Posts Tagged 'Juneau'

Tlingit Arts

Tlingit fashionistas

If any place can claim to be the Arts capital of America, it’s Sitka.  Our stay has coincided with the annual Summer Music Festival, which brings classical artists from around the world, and the Sitka Fine Arts camp, which give Alaska’s most promising middle and highschoolers a leg up in their formal training in the visual and preforming arts.   Galleries of local artists and spaces for visiting ones abound and dancers and musicians perform all the time.  Even Raven Radio, the listener-friendly local NPR affiliate whose call letters are KCAW, is absolutely tops.

Prominent in the mix are Tlingit artists.    They range from masters and professionals with the highest formal and traditional training to ordinary tribal members practicing the everyday arts their ancestors.

Master woodcarver Tommy Joseph

We had a good chat with master woodcarver Tommy Joseph, who showed us aroung his studio.  In addition to carving totems and masks on commission, he is exploring every aspect the material culture, combining technical reproduction with innovative improvization.  He showed us breast plates he’d fashioned of wood and animal gut twine and a number of traditional objects decorated with bits of leather, skin, fur, teeth and bone.  A national treasure, Joseph frequently travels to exchange techniques and ideas with other tribal peoples and mainstream artists worldwide.   He’s particularly inspired by the strides made by the Maori of New Zealand in bringing their culture and language back into the mainstream.

Spoons of bone and horn.

Artists like Tommy Joseph have a treasure trove of material culture to study, copy and rif upon in the remarkable Sheldon Jackson Museum.   Sheldon Jackson was a friend of President Benjamin Harrison, supported the Organic Act of 1884 which provided Alaska with systems of justice and education, and  served as First General Agent of Education in the territory.   As director of the Sitka Industrial School and Training Institute, Presbyterian mission Sheldon Jackson did much to separate young Natives from their families and culture.  However, he respected many aspects of Tlingit culture and built a solid museum – Sitka’s first concrete building – to house the collection of Native artifacts he has amassed.   The original cases and dozens of drawers out thousands of artifacts under the eyes of visitors and in the hand of schollars and artists.   Everyday the museum features a working craftsperson who can testify to the healthy state of Native arts in Sitka.

Oceanfront rainforest totem walk

Sitka also has a landmark collection of historic and modern totem poles in an oceanside rainforest that was the site of the 1804 Battle of Sitka. Part of the Sitka National Historical Park, an exquisite, meandering totem path through the woods starts at the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center where robes and drums still used by the tribes are left on loan.

But the best evidence that the Tlingit arts are alive and well are the daily events at the Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Community House on Katlian Street.   This street along Sitka’s working waterfront used to be lined with a succession of fine long houses each accommodating seven to ten families.   That is until the white man came along and decided that communal accommodations were unhealthy and had them torn down. Today tribal members, young and old, performing professionals and ordinary folk gather daily to share their culture with outsiders.

Sheet'ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi

To refer to the Naa Kahidi troupe as “dancers” does them no justice.   Indeed the event combines a dazzling fashion show of garments handed down from elders or made yesterday by the wearers, a splendid array of sets and props, sonorous rhythms on traditional instruments, and a community parade with grandmothers showing off tiny tots in full regalia.  Most important, however, are the songs, poetry and stories, all carefully researched and attributed, usually to elders but frequently to neighboring Haida, Tsimshian or other Tlingit bands.

Perhaps everyone was particularly inspired this year having just returned from Celebration, the biannual gathering of the Southeast tribes for which the Hoonah Tlingit were preparing when we were there.  The SeaAlaska Heritage Institute is working to document, preserve and develop arts of the Tlingit, Haida and the Tsimshian.  They offer copious on line resources and artist bios and organize  Celebration in Juneau.

In the News

Alaskans seem to like their newspapers. Dailies from Juneau and Anchorage are found all over, even where they arrive days late.  The resilient Skagway News only appears twice a week but it’s been around for more than a century and is a treasure trove of information on a tiny but civically engaged community.
Meetings are news.  Every gathering in Alaska is somewhere in print and often a news story with pictures follows the event.
The police blotters are comprehensive. While not always compelling reading, the police blotter says something about small caring communities.    The Juneau Empire of May 21, for example, reports that “At 8:07 am Thursday, a 75-year-old woman reported her binoculars missing in the Juneau Area [and] at 8:06 pm on Wednesday, a 48-year-old woman reported and unlocked Ford Explorer was rifled through in the 8100 block at Threadneedle Street but nothing was taken.”
Could it be that online news just hasn’t been able to give the  papers a run for their money?  There’s free wifi in all Alaskan libraries and a few other places but it’s slow and those who have it pay by the byte and it gets expensive.   iPhones and handhelds are everywhere in Alaska but they just can’t cover what print does.
Walter Hinkles has died. He served Alaska as Governor first in 197- and then in 199- .  As Nixon’s Secretary of the Interior in the interim he promoted drilling and extraction everywhere.  The he resigned in disgust over the Vietnam War and became the darling of the peaceniks.
in Sarah Palin’s New Low in the Huffington Post, Alaskan journalist Shannyn Moore compares the two former governors in the wake of Palin’s enthusiastic embrace of Arizona’s new immigration law.  “Palin became the spokesperson for the divisive voices in American politics. She dismissed the greatness of our immigrant heritage, indeed of today’s Alaska, where in Anchorage alone nearly 100 languages are spoken in the homes of the children in our public schools.”

From Port Townsend WA to Glacier Bay AK …… 2009 Cruise Summary

Here’s where the Aurora took Jack the Skipper and First Mate Baggywrinkles this summer.  We cruised a thousand nautical miles along the Inside Passage, north from the 48th to the 59th parallel parallel and west from 123º to 136º.    We sailed out of our former home port of Port Hadlock on Port Townsend Bay, Washington, on June 13th and arrived at our new home part of Hoonah, AK on August 1.

The year 2009 will be remembered for a magnificent summer that followed a monstrous winter. Our most difficult day was the very first – crossing Juan de Fuca Strait; our most difficult hour was also the very first, rounding Point Wilson for the umpteenth time.   As for the normally obstreperous waters of Johnstone Strait, Queen Charlotte Strait, Cape Caution, Milbanke Sound, Dixon Entrance,  and Icy Strait, they all behaved for us, as our endless stream of sun-filled photos show.   Next year when we come south through the usual rain, fog, or storms, we will have the vision of these spectacular vistas still in our heads.

Have a look at our pictures.  Those of the Skipper and First Mate together were taken by Piers Rippey, who brought welcome hands to our deck for ten days from Prince Rupert, BC and Auke Bay, AK.   The photos are arranged chronologically on one page; slide show takes 18 minutes.  No photo captions at the moment but here’s our route.

June 13             Mitchell Bay, San Juan Island, WA, at dock  48 34 N 123 10 W

June 14            Montague Harbor, BC on mooring buoy     48 53N 123 25 W

June 15            Nanaimo, at dock     49 10 N 123 56 W

June 16-17       Comox, at dock   49 40 N 124 56 W

June 18             Campbell River, at dock    50 02 N 125 15 W

June 19             Kamish Bay/Granite Bay, at anchor 50 14 N 125 19 W

June 20              Shoal Bay, at dock   50 28 N 125 22 W

June 21               Forward Harbor, at anchor 50 29 N 125 45 W

June 22               Lagoon Cove Marina, at dock  50 36 N 126 19 W

June 23               Laura Cove, Broughton Island, at anchor   50 50 N 126 34 W

June 24               Sullivan Bay, at dock   50 53 N 26 50 W

June 25                Blunden Harbor, at anchor   50 54 N 1217 17 W

June 26-27          Duncanby, at dock    51 24 N 127 39 W

June 28                Green Island, Fish Egg Inlet, at anchor   51 38 N 127 50 W

June 29-30         Shearwater, at dock    52 09 N 128 05 W

July 1                   Klemtu, at free dock    52 36 N 128 31 W

July 2-3              Khutze Inlet, at anchor   53 05 N 128 16 W

July 4                  Hartley Bay, at free dock   53 25 N 129 45 W

July 5                 Klewnuggit Inlet, East Inlet, at anchor   53 43 N 129 44 W

July 6-10           Prince Rupert, at dock   54 20 N 130 18 W

July 11                Brundige Inlet, Dundas Island, BC, at anchor   54 36 N 130 53 W

July 12-13           Ketchikan, AK, at dock    55 21 N 131 41 W

July 14                Meyers Chuck, at free dock    55 44 N 132 16 W

July 15               Frosty Bay, at anchor    56 04 N 131 58 W

July 16-17          Wrangell, at dock  56 28 N 132 23 W

July 18-19         Petersburg, at dock   56 49 N 132 58 W

July 20              Portage Bay, at anchor   56 59 N 133 19 W

July 21               Hobart Bay, Entrance Island, at anchor  57 25 N 133 26 W

July 22               Taku Harbor, at free dock   58 04 N 134 08 W

July 23-24         Juneau, at dock   58 18 N 134 26 W

July 25               Auke Bay, at dock   58 30 N 134 39 W

July 26-27        Hoonah, at dock   58 06 N 135 27 W

July 28              Bartlett Bay, Glacier Bay, at anchor  58 28 N 135 53 W

July 29               North Sandy Cove, Glacier Bay, at anchor   58 43 N 136 00 W

July 30               Sebree Cove, Glacier Bay, at anchor   58 46 N 136 10 W

July 31               Bartlett Bay, Glacier Bay, at anchor    58 28 N 135 53 W

Aug 1-present    Hoonah, at dock   58 06 N 135 27 W

Independent booksellers of the coast: Hats off to you!

 

Independent booksellers of the coast:  We salute you!
A tribute is in order.  If urban North America is starting to recognize their contributions to shared knowledge and community well being, how much more true is this for small towns and rural areas?
In Comox, British Columbia, for two years running, Martina Polson reader-owner-community activist, has made our experience richer.  The selection at Blue Heron Books blueheron@telus.net is not overwhelming.  In fact, the pickings could be described as rather slim.   But  Martina has read every single title and knows most of the authors.  In addition to a well-vetted selection of fiction and non fiction, she carries   books for children and young people and can inform parents and teachers of what is just right for their fledgling readers. She has post cards, a dying literary genre, and can give you the stamps to go with them.  She carries all the nautical charts and indeed the Canadian Coast Guard requires all mariners to have the printed versions on board.  
I choose Jeanette Taylor’s Tidal Passages:  A History of the Discovery Islands http://www.harbourpublishing.com/title/TidalPassages/, an oral history based work that complements the wonderful Desolation Sound that I bought last year.   Also choose (the choice is tough when Martina lays out the options) Cabin in Singng River, the autobiographic story of a woman who lived in the wilderness outside of Bella Coola, felling the timber, building a cabin and thriving for many seasons.  Today Chris Czajkowski lives on a high altitude fly-in lake in British Columbia’s Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and leads the Nuk Tessli Wilderness Experience.  www.nuktessli.ca  
“How about books on Alaska? ” I ask.  “That’s not ours,”  says Martina, librarian-like, with a slight frown, as if I hadn’t noticed the strict focus of Blue Heron Books.   But she’s got a foot on moral high ground:   it’s not right that the Russians and the Americans grabbed the coast, leaving the British with splendid rivers and upland, but minus access to the sea.   
Ketchikan, with its cruise ships clientele, doesn’t look promising for books.  But then I find Parnassus.www.ketchikanbooks.com  The small shop is up a flight of old stairs on Creek Street, a boardwalk over the Ketchikan Creek. 
I set foot over the threshold 25 minutes from closing and get a quick orientation from the owner’s assistant who tells me about the now very elderly woman who founded the business.  I leave with Joe Upton’s Alaska Blues.  The cover blurb by David Snow Falling on Cedars Guterson turns out to be dead on:  “…A beautifully written book about commercial fishing in coastal waters.  Joe Upton delivers the reality and romance of Southeast Alaska.”
In Petersburg has a 200 foot waterfront Chinatown known as Sing Lee Alley.  It’s not quite intact because at No. 14 is a Victorian bungalow that houses Sing Lee Alley Books.       
Tina, a fit, attractive, grey-headed fifty year old, is the owner bookseller.  We chat about environmental politics.  I mention that we lower 48 folks are sort of clueless.  What does she advise?    For local advocacy join the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.  For the rest: population.  Which one?  Humans.  ZPG essential.  Hardline.  Seems very Alaska.  
We leave with exactly what we need. Ocean Treasure: Commercial Fishing in Alaska by Terry Johnson of the University of Alaska and the useful, inexpensive State of Alaska’s Inside Passage Wildlife Viewing Guide put out by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the US Forest Service.
Descending Seward Street from Hertiage Coffee (and wifi) to the cruise ship waterfront of Juneau, I see Rainy Retreat Books http://www.juneaubooks.com at number 113.  I remember “Rainy Day Books” from something I’ve read.  “Used to be that,” says the burly owner.  He goes on to explain how some peevish mid-western bookseller of that name decided to sue the nine other Rainy Day bookstores across the nation.  “Rainy days and books,” he says, exasperated. “Isn’t that the point?”
Royce isn’t a native Alaskan; he’s from Syracuse, New York.  He and his wife had always dreamed of owning a bookstore and then one day there was ad in the New York Review of Books (I think he said, but it may have been the New Yorker or the New York Times).   After checking the business out and finding a climate milder than that of Syracuse, they moved 9 years ago.  They shelve used books right next to new ones, like at Powells.  
After Royce gives me a quick introduction to the best books of Alaska, I leave with two which become highlights of the trip (quite possibly because I read them in Glacier Bay). The Blue Bear is a beautiful autobiographical reminiscence by wilderness guide Lynn Schooler about his friendship with the great wildlife photographer Michio Hoshino, who is killed by a bear on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East. The other book is The Nature of Southeast Alaska: A Guide to Plants, Animals and Habitats by Rita O’Clair, Robert Armstrong and Richard Carstensen.  Beautifully written, this is not your usual field guide.  Instead, it focusses on relationships and habitats and teaches you to look with wonder.
The busy summers of these independent booksellers balance out the long lean winter months, when they read, host local authors, and help tie together the social fabric of their communities.  Hats off to them.

A tribute is in order.  If urban North America is starting to recognize their contributions to shared knowledge and community well being, how much more true is this for small towns and rural areas?

In Comox, British Columbia, for two years running, Martina Polson reader-owner-community activist, has made our experience richer.  The selection at Blue Heron Books is not overwhelming.  In fact, the pickings could be described as rather slim.   But  Martina has read every single title and knows most of the authors.  In addition to a well-vetted selection of fiction and non fiction, she carries   books for children and young people and can inform parents and teachers of what is just right for their fledgling readers. She has post cards, a dying literary genre, and can give you the stamps to go with them.  She carries all the nautical charts and indeed the Canadian Coast Guard requires all mariners to have the printed versions on board.  

I choose Jeanette Taylor’s Tidal Passages:  A History of the Discovery Islands, an oral history based work that complements the wonderful Desolation Sound that I bought last year.   Also choose (the choice is tough when Martina lays out the options) Cabin in Singng River, the autobiographic story of a woman who lived in the wilderness outside of Bella Coola, felling the timber, building a cabin and thriving for many seasons.  Today Chris Czajkowski lives on a high altitude fly-in lake in British Columbia’s Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and leads the Nuk Tessli Wilderness Experience.   

“How about books on Alaska? ” I ask.  “That’s not ours,”  says Martina, librarian-like, with a slight frown, as if I hadn’t noticed the strict focus of Blue Heron Books.   But she’s got a foot on moral high ground:   it’s not right that the Russians and the Americans grabbed the coast, leaving the British with splendid rivers and upland, but minus access to the sea.   

Ketchikan, with its cruise ships clientele, doesn’t look promising for books.  But then I find Parnassus. The small shop is up a flight of old stairs on Creek Street, a boardwalk over the Ketchikan Creek. 

I set foot over the threshold 25 minutes from closing and get a quick orientation from the owner’s assistant who tells me about the now very elderly woman who founded the business.  I leave with Joe Upton’s Alaska Blues.  The cover blurb by David Snow Falling on Cedars Guterson turns out to be dead on:  “…A beautifully written book about commercial fishing in coastal waters.  Joe Upton delivers the reality and romance of Southeast Alaska.”

In Petersburg has a 200 foot waterfront Chinatown known as Sing Lee Alley.  It’s not quite intact because at No. 14 is a Victorian bungalow that houses Sing Lee Alley Books.       

Tina, a fit, attractive, grey-headed fifty year old, is the owner bookseller.  We chat about environmental politics.  I mention that we lower 48 folks are sort of clueless.  What does she advise?    For local advocacy join the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.  For the rest: population.  Which one?  Humans.  ZPG essential.  Hardline.  Seems very Alaska.  

We leave with exactly what we need. Ocean Treasure: Commercial Fishing in Alaska by commercial fisherman and university professor Terry Johnson and the useful, inexpensive State of Alaska’s Inside Passage Wildlife Viewing Guide put out by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the US Forest Service.

Descending Seward Street from Hertiage Coffee (and wifi) to the cruise ship waterfront of Juneau, I see Rainy Retreat Books  at number 113.  I remember “Rainy Day Books” from something I’ve read.  “Used to be that,” says the burly owner.  He goes on to explain how some peevish mid-western bookseller of that name decided to sue the nine other Rainy Day bookstores across the nation.  “Rainy days and books,” he says, exasperated. “Isn’t that the point?”

Don isn’t a native Alaskan; he’s from Syracuse, New York.  He and his wife had always dreamed of owning a bookstore and then one day there was ad in the New York Review of Books (I think he said, but it may have been the New Yorker or the New York Times).   After checking the business out and finding a climate milder than that of Syracuse, they moved 9 years ago.  They shelve used books right next to new ones, like at Powells.  

After Don gives me a quick introduction to the best books of Alaska, I leave with two which become highlights of the trip (quite possibly because I read them in Glacier Bay). The Blue Bear is a beautiful autobiographical reminiscence by wilderness guide Lynn Schooler about his friendship with the great wildlife photographer Michio Hoshino, who is killed by a bear on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East. The other book is The Nature of Southeast Alaska: A Guide to Plants, Animals and Habitats by Rita O’Clair, Robert Armstrong and Richard Carstensen.  Beautifully written, this is not your usual field guide.  Instead, it focusses on relationships and habitats and teaches you to look with wonder.

The busy summers of these independent booksellers balance out the long lean winter months, when they read, host local authors, and help tie together the social fabric of their communities.  Hats off to them.

Mendenhall Glacier

Piers, Jack and I spent a wonderful afternoon at  this lovely glacier that connects the Juneau Ice Field with the lake, the salmon choked stream, the sedge fens and the sea.   The Forest Service runs a visitor’s center there and so this was good preparation for Glacier Bay.   

But Mendenhall Glacier is right in Juneau’s back yard, about 12 miles from the waterfront, and the place folks have always gone to relax, hike, and picnic.  When the temperatures hit the 90s earlier this summer, this was Juneau’s beach.  In the winter people ski and snowshoe there.IMG_0678_2Piers2


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