Christian Tagiuq Analoak tells the story of two polar bears, he
swings his arms and sways his torso like the great white ruler of
the north, the Inupiaq hunter's most daunting quarry.
day, Analoak wants to slay a polar bear of his own, but for now,
the 32-year-old storyteller recounts a King Island hunting story
for visitors at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.
at the center's cultural sites tells stories, but Analoak and a
handful of others share theirs onstage four times a day.
dancer and carver, Analoak started telling stories about a year
ago and still gets nervous before performing at the Gathering Place.
Unlike many of the stories told there, his ends abruptly and leaves
a pool of unexpected silence.
his elders had told the story, they would laugh heartily and leave
listeners to their thoughts. But Analoak has never heard them tell
was too young to hear them tell stories," he said. "If
someone doesn't take responsibility for doing it, storytelling will
childhood friends might say the stage is the last place they would
have expected to find him, but he finds courage and purpose there.
He conveys a timeless connection with his people by passing along
knowledge, wisdom and humor.
lot of times, it is a picture, a window into someone's life,"
said Kay Ashton, director of public relations for the center.
myths or tales, stories express the fundamental elements of culture,
I told you I'm going to tell you a tale, you wouldn't know if it's
true or not, but if I tell you a story about culture, it means something."
Analoak, the story of the two polar bears unites his people's story
with his own.
show them first my people through polar bears, and then I show them
myself," he said. "The polar bear is the backbone."
his story comes from the book "King Island Tales," which
records stories told and translated by some of the island's elders,
most of whom were relocated to Nome in the 1970s by the Bureau of
Indian Affairs. For Analoak, the word "tales" fails to
capture how verbal and body language carries culture from generation
story begins with Avuk waking up late for a hunt. He sees a single
set of human tracks going in a direction different from the others,
so he follows the single set for good reason: One must never hunt
Avuk finds Kuguk exhausted in the snow, he sees a worn-out polar
bear nearby. He tries to convince Kuguk to make the first cut and
claim the bear, but Kuguk refuses; he's too tired.
some quarreling, Avuk kills and dresses the bear, spreading out
the hide to carry his bounty, but he can't decide whether to haul
the impressive head or the mass of meat. At Kuguk's urging, he leaves
the head behind, for meat is more important than showing off.
they near home, another polar bear meanders from behind, swaying
and swinging in bulky insolence. The two men talk about killing
the beast, a bigger bear than the first, but Avuk says no. "We
might get hurt."
story ends here, with listeners waiting for more. His elders might
have finished in laughter, but Analoak probes further.
is the lesson?" he wonders.
happy with what you've got," someone responds.
that, Analoak turns to his own story. Unlike many young boys who
hope to become firefighters or police officers, Analoak dreamed
of living like his forebears as a child in Nome. By his teenage
years, he realized that he could never live the life of his elders
on King Island, and he turned to alcohol "to fill the void
in my heart."
his mother sent him to Point Hope, a dry village, to reclaim his
life. He remembers sitting in an open skin boat and seeing a 30-foot
whale off the side; he recalls catching his first seal, walrus,
beluga and caribou.
time, carving, dancing, storytelling and hunting bound him to his
people and helped him stop drinking. Today, he sees culturally rich
activities as imperative to staying away from alcohol and enriching
I'm onstage, I have a whole group of cultures behind me," he
said. "The Inupiaq are my people. That's my element."
he swaggers like the king of the carnivores onstage, the lessons
of his story bear out: One shouldn't go forth on his own, put pride
before nourishment or forget to be grateful for what he has.
at the Alaska Native Heritage Center is presented at 9:30 and 11:30
a.m. and 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. daily during the summer.
STORYTELLER DOROTHY JOSEPH will talk about her experiences as a
child at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, July 24. In between,
she will sign copies of her book, "Fishcamp."
ALASKA NATIVE HERITAGE CENTER has partnered with the Anchorage Museum
of History and Art to offer adult admission to both venues for $20.75,
two dimes less than entry to the heritage center alone. A free shuttle
runs between both places, stopping at a few downtown locations on
MORE INFORMATION, visit www.alaskanative.net.