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    A Journey to What Matters- Unangax̂ Regalia Making Workshop in Akutan

A Journey to What Matters- Unangax̂ Regalia Making Workshop in Akutan

Unangax̂ Regalia Making Workshop in Akutan Grantee: Native Village of AkutanStory from Haliehana Stepetin, Workshop Leader The Regalia Making Workshop held in Akutan on August 3rd through 13th, 2021 was a wonderful community event that brought together an intergenerational group of participants around a shared desire to learn and revitalize Unangax̂ Ancestral clothing and regalia. In previous years, regalia making had not been open to the entire community but was prioritized for members of the village dance group, the Akutanam Ax̂asniikangin. This workshop was the first of its kind considering it was led from within the community and was available to all community members, not only dancers. As the lead artist and project director, it was important to me to offer a class that anyone in the community could attend. The older generation of Akutan did not have many opportunities to participate in cultural projects such as making their own regalia. This was largely due to colonial interruptions in the transmissions of Unangax̂ culture and knowledge, and particularly, the legacy of U.S. assimilationist boarding school policies that pervaded the school system until recently. Several participants that attended the Regalia Making Workshop represent this generation.The workshop, held over the course of ten days, had ten to fifteen participants each day. Several participants joined to learn how to sew their own Unangax̂-style women’s headdresses. For the eight to twelve participants creating their own sax̂, the full-length regalia in Unangam Tunuu, it was critical to teach them how to cut furs and the associated technique of skin sewing. Part of teaching participants to make their own regalia includes revitalizing family designs that stopped being transmitted during Russian and early American colonial periods. This revitalization includes participants designing their own individualized regalia. In the past, basic regalia construction and short time periods left little room to create personalized regalia with associated family designs. However, I thought it was important to reflect personal individuality and kinship relations in the design of regalia, even if that lengthened the time it would take to complete regalia. Considering that a lot of our family designs have no longer been transmitted for several generations, this workshop was an opportunity to revitalize those and create shared designs for many participants who share kinship lineages. These designs are often reflected in the weavers, or the small pieces of leather with intricate designs connecting panels of regalia, on cuffs, and the bottom of regalia. #gallery-1 { margin: auto; } #gallery-1 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-1 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-1 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ As a Qigiiĝun Unangax̂ living away from my homelands/waters, it is extremely important for me to pass on the knowledges of skin sewing and regalia making to my own community in hopes that they continue sharing these skills in Akutan. All participants of the workshop reminded me of the strength of our community, the significance of gathering to create and share, and how working together fosters cohesiveness and cultures of respect –the very values I was raised with in Akutan.It was important for me to teach the skill of regalia making to my community in hopes that all Unangax̂ Peoples can have their own regalia. In my experience attending university outside the state of Alaska, I noticed that many Indigenous Peoples elsewhere have their own personalized regalia, whether they are dancers or not. It’s important to me to revitalize this part of our culture as a way to facilitate belonging for all community members, especially those who were denied opportunities to truly bear our culture in their upbringing. This way, we can bring our whole selves to spaces and not simply “walk in two worlds.” Learning the skill to make our own regalia and wearing it at special events, for dance, and other significant occasions is an act of cultural reclamation. I taught this workshop with reclamation and revitalization in mind, with a desire to instill agency in Qigiiĝun Unangax̂ of Akutan, and to be able to foster belonging and empowerment for all community members.
By |October 5th, 2021|A Journey to What Matters, Featured Posts|Comments Off on A Journey to What Matters- Unangax̂ Regalia Making Workshop in Akutan
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    A Journey to What Matters and ASCA Partnership- Graduate ARTShops 2021: Cauyaq Making

A Journey to What Matters and ASCA Partnership- Graduate ARTShops 2021: Cauyaq Making

A Journey to What Matters and ASCA Partnership- Graduate ARTShops 2021 The ARTShops program is a collaboration between the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Alaska Native Heritage Center and The CIRI Foundation’s A Journey to What Matters: Increased Alaska Native Arts and Culture grant program. Established in 2016, ARTShops support emerging Alaska Native arts leaders to develop their skills in leading community-based arts programs. Graduate ARTShops 2021 Cauyaq Making Final Report Story by: Amber Webb, ARTShop Leader My Graduate ARTShop project focused on cauyaq (drum) and included demonstrations and instruction about harvesting and splitting frame wood, bending, and frame construction, and then drum covering with Ossie Kairaiuak. It also included discussion about, traditional etiquette and the role of Yuraq and drums in our social structure.              There were several methods we discussed around bending wood, one of which involved weighing wood down in a deeper part of Lake Aleknagik to use the pressure of water instead of steaming or boiling it.  This process made us wonder if that is why the original name for Aleknagik was a variation of the Yugtun word for a place to lash, since a lot of our bent wood utensils and tools were lashed.  This renewed interest in lashing techniques.  Some of us are also working on starting other projects with bent wood like dance masks, fans, bowls, containers and even kayak frames.               We were able to have daily potlucks and Yup’ik dancing during class and in the evening as well.  It was a small group who came to dance, but it included some of our most enthusiastic community members.  It was especially meaningful for my sister and I who danced for 12 years with the Greatland dancers under William and Marie Tyson of St. Mary during our childhood.  Neither of us had danced in about 20 years and we both remembered the songs better than I had expected.               One very special moment after the class was when my husband’s 80 year-old uncle who is in the early stages of dementia and usually very quiet came to the house and saw the drum that was made at the workshop.  He became very animated and asked to hold the drum. He began drumming and then stopped, exclaiming that he hadn’t seen one of these in many years.  He then asked if he could take the drum home to practice a song that he was trying to remember so that he could come back and play it for his nephew.               After the class, we attended a Yuraq performance in Anchorage and my 4 year-old daughter, who had not seen much Yuraq before the class, was inspired on her own to go up next to one of the dancers and try dancing the song she had never heard.  Since the class, I will hear her sing some of the songs that we learned while she plays.  I believe our ARTShop will have a lasting regional impact during the coming years.               I appreciate the flexibility of the ARTShop program because it lends itself to traditional and informal ways of working.  Quyana for allowing me to participate in this program.   
By |September 20th, 2021|A Journey to What Matters, ARTShops, Featured Posts|Comments Off on A Journey to What Matters and ASCA Partnership- Graduate ARTShops 2021: Cauyaq Making
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    A Journey to What Matters- Ancient Whistle Virtually Bringing Us Together

A Journey to What Matters- Ancient Whistle Virtually Bringing Us Together

Ancient Whistle Virtually Bringing Us Together Grantee: Smithsonian Institution Arctic Studies CenterStory from Karla Booth, Project Participant I am Karla Booth, Ts’msyen of the Raven Clan and my family comes from the community of Metlakatla, though I live on Dena’ina lands in Anchorage. I want to express gratitude for The CIRI Foundation, Journey to What Matters, and the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center for allowing me to participate in the Tsimshian Whistle Carving Workshop taught by John Hudson III. My family and I regularly dance with Lepquinm Gumilgit Gagoadim Tsimshian Dancers where we use drums, rattles, and our voices to celebrate our culture with others. By taking this class I learned another way that my dance group can enhance our performances and strengthen connections with our Ancestors.This class was taught over the popular pandemic tool, Zoom, and all participants were equipped with an amazing set of handmade carving tools and cedar blocks to carve an under-utilized instrument from. John patiently shared over the computer what he learned about this ancient instrument and demonstrated the techniques that he found most efficient. He was able to actively keep us engaged by demonstrating the steps, repeating the instructions, and allowing quiet time for carving and questions. Historical materials and videos from earlier workshops were shared so we could have a greater understanding of the importance of cedar and how these whistles were used throughout southeast Alaska.I was taught that knowledge isn’t valid unless it is shared with others and I feel that this project is a good example of this. John shared knowledge that has been asleep in our culture, knowledge that was passed to him, and new knowledge that he discovered through his own research. The class participants learned from the demonstrations, participated in the community that was built through storytelling and carving, and felt the spiritual connection that was made when the whistles were blown and we discussed our traditional ways of life. Not everyone in the class completed their whistles during the allotted time but we know that its up to us to complete it to receive the gift that is waiting for us. I look forward to the world that this whistle will open up to me and the opportunity to share it with others. Nt’oyaxsism to everyone that made this opportunity possible!
By |September 20th, 2021|A Journey to What Matters, Featured Posts, Project Grant|Comments Off on A Journey to What Matters- Ancient Whistle Virtually Bringing Us Together
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    A Journey to What Matters and ASCA Partnership- Graduate ARTShops 2021: Hide Work in Continuous Community

A Journey to What Matters and ASCA Partnership- Graduate ARTShops 2021: Hide Work in Continuous Community

A Journey to What Matters and ASCA Partnership- Graduate ARTShops 2021 The ARTShops program is a collaboration between the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Alaska Native Heritage Center and The CIRI Foundation’s A Journey to What Matters: Increased Alaska Native Arts and Culture grant program. Established in 2016, ARTShops support emerging Alaska Native arts leaders to develop their skills in leading community-based arts programs. Graduate ARTShops 2021Hide Work in Continuous CommunityStory by: Melissa Shaginoff, ARTShop Leader For this Graduate ARTShop Project I was able to meet all my goals with slight adjustments with the delivery of the project to my community. Working in Dgheyey kaq’ (Anchorage) I was able to connect with a small group of hide workers and hide work teachers. To work on hides in a good way we first needed to establish a connection to both our human and animal relatives. This involves building trust within our community of learning and developing deep kinship relations with each other and our knowledge of the animals.For this project I networked with friends and friends of friends to collect the animal materials from roadkill. I received two hides and four front legs of one moose and one caribou. Creating a virtual group was quite difficult as the spring and summer are primarily reserved for subsistence activities. What I was able to do was have concentrated relation-building and co-learning time with several individuals separately. I plan on continuing to learn about hide work with them.Over the summer I created two hides scrapers, fleshed and brain-soaked three hides, established an online cohort of hide learners, connected with Elders, and worked alongside my family.The Graduate ARTShops Project really help me continue my journey in hide work. It is a process of learning that requires an integration into one’s life. A truly decolonial approach into learning is understanding that it is a continuum and way of being. I am truly grateful for the support in deepening my relationship to the individuals in this project. As we grow in community so does our collective knowledge and our trust of one another. It is our responsibility honor these animal relatives through processing their gift in hide work.
By |September 17th, 2021|A Journey to What Matters, ARTShops, Featured Posts|Comments Off on A Journey to What Matters and ASCA Partnership- Graduate ARTShops 2021: Hide Work in Continuous Community

TCF Recipient- Hannah Lowery

Thank you TCF! Story and Photo from Hannah Lowery I am going into my senior year of college in the nursing program at Arizona State University. Currently, my plan is to become a postpartum nurse or further my education with graduate school. These scholarships made it possible for me to further my education and begin a career in a field I love. I’m very thankful that The CIRI Foundation has helped me and so many others get a higher education.
By |September 17th, 2021|Featured Posts, TCF Recipient|Comments Off on TCF Recipient- Hannah Lowery

TCF Recipient- Jacob Schmidt

The Gift of Continuing Education Story and Photo from Jacob Schmidt Dear The CIRI Foundation, I wanted to take a moment and try to put into words what the support I have received over the years has meant to me. Financial support from The CIRI foundation has allowed me to pursue educational goals beyond my undergraduate degree. It has allowed me to focus on school, and ease the stress that comes with paying for it.This year, as a recipient of the John N. Colberg Endowment Scholarship Fund, I will be able to complete my third year of law school at Gonzaga University, a feat I would not have thought possible just a few years ago. My educational goals have been one stop on a long road, a road that ultimately I know will lead back to Alaska, and back to my family. I plan to be able to give back as generously to the people who gave so much to me.Without your support, I could not have gotten where I am today, thank you so much for your generosity and for bolstering my educational success! Chin’an, Jacob Schmidt
By |September 16th, 2021|Featured Posts, TCF Recipient|Comments Off on TCF Recipient- Jacob Schmidt

TCF Scholarship Recipient- Marissa Shaver

Appreciation from a Scholarship Recipient Story and Photo from Marissa Shaver Hello! My name is Marissa Shaver from Fostoria, Ohio. I have been one of the scholarship recipients for the past four years and now for this upcoming school year. I attended Trine University in Angola, Indiana and studied biomedical engineering. I recently graduated this past May and received my bachelor’s degree. I will be continuing my education at Eastern Michigan University to pursue a Master’s degree in Prosthetics and Orthotics. After graduation from Eastern Michigan I hope to gain more experience in the field and eventually open my own practice to fit individuals with prosthetics and/or orthotics.Throughout the course of my senior year at Trine I was able to work on a senior design project, The Helping Hands Project, with three other seniors. Our goal was to design and manufacture functional, 3D printed prosthetic hands. This project presented an amazing opportunity to work with the two girls and their families. As a group we were able to improve the quality of life for those two girls.This summer I am working in the lab at Roppe, a rubber flooring factory. I have worked in the lab the past five summers as a quality control technician. This summer I was fortunate enough to take a trip up to Alaska with my parents, sister, brother-in-law and my boyfriend. It was an amazing two weeks spent visiting family, fishing, hiking, riding bikes, riding 4 wheelers, exploring downtown Anchorage, and traveling around Alaska. I have always loved going up to Alaska because of the breathtaking views and different activities we can’t do here in Ohio.I am beyond appreciative for the support The CIRI Foundation has provided throughout my educational journey. I have had an amazing college experience thus far and I look forward to what the future holds.I have included a photo of myself with my older sister, Kassie, a previous scholarship recipient as well, from our vacation to Alaska this summer.
By |September 16th, 2021|Featured Posts, TCF Recipient|Comments Off on TCF Scholarship Recipient- Marissa Shaver
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    A Journey to What Matters- Alaska Native PLACE in the Pandemic

A Journey to What Matters- Alaska Native PLACE in the Pandemic

Alaska Native PLACE in the Pandemic Grantee: Alaska Native Heritage CenterStory from Melissa Shaginoff, TCF Recipient and Project Coordinator Over the past year, the grassroots collective Alaska Native PLACE (Providing Living Artists Creative Environments) undertook the planning of seven intergenerational art workshops with mentor Alaska Native artists and Alaska Native participants from all over the state and country. During the planning stages of this project, the COVID-19 global pandemic and subsequent mandated shut-down procedures were put in place. Our response was to adjust our in-person workshop model to offer virtual Zoom workshops.To best serve the Alaska Native PLACE collective, organizers selected seven Alaska Native artists to teach virtual workshops. While the pandemic stopped us from meeting in-person, it opened the door for our collective to reach out to artists beyond the Anchorage region. In addition to the intentions to grow the Alaska Native artist community throughout Alaska, our collective understood that the upcoming year would be particularly challenging for artists. With the loss of in-person markets, the cancelling of art orders and workshops, artists would be faced with a year of no in-person gatherings of our group. With this loss of multiple supports, our collective was determined to spread our funding first and foremost to artists. Each Alaska Native artist received a stipend and logistical support from the appointed collective Art Director. The Art Director would reach out and schedule with artists, advertise the workshops, email each participant, manage the calendar, schedule the workshop, shop for materials, create individual material kits, and mail and/or deliver kits to participants in Anchorage and the valley.These are the following workshops that were hosted:• Devil’s Club Beads with Kari Shaginoff; June 22, 2020• Formline Snowflakes with Benjamin Schleifman; December 22, 2020• Dene Rifle Case with Charlie Pardue; January 8 – 10, 2021• Rabbit Skin Mittens with June Pardue; February 12 – 13, 2021• Drawing and Ahtna Language with Dimi Macheras; February 25, 2021• Atikłuk Sewing with Bobby Itta; April 10 – 11, 2021• Drawing and Storytelling with Holly Mitiquq Nordlum; April 30, 2021While of course there were limitations with the pandemic, PLACE reached Alaska Native participants aging from 12 to 79 years old. We mailed workshop kits all over Alaska as well as the lower 48 and over 70% of the funds received was paid directly to the Alaska Native artists.
By |September 16th, 2021|A Journey to What Matters, Featured Posts, Project Grant|Comments Off on A Journey to What Matters- Alaska Native PLACE in the Pandemic

TCF Scholarship Recipient- Brenda Blankenship

My Journey to a Law Degree Story and Photo from Brenda Blankenship My name is Brenda Marie Blankenship, and I’m one of those people who decided to go to school later in life. I am Athabaskan, and an enrolled member of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, as well as a direct lineal descendant of an original Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI) Shareholder, Virginia Wolf. I grew up commercial fishing in Egegik, Alaska in the summers, and hanging out on my dad’s boat, the Perseverance, on Willapa Bay, Washington. After graduating high school in 1998 I took some welding classes and ended up working in sawmills for 15 years, eight of those years serving my union membership as a shop steward and later as the local president. I loved what I did, but wanted to do more. I was also a single mother for a long time, so I stayed in sawmills because ultimately it kept the bills paid.When I turned 34 I decided that I was ready to make a major change in my career. A group of lawyers in Seattle, Washington decided to give me a shot at my first office based position as their Legal Assistant/Office Manager, and thus my introduction, and what would become my love for the law, was born. That position led to my next job at the Grays Harbor County Prosecutor’s Office. After some time spent there I saw an opportunity to come home to Kenai, Alaska and work for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe as the Executive Assistant to Tribal Administration, and I took it.I realized shortly after beginning my job at the Tribe, that going back to school was essential if I wanted to advance at work, and more importantly, if I was to contribute my best to my people. I was nervous, but again, I decided to make the plunge and enroll at Alaska Pacific University in the Business Administration Program.I finished my Associate’s Degree in 15 months, and about a year out from finishing my Bachelor’s Degree if I stay the course (which I will). My plan is to enroll in law school as soon as I finish my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. I plan to specialize in Federal Indian Law.I am currently the Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO) Manager for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, and my main objective is to locate and help open up doors for as many Kenaitze Tribal Citizens and Alaska Native people as possible. The opportunities that have been given to me by those who took a chance and have believed in me has taught me that each one of us has the ability and the power to uplift and change lives of countless people. We just have to keep our eyes open and watch for the chance to do so.Learning more and more about my culture, and that of all Alaska Native people, has inspired me to reach as far as I can. If I am able to help flip that switch in others than I will succeed in making my ancestors proud. It is our way to support one another. I could not do any of this without the support of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, The CIRI Foundation, Alaska Pacific University, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, and others who have so generously given to allow me the opportunity to obtain my education. It is my pledge to make it worth it.
By |September 16th, 2021|Featured Posts, TCF Recipient|Comments Off on TCF Scholarship Recipient- Brenda Blankenship

TCF Scholarship Recipient- Steven Brown

The Honor of Representing CIRI in College Story and Photos from Steven Brown Over the past two years I have been blessed to receive the general academic year scholarship from The CIRI Foundation (TCF) and I cannot begin to express my thankfulness for having been selected for the Excellence Annual Scholarship this year.In no small part, the scholarship has granted me the opportunity to be an athletic scholar. In the realm of athletics, I have been privileged to participate on 2 National Championship teams for the clay target discipline. Beyond this, I have also been able to use the TCF grants to focus on my undergraduate studies. I am humbled to say that I have made the President’s list both years and thoroughly enjoy my degree program.My goal is to one day get into medical school and pursue a career in medicine from that point. I know that my capability of accomplishing this dream would not be nearly as possible without the continued support of The CIRI Foundation. I will close by simply expressing my sheer gratitude to the organization for allowing me the opportunity to turn a dream into a reality.
By |September 16th, 2021|Featured Posts, TCF Recipient|Comments Off on TCF Scholarship Recipient- Steven Brown