Over the last few months I’ve gotten the chance to take a few videos. They’re nothing special. In fact, the lack of specialness might make you a little sick. They’re filmed with a point and shoot camera. But hopefully, these videos can transport some of the magic we experience here in Nome to you, wherever you may be watching.
Awesome musher Aliy Zirkle crosses the finish line in 2nd around midnight. She was neck and neck with the Dan Seavey, a member of a mushing dynasty, for last day of so. (Seavey ended up beating her by a couple hours. Not that I’m bitter or anything.)
I’m filming from behind the burled arch, the giant carved finish line. Obviously not the best vantage point. But, it was the only place I could find space to stand among the media. Margaret and I were support staff for our News Director Laureli as she interviewed the mushers live, a few seconds after they crossed the finish line! Fun fact: I almost fell off the snow ramp.
King Island Drummers
The local regional non-profit native corporation, Kawerak, hosted a regional conference this past spring. That sounds boring but it’s not. Kawerak is sort of a social service for Alaska natives that funnels government money to the tribes’ needs–housing, employment, child care, cultural preservation, etc.
So they hosted this conference in Nome at the Rec Center, which is where anything big happens. Iditarod banquet, celebrations. All purpose basketball court. Alaskans flew in for the event. Folks from villages around the region, policymakers from Juneau, native leaders from Anchorage.
The policy geek in me loved the public forums they hosted, where you would have the Lieutenant Governor, native leaders, and normal folks from around the area talking Arctic policy. For fellow policy geeks out there, Arctic is a fascinating new area. (As I understand it, in Eva shorthand: global warming –> Arctic ice melting–> magical Arctic sea route suddenly opens up to shipping companies: faster! less fuel! cheaper! more dangerous… –> more and more ships in natives’ hunting waters with no policy to regulate their behavior–> who gets to regulate? Russia? US? international waters –> need for policy to protect sea and marine mammals and natives’ right to live off them).
But the best part, was celebrated traditional Alaska Native culture for the three tribes in our area, the Inupiaq, St. Lawrence Island Yupik and Y’upik cultures.
The King Island Dancers and Drummers (Inupiaq) are Nome’s native drum and dance troupe. Many villages have them. Some don’t. The state exiled King Islanders from their native home, an island close to Nome, in the 60s because the state thought a haphazardly balanced boulder was threatening to fall on the village school. The boulder still hasn’t fallen. But the King Islanders maintain an active community in Nome, the closest city.
In all the drumming I’ve seen, the men play seal skin drums. Men and women dance. This elder was the most joyful dancer I’ve ever seen. He was phenomenal. Every time he took the floor to dance the crowd went wild. Standing ovation.
I saw the elder at the conference the next day and ran up to him. (My intentions were not wholly pure– I was trying to snag him for an elder interview). I wish I remembered his name. He was insanely friendly. I told him he was the best dancer I’ve ever seen and blushed. He laughed and thanked me. He grew up on Diomede, an island between Alaska and Russia. (Technically Diomede is actually two islands 1/4 mile away, one belongs to Russia, and the other to Alaska. Families couldn’t communicate during the Cold War era.) He lives in Anchorage now and came to Nome for the conference.
More videos to come in my next post!