March 16, 2018
Great People Doing Great Things: Keeping Languages Alive Through Karaoke
If you were a teenage girl in 1997 you'd probably recognize the song "Everybody" by the Backstreet Boys. But if you heard it in the Salish language, would you still be able to sing along?
Keegan Heron can. He translated the song into Salish and performed it this week for the annual Salish Karaoke contest in Spokane, Wash. He's only been studying the indigenous language for about nine months.
"There's a lot of words that I didn't know two weeks ago," he says.
Heron teaches preschool on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana.
"I work with 4 and 5-year-olds," he says. "I'm trying to teach them Salish, and so I need to learn first before I can teach them."
By the end of his karaoke routine, Heron was confidently dancing his way across the front of the stage, waving his arms and shouting, "everybody dance!" in Salish to an audience of at least 500 people. (He won second place.)
In Other Places...
They call themselves the Yellow Bird Indian Dancers. More than a dozen members of the Duncan family, spanning three generations, participate in the family’s passion for hoop dancing. From Olympic stages to dirt circles, televised internationally and sometimes performing for an audience of just a handful, they have been spreading awareness of Native American culture and art for more than 25 years.
According to the Iroquois oral tradition, the game of snow snake dates back more than 500 years, to before the arrival of Europeans in North America. Originally a form of communication between villages, the throwing of "snow snakes" in a trough of snow or track developed into a competitive sport during long winters when the long track was not used for communication. The name "snow snake" is said to have come from the serpentine wiggling motion of the poles as they slide down the icy track.
A year and half ago, Gabe Stewart stood in tribal court pleading guilty to felony charges because he stole money from his family to support his opioid addiction. In January, his community honored him for overcoming addiction and watched as his case was dismissed entirely.
As Iditarod Changes, so Does its connection to Alaska Natives
Fewer than 10 mushers out of the 67 competing in this year’s Iditarod are Alaska Native.
Before the ceremonial start Saturday of the 2018 Iditarod, veteran musher Ketil Reitan of Kaktovik remarked on how fewer Inupiaq people are dog mushing nowadays.
“One of my main motivations is to pass along the traditions to my sons,” Reitan said. “It’s not that many young Inupiaq people that are dog mushing anymore; it’s hard to get into it, so to keep our team going and keep the traditions alive, that’s very meaningful. I think lots of people appreciate that we are trying to do that.”
In February, Reitan’s son, Vebjorn Aishanna Reitan, completed the Yukon Quest, a 1,000-mile sled dog race, but he’s not racing in this year’s Iditarod.
Yupik musher and longtime resident of Bethel, Pete Kaiser, figures it’s harder for some who live in smaller rural communities to afford the Iditarod.
“It’s a really expensive sport, so you kind of have to have all your ducks in a row” Kaiser said. “It’s really not a hobby or anything else, it’s a lifestyle, and it requires my time 365 days a year. When you have other things going on like family and kids, you kind of need a job to support this job. It gets very complicated.”
Hawaiian Airlines Brings Culture Onboard
Hawaiian Airlines is bringing onboard a series of exclusive in-flight videos that will feature inspiring stories that showcase the power of culture-based native Hawaiian education.
The videos will show how educators are turning streams, fishponds and the voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a, into immersive classrooms while using traditional Hawaiian practices to empower youth.
The new series was produced by Kanaeokana, a network of over 50 local schools and organizations focused on strengthening Hawaiian education.
Your weekly dose of history:
That claim is largely accurate, but it’s also misleading; it omits to mention that although Abraham Lincoln did approve 39 death sentences (one of the condemned men was ultimately spared), he also prevented the hangings of 264 other Native Americans by commuting their death sentences, in the same order. It also fails to make it clear that the death sentences did not originate with Lincoln. Rather, the executions were ordered by a military commission and sent to the president, who had the legal authority to approve or decline to approve any or all of the sentences.
True - The boy that Malcolm and Suzanne Seely wound up adopting is now 71 years old as of March 2018. Dennis Isaac Seely told us in a phone interview that he was an infant in 1946 when he was forcibly taken from his mother, a Dakota Sioux woman living on the Lake Traverse Reservation in Sisseton, close to the North Dakota-Minnesota border.
Seely pieced together the details of his early life from speaking with relatives and the family friend who was babysitting the night he was kidnapped.
Like most people uprooted by the Cherokee Trail of Tears, Eliza Whitmire experienced terrible trauma. It was a “time filled with horror and suffering for the unfortunate Cherokee and their slaves,” Eliza later recalled.
She and her family were among those slaves. Their removal story differs slightly from traditional “Trail of Tears” narratives because they were of African descent, enslaved and forcibly removed along with their Cherokee owners.
The answer requires us to peel back the layers of Cherokee history and tradition.Most scholars agree that the Cherokees, an Iroquoian-speaking people, have lived in what is today the Southeastern United States—Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama since at least A.D. 1000. When Europeans first encountered the Cherokees in the mid–16th century, Cherokee people had well-established social and cultural traditions. And then, to adapt, they began marrying into white society.
To claim Cherokee blood is to authenticate your American-ness.