us like this. But I believe we can help change the perceptions of Indigenous peoples. I mean, yes, there is a LOT of anger, but even more then that is Patience. Like in that movie Bullet-Proof Monk (or something like that) where the monk and his enemy guy finally have a showdown at the end and the monk says to him "I have given you all this time to change" and with our help and encouragement they will not say as he did "I will never change" but begin to accept true Wisdom.

    Things are changing ever so slowly though. The ones on the islands are really happy at the huge upsurge in Native pride that the young are feeling. I mean you hear in the news that the young are leaving the villages in droves but not the why and the reasons for it. They try to make it sound as if even the young do not value the cultural heritage and we will change that by showing all the pride of it. It is true that people need to remember to ask seriously 'Is this viewpoint a real one or an angle spread by Big Oil and Big Industry' since you can often figure out the truth with a little effort.

    Turning the anger into action is the best way to go about it, I think. By learning the culture and language even though we live in the 'big city' and will probably never be able to afford a visit there, we can help show those in town the pride we take in our people and our lands.

    I can see you are still steamed about that teacher's comment and hearing that one guest speaker saying there was nothing here before they came... Just don't let the anger turn into hate or to make you unable to take actions! Peaceful ways to change the world like we saw in the Xena episode where Lao Ma says to Ming Su (spelling?) about nothing is as soft as water yet who can withstand the raging flood