fourth annual Alaska Indigenous Literature Awards presentation
was Tuesday night at the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel. Among the honorees
on hand to accept their awards were veteran Tlingit historian,
folklorist and playwright Nora Marks Dauenhauer of Juneau and
Loretta Outwater Cox, originally from Nome, whose tale of her
great-grandmother's harrowing trek for survival, "Winter
Walk," was published last year.
Huntington of Galena was honored for his recollections of Interior
life, "Shadows of the Koyukuk," which has gone through
six printings to date. The spry 89-year-old addressed the awards
audience with an impassioned plea for education. Places where, in
his youth, fewer than 10 people lived now have hundreds of residents,
populations too large to be supported solely by subsistence means,
can't go back to living what we call 'off the country,' " said
the former member of the Alaska Board of Game. "There's no
way we can keep taking food out of the woods like we used to do."
no need to be nostalgic about that, he added, dismissing younger
people who romanticize the old way of life. "They don't know
what they're talking about! Thank God those days are behind us."
could speak from long experience. He recounted an early trapping
trip during which he enountered minus-72-degree cold and barely
made it home alive. At that time he promised himself, "If I
ever have children, they won't be going through this."
schooling was the solution, he determined, and he spoke proudly
of the achievements of students from Galena, where he served on
the school board for many years.
was also on the mind of another award winner, storyteller Mike Andrews
Sr. of Emmonak. He has spent 20 years working with students in the
Lower Yukon School District, where he has been a leader in the effort
to preserve the Native language and life ways. But he remembered
having to wake up at 6 a.m. to fuel stoves in the dimly-lit, two-room
mission school at Akulurak.
in Yup'ik, he noted that "today you don't have to freeze in
the classroom. Why is it students aren't interested in going to
class? In the old days, it was the opposite."
accepting her award, Dauenhauer said it should include the names
of her husband and collaborator, Richard, and many other people
who have contributed to her life's work. She thought back to when
she first began to collect and publish the memoirs of Tlingit elders,
creating a ripple that she hoped would spread "farther and
farther and farther."
it did," rejoined Joanna Wassillie, who followed Dauenhauer
to the podium to introduce Andrews. Wassillie said that as a young
Yup'ik student, she was overwhelmed when she first encountered Dauenhauer's
books. She had not thought there was such a thing as Native literature,
and to discover it was a revelation.
elder John Pestrikoff, honored along with his late wife, Julia,
was unable to make the flight to Anchorage because of a storm. A
niece, Anchorage artist Helen Simeonoff, accepted the award on his
behalf, observing philosophically, "We know that in Alaska
you fly according to weather, not according to reservations."
honorees included the late Belle Dawson of Grayling and Robert Cleveland
of Shungnak, whose stories and oral histories were recorded on tape
before their deaths.