Tuesday, November 28, 2006

New office -- where to find me

I'm getting moved into my new office now, so I'm cross-posting directions to my class blogs and the Message Board linked to my faculty page.

I'm in Beata Hall (the old Ursuline convent) across Eastman Street from St. Joe's parish and school. Either Room 31, if you go by the list of room assignments I've been given, or Room 8, if you go by the numbers on the doors. I've also attached my business card to the door.

To get there from Dawson, go out the south entrance and take the walk past Ursuline Academy. You'll go between the buildings, with the old building on the right and the gym on the left. Keep going through the parking lot, and there'll be a porch on the right (women's housing is straight ahead). On the south end of that porch, there's a door with a Christmas decoration. Go in the door, take the stairs just to the left and you'll be on the floor with faculty offices. They're in the hallway to the left at the top of the stairs. It takes a little less time to walk it than it does to give the directions!

Computer and phone are now hooked up ... you can reach me, as before, by phone at 525-1420 ext. 519 and by email at pellertsen@sci.edu. Email is usually better, but the voice mail in my office is working again.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving and Native cultures

Cross-posted (and edited slightly) from my class weblog http://www.comm207fall06.blogspot.com where I am commenting on newspaper stories for students in my copyediting class. These stories, both of which ran during the Thanksgiving holiday, also tell something about how Thanksgiving is approached in some Native cultures.

Here's a Thanksgiving special for you -- two Associated Press stories with a holiday theme. The first moved on the AP wire a couple of days before the holiday, and the second was in The Anchorage Daily News today.

In California, AP correspondent Ana Beatriz Cholo put a fresh lede on a fairly standard Thanksgiving story on how teachers handle the traditional story of Pilgrims and Indians joining in what sometimes we call the "first Thanksgiving" in 1621. Basically, she picks up on a teacher's imaginative way of getting it across to his third-graders, and leads with it.

Cholo's lede:
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Teacher Bill Morgan walks into his third-grade class wearing a black Pilgrim hat made of construction paper and begins snatching up pencils, backpacks and glue sticks from his pupils. He tells them the items now belong to him because he "discovered" them. The reaction is exactly what Morgan expects: The kids get angry and want their things back.

Morgan is among elementary school teachers who have ditched the traditional Thanksgiving lesson, in which children dress up like Indians and Pilgrims and act out a romanticized version of their first meetings.

He has replaced it with a more realistic look at the complex relationship between Indians and white settlers.

Morgan said he still wants his pupils at Cleveland Elementary School in San Francisco to celebrate Thanksgiving. But "what I am trying to portray is a different point of view."
By telling the story the way she does, without explaining why Morgan snatches up the kids' belongings, Cholo lets us as readers experience it the way they did.

It's pretty effective. But the history of U.S. relations with Native Americans is controversial, and Cholo balances it with a statement from another side of the issue:
Others see Morgan and teachers like him as too extreme.

"I think that is very sad," said Janice Shaw Crouse, a former college dean and public high school teacher and now a spokeswoman for Concerned Women for America, a conservative organization. "He is teaching his students to hate their country. That is a very distorted view of history, a distorted view of Thanksgiving."
Notice that Cholo does not comment on this statement. Instead, she allows readers to decide for themselves whether Morgan is teaching hatred. Cholo goes on to quote other people whose views mirror the often subtle complexity of the issue.
Even American Indians are divided on how to approach a holiday that some believe symbolizes the start of a hostile takeover of their lands.

Chuck Narcho, a member of the Maricopa and Tohono O'odham tribes who works as a substitute teacher in Los Angeles, said younger children should not be burdened with all the gory details of American history.

"If you are going to teach, you need to keep it positive," he said. "They can learn about the truths when they grow up. Caring, sharing and giving - that is what was originally intended."

Adam McMullin, a member of the Seminole tribe of Oklahoma and a spokesman for the National Congress of American Indians, said schoolchildren should get an accurate historical account.

"You can't just throw an Indian costume on a child," he said. "That stuff is not taken lightly. That's where educators need to be very careful."
And this:
Laverne Villalobos, a member of the Omaha tribe in Nebraska who now lives in the coastal town of Pacifica near San Francisco, considers Thanksgiving a day of mourning.

She went before the school board last week and asked for a ban on Thanksgiving re-enactments and students dressing up as Indians. She also complained about November's lunch menu that pictured a caricature of an Indian boy.

The mother of four said the traditional Thanksgiving celebrations in schools instill "a false sense of what really happened before and after the feast. It wasn't all warm and fuzzy."

After she complained, it was decided that pupils at her children's school will not wear Indian costumes this year.
Cholo ends her story with a quote from a historian and gets back to Morgan, the third-grade teacher in Long Beach:
James Loewen, a former history professor at the University of Vermont and author of "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong," said that during the first Thanksgiving, the Wampanoag Indians and the pilgrims had been living in relative peace, even though the tribe suspected the settlers of robbing Indian graves to steal food buried with the dead.

"Relations were strained, but yet the holiday worked. Folks got along. After that, bad things happened," Loewen said, referring to the bloody warfare that broke out later during the 17th century.

Morgan, a teacher for more than 35 years, said that after conducting his own research, he changed his approach to teaching about Thanksgiving. He tells teachers at his school this is a good way to nurture critical thinking, but he acknowledged not all are receptive: "It's kind of an uphill struggle."
So in the end, Cholo's story is balanced. That's important. But what sets it apart from the others is a creative lede that draws readers in and helps us feel what the kids in Morgan's class -- and some American Indians -- feel about the first Thanksgiving.

The other story is also about Indians. More accurately, it's about Alaska Natives and what some of them eat for Thanksgiving. It was in today's Anchorage Daily News, and I suspect it's just as much a holiday staple as turkey and cranberry sauce ... or "Eskimo ice cream" made of seal fat and blueberries, as the case may be. The story, by AP staff writer Rachel D'Oro, begins with a good narrative lede:
David Smith was newly arrived to the North Slope village of Nuiqsut when the former upstate New Yorker cooked up a couple of turkeys and vat of chili for the Eskimo community's annual Thanksgiving dinner.

He was completely unprepared for another dish on the menu last year: hundreds of pounds of gleaming red whale meat.

"I thought we were going to have a feast. I never assumed it would be a feast of whale meat," said Smith, 76, the village's city administrator who is originally from Fillmore, N.Y. With four bowhead whales landed this year, he can only imagine what today has in store for people gathering at the village school.

"It's going to be a huge celebration," he said.
It takes D'Oro right into her nut graf -- which, like so many, is actually a couple of grafs long:
The same could be said for other Thanksgiving festivities planned in Alaska Native villages around the state. For many the holiday is a welcome boost in the dark, frozen season, which has plunged Nuiqsut to lows of 25 degrees below zero.

Tables at public and private dinners alike will be set with store-bought turkey and all the trimmings alongside delicacies made from subsistence foods, like caribou stew, moose roast and seal oil. For dessert, there might be frybread or akutaq, whipped fat mixed with sugar and berries and sometimes greens or fish. Even in urban areas, Natives might gather in groups to observe the holiday with Western and Native fare.
The rest of the story hangs nicely off that lede. It consists of brief descriptions of what people are eating today in different American Indian and Eskimo villages across Alaska. Some tell a lot about traditional subsistence patterns and Native cultures:
In Nuiqsut each bowhead caught is divided into thirds, to be distributed at Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, as well as a traditional blanket toss in June. Each event gives residents and visitors a chance to sample the bowhead, a species that can measure 50 feet or more and weigh up to 100 tons. Edible parts include the meat, tongue and muktuk, the blubber and skin.

Whaling crews and other residents of the Inupiat Eskimo community have spent weeks cutting up portions for the Thanksgiving feast, the first round in the whale-sharing cycle. As with the other events, it is a time to reflect on the bounty brought by the bowhead to the community of 400, said Lampe, 39, who has lived in the village most of his life.

"It's about respecting nature," he said. "It's reminding people and crews that we live in a unique land and for a creature this size to give itself to the community is a real honor."
Some effective, although admittedly unexciting, photojournalism accompanies the ADN's story. At an Alaska Native dinner in Anchorage, AP photographer Al Grillo shot pictures featuring people loading their plates with whale blubber and caribou alongside the turkey and mashed potatoes. The pictures do tell a story.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Links: Alutiiq Anguyiit Dancers

Several links here to information about the Alutiiq Anguyiit Dancers, a group of young people whose heritage is (mostly) from Kodiak but who now live around Anchorage (the largest Native village in Alaska) and Mat-Su borough. Posted to the blog because I "lost" the last one and couldn't find in in Google with the spelling I was using.

"Quyana: The Gift of Dance." A story in The Anchorage Daily News about Quyana Alaska, a dance exhibition held in conjunction with the annual Alaska Federation of Natives conventions. Good background from June Purdue, founder of the Alutiiq Anguyiit Dancers, who told the ADN:
She was among the artisans contracted to sew skins for Aleut and Alutiiq kayaks as part of the Alaska Native Heritage Center's "Qayaqs and Canoes" project in 2000.

"That project was a pivotal point in my life," she wrote. "I was inspired to start a dance group shortly after. It had been my vision and dream for my grandchildren and other youth to learn about their culture and traditions by gathering in homes where we older people passed on to them things about our values." She recruited drummer Loren Anderson, whose parents came from Port Lions on Kodiak and, about three years ago, the group began in earnest. Since then they have performed in Seattle and California and as far east as North Carolina, as well as in several Alaska towns. They have also produced a CD.
The story, by assistant features editor Mike Dunham, also has good thumbnail sketches of several other Native dance troupes that performed during the AFN convention in October.

"Spreading the Culture." A May 9, 2005, story in The Kodiak Daily Mirror on the Alutiiq Anguyiit Dance group. Staff writer Drew Herman quoted Purdue as saying the group’s name means “warrior,” because, “We fight not against things seen but against things unseen.” Herman continues:
Originally from Kaguyak and Old Harbor on Kodiak Island, Pardue started Alutiiq Anguyiit Dance in late 2003 to help pass a healthy lifestyle on to a younger generation and encourage abstinance from alcohol and drugs. Now the group includes about 20 members who gather regularly in their Wasilla-area homes, to share potlucks and practice Alutiiq culture.

“It’s not just the dancing — it’s a good gathering of fellowship,” Pardue said.

The atmosphere at these gatherings recaptures the some of the feelings of community familiar from village gatherings. Pardue believes that social setting is crucial for maintaining culture, and this is espcially important to keep up when the previously rural people move to big cities among other cultures.

Preserving the culture means more than learning old songs and dances, and the group also adds new material in the traditional style.

“Culture is not just stagnant,” Pardue said. “It doesn’t stand still.”
A good sum-up. Probably the best in print so far.

Allutiq Anguyiit Dancers-Albums. This page (note spelling of "Alutiiq") gives information on the group's CD, including a list of songs and links to a couple of 30-second sample sound files. The CD was cut in October 2005 at the Gospel Music Ministries studio in Wasilla.