May 12, 2017
Great People Doing Great Things: Singing to Preserve Language
Rosa Violet Pitawanakwat-Burke is a 76-year-old Odawa from Wikwemikong Unceded Territory on the northeastern shore of Manatoulin Island in northern Ontario. She's recalling her childhood, when the federal government forcibly took her away from her home and family.
The school’s goal, she explains matter-of-factly, was to "destroy the Indian in each person. To be ashamed. But my mom said 'you keep going, don't listen to them. Just don't speak in front of them so you don't get the strap.'"
"It's very healing when you know your language," Pitawanakwat-Burke says. "With all the materialistic stuff in this day and age, going back to your language you forget about the earthly things. So your language really covers what you don't have.”
Rosa's new CD, her fourth, is called "Gospel Classic Karaoke" and is targeting Christians in her community by translating familiar church songs into Odawa, just like her previous records did to children's songs, Christmas carols and "country classics." Half the tracks have Rosa singing her translated lyrics and the rest are instrumental versions for singing over once the Odawa is learned.
Encouraging STEM on Reservations
Many of us grew up in the era of “no child left behind.” It’s such an amazing sentiment. We are one of the richest nations on earth. Doing better, especially by our kids, should be inalienable. Yet, kids still are being left behind; in fact, it’s distressingly common and far too often overlooked. Among these forgotten children are tens of thousands of Americans born into poverty on American Indian Reservations.
The Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program, or ANSEP, started out in 1995 to help Native youth get excited about school, get into college, and find a career, via the avenues provided within STEM education. 22 years later, they’re still going strong and have made some seriously impressive strides by helping isolated and economically depressed Native Americans find a bright future in the modern world.
What separates ANSEP from a high school program or a summer camp is that they start working with students in the sixth grade and continually work with the same students all the way through their tertiary education, until they have real jobs in the real world. It’s comprehensive and it’s completely free for the kids.
Helping Native People with Financial Success
Harvard Business School launched its first annual Leading People and Investing to Build Sustainable Communities program, which set out to equip professionals from First Nations and native-American communities with new ideas for managing their businesses and resources.
Over 60 Indigenous people from across Canada and the United States attended the four-day course, in which professors taught investment practices and governance strategies, and provided opportunities for participants to put their heads together to solve issues in their communities back home.
The curriculum focused on governance and investment practices to help a community manage its funds for generations to come. Prof. Nicholas observed that participants were not interested in short-term goals, but instead wanted to know how their choices will affect their communities seven generations in the future.
Native American Art Finally Included
The American Wing of the storied Metropolitan Museum of Art has long held a collection of typically “American” artifacts: portraits of wigged colonial leaders, Tiffany chandeliers, Frank Lloyd Wright chairs, silver owned by Paul Revere Jr., quilts by unknown 19th-century makers.
Together they tell a specific, but noticeably incomplete, history of the United States.
Beginning in the fall of 2018, however, the American Wing will attempt to course correct by including a subgroup of art that has been regrettably missing from the section: Native American art. Thanks to a donation from collectors Charles and Valerie Diker, a batch of 91 works of Native American art will be headed for the American Wing, marking a historic change in the way art is curated at New York’s most famous museum.
The Seal Skin Tradition
First, she looked to tradition, immersing herself in the Inuit customs of mitten and parka-making. Next, Victoria Kakuktinniq sought out the contemporary, heading south to train in fashion design before returning home to Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost territory.
The result is a fashion line that marries modern design with tradition – captured in a first collection that includes four sealskin winter coats – and which has established Kakuktinniq’s place among the cadre of designers and seamstresses in Canada’s north working to reclaim sealskin’s place in haute couture.
“It’s part of my culture,” said Kakuktinniq, 27, who launched Victoria’s Arctic Fashion in 2013. “The Inuit are really trying our best to promote our culture and show our way of life and how our ancestors lived.”
It a way of life that has increasingly come under attack in recent decades. Opposition to seal hunting gathered force in the 1960s and 70s, with graphic campaigns that featured fluffy seal pups being bludgeoned by hunters. It soon snowballed into a global, celebrity-studded movement that saw the US and European Union ban the import of virtually all seal products.
But little thought was given to the impact these anti-sealing campaigns would have on Inuit, said the film-maker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril. “When you totally erase Inuit from the picture, it can appear as a black and white issue,” she said. “But we’re the people of the seal, we’re hunters.”
Seal oil is packed with vitamin D, omega-3 fats and all kinds of other dietary nutrients. Its cultural significance is also immeasurable. “It would be really, really, really, really bad, if we lost that,” said Shishmaref resident Dennis Davis. “Seal oil is like soy sauce and Tabasco. You never leave home or have a meal without them,” he said.
The Hokulea is coming home
The famed boat embarked from Hawaii in 2014 and has been sailing the globe on a mission of education and a movement toward a more sustainable world. The Hokulea returns to Honolulu in June, and when it does, it will be greeted by Hadar’s new 14-story mural.
The project was completed last weekend. And when the Hokulea finally sails into Pearl Harbor and the crew sees the massive new mural?
“I hope that they experience the warm feeling of home,” says Hadar.