Spring is turning into summer! I love to gather what the land provides and it is so important for everyone to learn how to incorporate their local vegetation into their diets. With a wild three years of Covid we should all be prepared to be self sufficient. I love to rely on God, because he provides 😍 God is good, all the time! bless and be blessed 😇
Happy New Year blessings to everyone 💕 classes are in full swing as I start my 3rd consecutive semester here at May-Su college. I am 91% complete with my Associate of Arts. Then I plan to complete my Bachelor’s degree. Duke has been with me since Christmas Eve and is enjoying winter! God is so good, all the time!
I have enjoyed my ANTH class this semester and would like to share my final project. Retold by me means I turned the legends into stories, originals are shorter and straight to the point.
This semester I was able to learn about the other Native Alaskan cultures and their histories. There is so much to consider when realizing many of these cultures have lost so much since first contact. The continued traditions are so important in holding on to what each identity is for each culture. For me there is an awareness that our oral traditions are important and should be recorded as well as passed down orally. For this project I will write the stories told to me growing up regarding our Inupiaq legends.
The Mean Boy
Retold by Gertie Zitzelberger
There are many stories told to help teach us how to be. We are meant to be kind and respectful. There is the story of the boy who was mean. This mean boy grew up with his grandma. Each time he saw a spider, he would capture it, then pull out the spider’s web from its belly and torture the insect until it was dead. Grandma saw her young boy and warned him not to be mean to the spiders and he did not listen. When the birds would come and land by their fish camp, the mean little boy would go and throw rocks so they would all fly away. Grandma would tell the boy to treat the birds with respect because they are also important. The mean little boy did not listen and threw rocks at birds any chance he got. Then the boy started to be mean to people and all the other kids in the village would not play with him. One day the mean little boy was walking back to camp, and he tripped and fell so hard he was knocked out. When he woke up, he could not see, he reached for his eyes, and they were covered with sticky web. The mean boy cried for help but the noise of the birds around him made it so no one could hear him. He stumbled and struggled and finally rose to his feet. Looking up to the sky and finally being able to see from removing the web from his eyes, he saw a bird diving down straight to his face. He did not have time to react, and the mean boy was blinded by the bird. The poor mean boy was not mean anymore for he had to depend on the kindness of others to survive. This is our lesson to be kind to others, no matter how small, to respect the animals and to be thankful. (In the teenage version the mean boy died from the bird, this was adjusted to be more kid friendly.)
The Lazy Girl
Retold by Gertie Zitzelberger
Long ago there was a family that lived in isolation. This was during the time when summers were spent preparing for winter. In this family there was a mom, dad, and a young daughter. The daughter was an only child and was not a very good helper to the mom and dad growing up. The daughter was about the reach womanhood and the mom was teaching her how to gather and clean moss for when this moment came, she would be prepared. Mom told her daughter to be very picky with the moss she chose and for it to be white and clean. As soon as mom instructed her daughter, she tasked her with gathering the moss. The daughter was so lazy she picked any kind of moss and didn’t pay attention to if it was clean or not. Filling her basket as fast as she could she was done not soon after her mom left. When the daughter got home mom told her to store her pickings for when she started per first cycle. The time soon came and the daughter reached womanhood. She used the moss she picked for her first cycle.
Time had passed since the first cycle for the daughter, and it did not come back the next month, nor the month after that. By this time the belly of the daughter was getting larger, and the parents stayed up late to talk that night. They talked about how there is no one near their camp and it would be impossible for their daughter to get pregnant. They could not understand what was going on and devised a plan. The father would stay up each night and wait to see if anyone came to camp that they did not know about. The very next night the father spent the day sharpening his blade just in case someone was sneaking into camp.
After staying awake for a long time after the mom and daughter went to sleep the father became very sleepy. Just as he was about to go to bed, he heard something near his daughter. He could not believe his eyes. A worm emerged from his daughter and went to their stored food, he was in such shock he stumbled and scared the worm back into his daughter. His plan was to wait for the next night and to kill the worm that was living inside his daughter.
That next day the dad told the mom what he had witnessed. She was in shock but knew her daughter would not go to sleep that night if they revealed the truth. The moss she used for her menstrual cycle was not cleaned and a worm was using her as a host to grow very large. When night came both the daughter and mom went to sleep as usual before the dad. This night the dad was ready to kill the worm. When it came out of his daughter, he was so enraged that he sliced the head off. This was a mistake as the worm receded back in his daughter and she died a few days after suffering and pain. The mom and the dad were saddened by the death and spread their story so that others do not make the same mistakes. This story is passed down so that we can learn to respect our parents, listen to them by following directions and to not be lazy.
The Orca and The Wolf
Retold by Gertie Zitzelberger
The legend we are told growing up is that when an Orca is about to die, they go to the shore and beach themselves, when this is done, they turn into the wolf. When the wolf dies, he walks into the ocean and turns into the Orca. This is the cycle of the Orca and the Wolf. Their paths intertwine connecting the land and the sea. The wolf will hunt in a pack on land and the orca will also hunt as a pack in the sea. They are each other, but one is of land, and one is of sea, both important. The natural world around us is our play area, work area and the respect for animals is inherent in our culture, this legend is meant to teach us that we are all connected and that the sea is just as important as the land. We are meant to respect both.
The Big foot
Retold by Gertie Zitzelberger
Long ago, my great, great grandmother had her very own berry picking patch that she kept secret. When the berries were ripe, she would go to her spot and stay there until all her buckets were filled. Then she would head back home with her bounty. One year she was looking forward to getting to her berry patch. She was always prepared to stay the night if she needed to by bringing reindeer hide for shelter. This year was a good year for the berries, so she decided to overnight. That night she heard something outside her cover, and she laid very still. She felt a hairy hand reach for her reindeer hide and she yelled so loud “get away.” Whatever that big hairy thing was that tried to take her reindeer hide was it ran away. She sure had a hard time sleeping and as soon as light came, she packed up her berries and gear up ready to go. She saw the big footprints in the tundra and knew she had to go. She never went back to her berry patch and always shared where she picked her berries after that. She passed down this story to my mom’s mom and it was then told to my mom, who then told me.
The Mosquito Man
Retold by Gertie Zitzelberger
Long ago, there lived a wicked hearted man. He despised summer. In part, due to the pestilence of the mosquitoes. So, each day he worked very hard to kill as many mosquitoes as he could. No matter how many he slapped or flicked, there were always more to fight the next day.
This wicked man did not understand that the mosquitoes were an important food source for the birds of the sky. Each animal and insect in life plays its role in the circle we call life. Our mother taught us to respect animals and insects alike, only taking what we need to survive for food.
One spring, the man was hunting in the woods with his dog sled team. His hate for mosquitoes transpired to different parts of his life. Creating a hate in his heart for all life.
His dog team knew to listen to their master. The one time they did not listen was the last time the wicked man would wreak hate in this world.
It was a spring day with the snow not yet melted. There were spring puddles here and there that the dog team worked hard to run through. Then on a trail well used the dogs came to a sudden stop. The furious wicked man beat the dogs to keep going, yelling, and screaming like the mad man he was. Still, the dogs refused to go on. Then he looked down the trail. There was a figure of a man on the trail. The wicked man was taken back and started yelling at this figure. He knew he did not hear him because he still stood there. So, the wicked man went to go talk to this figure.
Upon close contact the wicked man trembled at this figure, for it was not a man at all, but a swarm of mosquitoes shaped as a man. The mosquitoes swarmed him. Sucking so much blood from this man that he passed out and soon died. When a caribou comes across a swarm of mosquitoes, this will happen to the caribou. The caribou will be so badly bitten they could not live on.
Being cruel in any shape or form will have severe consequences. Always remember there is a reason for all forms of life, and the best thing to do is to show respect for all life. In our culture, Inupiaq, we are told stories from old, so that we do not be cruel. Lessons are learned through stories like this to not be mean, even to blood sucking insects. When an animal is caught for food, nothing is wasted, we eat all that is edible.
The New Beginning
Retold by Gertie Zitzelberger
There is a saying that when the creatures of old return, the end is near. The ending is a new beginning. The creatures of old are the mountain giants that are asleep they will wake up, the lights of circles or orbs that help guide the way or cause mischief will come back, the little people will reveal themselves and they will no longer be afraid to show themselves. There is the legend of the giant who dropped his backpack, this is Besboro Island that is a small Island located off the coast of Unalakleet. The sleeping giants were beings that fell in a deep slumber and will wake up again. The orbs are lights that we cannot explain, we take caution as some are known to lead you to get lost and some help you find your way when you are lost. These lights will come back. The little people of the tundra are stories we grew up with as well. They are ten times stronger than a man and so fast, they will no longer hide. When all these come to pass and return the end is near. The end of the world is the birth of a new world in a sense that we will all have a chance at a new beginning.
A peek into my writing for my Alaska Native Studies course this semester. 50/50 was my grade 💕
Please read the “Role of Alliance in Eskimo Society” and be sure you understand how it worked, writing at least 1 page on it. This needs to include the types of alliances that were formed and their explanation. Also, you need to include how they were able to get together to form alliances in the first place.
Reality is that from the perspective of the storyteller. From the perspective of an outsider looking in at the Inupiaq culture regarding alliances is just that, the perspective of an outsider. From the outer perspective it would look that annual gatherings or what we call potluck/potlach were gatherings from different villages. These usually took place after successful harvests and when food was abundant. These would have never taken place during prime harvesting of fish, berries, or other vital resources, these would have taken place after the successful harvest. This is not noted in the writing of the outside perspective, but from oral histories passed down. First, I will summarize the studies conducted through the Canadian Government in the studies of the Inupiaq during first contact. Then I will include the oral histories that is passed down in my culture, Inupiaq, specifically my families oral history.
During these festivities it is said that men had to pursue women and when the women consented to intercourse, they were united. Sometimes the male would return to the village of his interest and continue to pursue her. These unions would create alliances and expand the family network. Strangers were taken very seriously as traditional hunting and gathering areas were fiercely protected. Trade was another factor in the resulting unions.
From that of the outside perspective it looks all but unintentional. That of our oral stories tells a different perspective. In our culture, Inupiaq and specifically the region of Unalakleet, St. Michael, Shaktoolik, Koyuk, and Elim. Unions were decided by the parents of the woman. If a man was interested, they would let their intentions be known and that would either be accepted or not by the parents and if there were no parents, it was decided by the uncles of the woman or grandparents. These alliances created stronger bloodlines and trade was done. The barter system was used and done in hub villages like Unalakleet. This was the major trading center for Natives, while St. Michael was the major trading center for Russians and Gussaks, or Caucasians.
During the potlucks there were many games that tested the strength of the males, and a lot of decisions were made by prominent families who were prominent because of their ability to provide for the community. Our last Chief of Unalakleet, Chief Nashalook, came from a bloodline that provided for the community during hardships and ensured the survival of this site. Before modern days the village was not located where it is now, it was more on the tundra area, not the sand spit. Here there are archeological sites dating back 200 BC – 300 AD. This is not considering there are several other sites that were not yet explored in the region that were well known trading areas.
Marriage among close relations were taboo and each family tried to marry those of good skills and ability to provide. My mom was one of the last of her generation to where suitors would ask her grandparents for permission to marry her, and they were denied. One man from Savoonga asked for her union and her uncle said no because he was from the Island, a man from Shishmaref asked for her hand also and was denied because he was from too far up north, a man from interior asked for her marriage and was also denied because he was from the Interior. Finally, my father, who is from St. Michael asked for her hand and the answer was yes. My Uncle who helped raise my mom was a dog musher, my dad was a dog musher as well and had a good team. They were able to breed their lines and have race winning teams. The married paid off.
The story goes on of how each grandmother, great-grandmother and so on was told or gave permission to marry the choosing of their parents or male caretaker. There are stories of unions that were not a good fit. This famous Inuk from our region was married to a man in Kotzebue. She went there and he was abusive and mean to his new wife. She ran away and walked all the way to the Yukon area by foot. This story was hope for those who were united, and the match was not good. When the women left though this caused feuds between the families and lasted generations. Alliances were strategic, and essentially was what led to the survival of our people by the drive to provide for more than oneself, but for the community as well. Orphans were taken in by grandparents, widows were remarried if they were still childbearing, and marriages were arranged.
I grew up where marriages were no longer arranged. There were potlaches that took place but in the modern form of basketball tournaments. Here the athleticism of the athletes often helped unite people from other villages. When boarding schools started that was another major connection for alliances or marriages to happen. The arranged marriages were fading, but the approval of your family was essential. Growing up my mom would joke that I would marry this person from Shaktoolik she picked out and his mom also agreed. I eloped at the age of 19, the thought of having to marry someone I had to wrestle in grade school was unappealing and they claim they were just joking but their sincerity was not a joke to me. History is true to the perspective of the storyteller; this is our story.
-You then have the choice of writing a summary (1/2 ro 1 page) on one of the following:
-Sinrock Mary: the Reindeer Queen of Alaska and the story of Reindeer including the Lohman brothers.
Sinrock Mary is a well-known Inupiaq/Russian woman who was born in St. Michael around 1870. Her mother was Inupiaq, and her father was Russian. She grew up speaking three different languages Inupiaq, English and Russian. Her Inupiaq name was Changunak. She married Charles Antisarlook and they lived in Nome. Mary served as translator for many people who required her skills. Her husband was a reindeer apprentice and when he died, Mary was not able to inherit her late husband’s land, but she fought for the reindeer herd that was about 500 at the time and she won. She relocated to Unalakleet in 1901 and in the next year she married an Inupiaq named Andrew Adrewuk. The Loham Brothers were from Seattle and came up to the Bering Strait region and taught and set up reindeer herding around the same time. When the market for reindeer were no longer there and when the laws passed allowing only native Alaskans to own reindeer herds they backed out of the industry and returned to Seattle. Sinrock Mary was also known in our culture as a women’s rights activist. Before she stood up to the government and old Inupiaq ways it was unheard of for a woman to do man’s work.
During the time of influenza where children would become orphaned Sinrock Mary adopted these children to keep them in the community and it is upwards of 20 she adopted. Many of these children tell of her strictness and love. Her adopted daughter Muuqaiylaq was a well-respected daughter of hers who learned to take care of reindeer. Women were not usually allowed to participate in these activities, their place was in the home and gathering food for winter, tending to the children, and learning this new gardening ways. When my mom was a little girl and Muuqaiylaq came to discuss business with my mom’s grandparents she went to their room and after my mom was double dared to ask how her fingers got bent, she did ask Muuqaiylaq. Most wouldn’t ask such a question because you usually don’t ask your elder’s questions like this, but my mom was a little girl who didn’t know better. So Muuqaiylaq told the story when she was a teen, she wrestled her first reindeer and it bit her. She didn’t show any signs of being hurt because she was a girl and didn’t want any reasons to hold her back from working with reindeer. So, she continued to wrestle that reindeer to the ground with her broken finger, it never went back to being straight.
My mom grew up at Egavik. The old reindeer herding site outside of Unalakleet. This was almost a village at one point because it was successful with reindeer herding. This Egavik we call was where the Lohman brothers set up their reindeer herding site. John Kotongan is my great grandfather who bought the herd at Egavik. He eventually sold the herd to Gustoff Sagoonick from Shaktoolik. The land at Egavik was then passed down to John’s son Victor, who helped raise my mom. He passed it down to his son. I grew up camping here at Egavik in the big house that is one of the only remaining buildings there. The Lohman brothers had the nice apartment in the top of this building where we camped in growing up. Now the Sagoonicks in Shaktoolik own one herd and the villages of St. Michael and Stebbins own another herd. There is no herd in Unalakleet or Egavik. My relatives were adopted by Sinrock Mary, she truly was the grandma of Unalakleet and is the one who paved the way for women to be more than just a homemaker. We can do anything we want but family is more important and keeping our traditional knowledge is also important. The Samii families also taught gardening as well as missionaries who came to the area. Unalakleet is a melting pot of Inupiaq, Yupik, and Athabascan as well as non-indigenous people. A lot of Army folk married and stayed in the village. Overall, this community cares for one another and continues to practice the subsistence lifestyle that is taught by those like Sinrock Mary.
Add the following ingredients to a pot of low boiling water, bring to regular boil then steep. Add honey to tea ☕️ growing up we had plain Sagriaq tea and I never liked the taste so I came up with this recipe 💕
Dried sagriaq (wormwood/stinkweed) leaves, Ayuu leaves (Labrador tea leaves dried), rose hip petals, turmeric, honey to taste. We use this tea when we are sick.
Your life is the product of your inner most hopes. I hope you all had a blessed summer. Love and be love.
We started off our summer with a camping trip on June 1st. We went through a beaver 🦫 forest to find a beautiful beaver!
I spent spring picking Masu, an edible root also known an an Indian potato, fiddleheads, beach greens we call tiqayuks, sura or willow blooms, spruce tips, and a fish called hooligan. We are so blessed to be able to gather goodness from the land and the tradition of gathering enough to last through winter.
I have started a TikTok to share “driving in Alaska” and subsistence activities. God is good!
Catching hooligan also known as oolichan or candlefish.
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The wonderful cycle of gathering goodness from the land continues. I say cycle because we repeat it every year. Work hard in the spring, summer and fall to put away enough food to last through the winter. We were raised to live like this. It’s a memory recorded in our DNA. I like to share this knowledge because everyone should be capable of feeding themselves, especially when the store shelves become empty. The edible food that grows around us naturally produces the nutrients we need to survive our habitat. That’s the same for the vegetation and animals all over the world. Duke turned six and he has a deep understanding of nature already. He has a thankful heart and loves the food we gather. Learn. Live. Love 💕