As the Arctic Erodes, Archaeologists Are Racing to Protect Ancient Treasures
A headless body, stretched out along the beach, appears through the smudged window of our ATV as we sail across the sand. There’s a windy lawlessness up here along the Chukchi Sea; I’m reassured by the rifle lashed to the lead ATV in the caravan. The archaeologist at the helm passes the decaying creature without pause. Anne Jensen has seen many headless walruses before—this one was likely already dead when it washed ashore and was relieved of its tusks. Jensen’s not worried about poachers; the rifle is for polar bears—the Arctic’s fiercest of predators. And Jensen seems entirely capable of staying calm and slamming a bullet into one.
We’re just south of Barrow, Alaska, heading to an archaeological site at a place called Walakpa Bay. It’s a grassy coastline that’s been occupied by semi-nomadic native Alaskans for at least 4,000 years. Their story, told in material remains, is scattered across the landscape we traverse at 60 kilometers per hour, past flocks of ducks and eroding bluffs. Most archaeologists mine the soil to better understand how the animals, landscape, and climate of the past may have shaped a culture. Read more.
Irene Bedard at the premiere of Disney’s ‘Pocahontas’ on June 11, 1995 at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, California. Bedard provided the voice for Pocahontas. Most recently, she stars in the film “Songs My Brothers Taught Me.”
It’s not unlike Never Alone, a
puzzle-platformer game released in 2014 that borrowed heavily from the
traditions and mythology of the Alaskan Native people. It was created by
the Cook Inlet Tribal Council in association with E-Line Media as a way
to harness technology and better educate people of the customs and
traditions held by the Inupiaq and other Alaskan indigenous peoples. By
incorporating their legends and beliefs into a video game, their rich
heritage can be virtually immortalized and survive much longer and in a
more pure state than these tribes themselves.
No amount of books,
movies, or retellings of tales can quite match the revelatory power of
experiencing something firsthand. Lessons learned from inhabiting a role
can be deeper, more personal, and more rooted in appreciation and
empathy. Videogames like Mulaka
are unique chances to experience, explore, learn, and appreciate, the
vehicles through which preservation and education reach heights
traditional forms of education can only hope to achieve.
A family portrait of an Inupiat mother, father, and son, photographed in Noatak, Alaska, by Edward S. Curtis circa 1929. The Inupiat are an Alaska Native people whose traditional territory spans from the Norton Sound on the Bering Sea to the Canadian border. At the time this picture was taken, most were living in coastal areas, having migrated there during a period of starvation and an influenza epidemic.
A young boy helps carry a recently shot seal back to camp on the sea ice outside of Kivalina, Alaska.
Subsistence hunting is as much about survival as it is preservation of culture. The ice camp is an annual tradition that happens when ice leads open and the whales begin migrating north. Extended families will set up canvas tents, the floors covered with blankets and animal skins, while nearer the ice’s edge hunters sit and watch the black water for a ripple and spout of a whale.
Climate change is causing the ice to form later and melt earlier, not only exposing the coastal village to devastating winter storms, but jeopardizing cultural traditions spanning generations.
Anonymous said: Do you know of any reputable lists of Alaskan Native names? Preferrably Inupiat or Yupik, but other nations would be helpful too.
If anyone would like to be a resource for this anon on Inupiat or Yupik names, please respond to this post.
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