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Southeast Alaska News
Victoria Merritt with the Craig Parks and Recreation report for May 17. CraigPR051713
Up a staircase, through a bedroom, and there it is: a room lit by skylights and tall windows. The studio, where Teri Rofkar weaves her work.
Rofkar was named the 2013 Rasmuson Distinguished Artist on Wednesday. The annual award is given by the Rasmuson Foundation to an Alaska artist with a history of accomplishment. It brings with it a $40,000 prize.
It is in this studio that Rofkar has shelves of books, on subjects ranging from Russians in Alaska to Tlingit ethnobotany. Bins on a low shelf hold wool.
“Mountain goat, merino, alpaca and bison, because I did use the buffalo wool for that robe for the park service, and dog,” she says. “I’m working on a dog robe.”
There’s a spinning wheel in the middle of the room and a weaving frame, on which hangs the beginning of her next project. And over on one of the shelves, right next to an elegant blue vase, is a small frame, holding the picture of a shirtless, chiseled man, smoldering at the camera lens.
“Oh, he’s just purely inspiration,” Rofkar says. “I’ve probably had him for 30 years. And he’s still inspiring. I think that’s the one thing I’ve had to frisk out of gals’ hands. Like, ‘You put that right back!’”
Of course, Rofkar’s real inspirations for her work come from all around her. Maybe it’s a story told by a family member. Or the 1964 Alaska earthquake. She calls herself a basket weaver, but much of her work is traditional Tlingit robes. Baskets, she says, big baskets that hold people.
She’s been weaving for years. Her work is often surprising — incorporating an unusual color, or a new feature, like DNA symbols woven into a recent robe she did about goats. She says finding new ways to appreciate the art is important.
Rofkar: That’s where the rubber meets the road. Are you still doing it? Does it still inspire you? Are you still excited to get in there and do the dirty work? Absolutely.
Rofkar: There’s so many more discoveries. It’s like the ocean we haven’t explored.
KCAW: I remember interviewing you a few years back for a robe you were working on for the national park. And what I remember about that interview is you opened a door the robe was sitting in before it was unveiled and you spoke TO the robe.
KCAW: I hear a lot of personification in the way you talk about your art.
Rofkar: It embodies the place, right? Maybe in that case it was a reflection of the history of the park and the place of the park. This robe over here that’s about the mountain goat on Baranof Island has the double-helix and DNA stranding. The science I’ve embedded in it — the double helix — is accurate. They are an entity, just as the materials that I harvest, the tree people and the ferns. The place that we’re at, we live here, but there are others who have been living here for many more thousands of years than us. It’s relationships.
Rofkar received her award from the Rasmuson Foundation at an event in Anchorage. She says the money will help her take some time to focus on art for the sake of art, rather than worrying about weaving things that will earn money.
“Rasmuson has such a leap of faith to support all these artists, and they’re calling it a vision,” Rofkar said. “But for us, it’s our journey. They’re making our journey possible.”
What Rofkar does is rare, but she’s working to share her artform. She’s demonstrated and taught all over the country. When she started, she says she felt like her artform was on the verge of going away.
“It seemed like such a fragile art form,” Rofkar said. “There’s very few baskets. I think Tlingit basketry was declared lost in the (19)50s. I felt like I was single handedly holding it up. The robes: there are so few of them. There’s getting to be more. But here I was feeling like the carrier of the culture. And I realize now, whoops, this basketry, this weaving, it’s been going on for thousands and thousands of years. I’m the one that’s fragile. The art will continue on.”
On the way out the door, Rofkar sits me down in front of her computer, and plays a video produced for the Rasmuson Foundation. On the screen, she’s sitting at the spinning wheel in her studio.
And as she finishes introducing herself, heavy metal music begins to play and her name zooms onto the screen in big letters. It’s a startling contrast, but as it turns out, the perfect choice by the filmmaker.
KCAW: This is not music somebody would normally associate with…
Rofkar: Spinning and weaving. I love heavy metal.
KCAW: Do you?
Rofkar: I do.
KCAW: Like who?
Rofkar: Oh, Primus…
Another surprise, from Teri Rofkar.
ANCHORAGE — The National Marine Fisheries Service announced Thursday it will consider listing a population of harbor seals that live in a freshwater Alaska lake as a threatened or endangered species, a decision that could affect the massive Pebble Mine development project.
The agency said it has accepted a petition filed in November by the Center for Biological Diversity, kicking off a status review of the seals that live in Iliamna Lake 200 miles southwest of Anchorage.
KODIAK — The Alaska Marine Highway System is considering raising its rates for traveling aboard the state’s ferries in order to deal with a pared down operating budget approved by lawmakers this spring.
Officials informed the state’s public advisory board this week that the ferry system will end its discount program, according to a story in Thursday’s Kodiak Daily Mirror (http://is.gd/Egq0ZM ).
ANCHORAGE — A remote Alaska volcano continues to erupt, spewing lava and ash clouds.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory said Thursday a continuous cloud of ash, steam and gas from Pavlof Volcano has been seen 20,000 feet above sea level. The cloud was moving to the southeast Thursday.
John Power, the U.S. Geological Survey scientist in charge at the observatory, estimates the lava fountain rose several hundred feet into the air.
The new Juneau Forestry Sciences Laboratory, adjacent to the University of Alaska Southeast’s Auke Lake campus, is set for a dedication ceremony Saturday.
The building is a facility of the United States Forest Service’s Portland, Ore.-based Pacific Northwest Research Station, which has been occupying rented space in the old National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration building in the Mendenhall Valley.
Construction finished earlier this spring, and Forest Service staff have been moving into the new building over the past few weeks.
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Rhiannon and Roger from the Sitka Fine Arts Camp talk about this Saturday’s performance by Grace Kelly, a saxophonist, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist (7 PM Sat May 18, Sitka Performing Arts Center, $20/15 students and seniors). They also talk about the adult session of the camp, June 10-14. Visit the Sitka Fine Arts Camp online for more information.
The Norwegian art of rosemaling features prominently in Petersburg throughout the year, but even more of the flowing, flowered designs go on display during the Little Norway Festival in May. This year, local painter Polly Koeneman has produced a new show of rosemaled plates, bowls, spoons, boxes and more. Matt Lichtenstein stopped by to take a look at her latest works at the downtown gallery, Wild Celery:
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Polly Koeneman’s rosemaling goes on display with an artists reception at Wild Celery in downtown Petersburg tonight (Thursday) at five.
Secon construction is taking a break from the downtown road work to make way for this year’s Little Norway Festival in Petersburg. So, on Friday, May 17th, Main Street will be lined with concession booths and activities and children will dance and parade through the streets along with the Vikings and Valkyries in their armor and animal skins. Residents will sport Norwegian sweaters and show off their traditional costumes called bunader along with more music and art as the 55th annual Festival goes into high gear. That’s all coming up Friday. Matt Lichtenstein spoke with the festival committee’s Holli Flint and Katie Eddy about Friday’s schedule.
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Detailed schedules for the entire festival are available at the visitor’s center and other locations downtown as well as here.
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Top state official in charge of water quality says cruise ships have cleaned up their act, but copper remains a concern. Winter troll season slow, but prices high. Natural Resources subcommittee to hear smaller Sealaska land claims bill. Petersburg fisherman recovers lost traditional canoe paddles.
The Mitkof Mummers continue the Mayfest tradition of community theater with a trip to the wild old west. This year’s musical melodrama is “Way out West in a Dress”. The first performance is tonight. Matt Lichtenstein stopped by to talk with cast and crew during rehearsal:
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The Mitkof Mummers perform “Way out West in a Dress” tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7 in the Wright Auditorium.
A new, smaller Sealaska land-selection measure faces opposition from the federal government.
The legislation would transfer 3,600 acres of the Tongass National Forest to the Southeast-based regional Native corporation.
Sealaska’s timberlands have been logged of much of their harvestable trees. Officials say the acreage will keep timber operations going.
At a Congressional hearing Thursday, U.S. Forest Service official Jim Peña objected to a requirement to transfer the land within 60 days of passage.
“These two parcels would be conveyed without the carefully negotiated replaced to special use authorizations and public access that many stakeholders view as essential,” Peña said.
Peña spoke before the House Committee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs. The bill’s author, Alaska Congressman Don Young, chairs that panel.
The acreage is also part of a much larger measure that would transfer about 70,000 acres to Sealaska.
That bill was also before the committee. (Scroll down to read earlier reports on both bills.)
Young said it’s a compromise. (Read the larger bill.)
“First introduced over six years ago, this bill has undergone an extensive vetting process throughout the region. It has resulted in meaningful changes, such as providing for continued public access to lands, and modified certain lands among them,” he said.
The Forest Service’s Peña said the larger measure is much improved. But he wants further changes before the administration lends its support.
He said the bill “leaves out key provisions essential to a balanced solution and adds others that make reaching a solution more difficult. Consequently the Department of Agriculture does not support enactment.”
Some environmental groups and towns near areas to be logged oppose the measure.
Southeast hunting guide Jimmie Rosenbruch spoke for sportsmen’s groups against the land transfers.
He said Sealaska’s logging will reduce access, as well as wildlife numbers.
“It’s kind of Sealaska to offer access for guides to utilize these lands for a 10-year period after their Forest Service permit expires. (But) I don’t know there will be much benefit. Having access to clearcut areas wouldn’t be worth anything. There’s no wildlife there. They are D-O-N-E … finished,” Rosenbruch said.
Last year’s version of Young’s bill passed the House, but not the Senate.
And the Senate’s latest version, sponsored by Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, has undergone more negotiation and changes.
Sealaska board member Bryon Mallott said that measure is more likely to be the final legislative vehicle.
But he prefers the House version.
“In my personal judgment, there is more equity and justice in the House bill. But I also know from long, long experience, that what the Native community can easily and passionately feel is equity and justice for others is often very hard to ultimately make possible,” Mallott said.
Young’s Sealaska bills now head to the full House Resources Committee. If either passes, it will go to the House floor for a full vote.
It would most likely be packaged with other legislation. That’s what happened last year.
Read earlier reports on the legislation:
- New Sealaska land bills introduced in Congress
- SEACC backs Sealaska bill, 9 towns oppose it
- Congress Looking At Sealaska Lands Bill
- Second bill proposes smaller Sealaska land transfer
Don’t let the size of the schools fool you.
Students from the Southeast Island School District traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, recently to compete in the 2013 National Archery in the Schools competition.
Some of the Prince of Wales Island competitors came close to winning their respective divisions; a few did well enough to take their talents around the world.
More than 9,000 archers from across the country entered the competition. The team from Southeast included both boys and girls from grades four through 12. As a team, the SISD kids scored 13th out of 156.
Jared Cook from Whale Pass School scored fourth in his division. He won a $2,500 scholarship, which he said he will use to help him attend University of Alaska Southeast next year. He also said it was a “blessing” to do so well in the competition.
Cook and his brother, Nathaniel, both made the All-American Team, which qualifies them to travel to South Africa to compete this summer.
James Stevens coaches the SISD team.
“What it is, is that we made the All American team, which is the top 16 shooters in the nation,” he explained. “They’ve been invited to South Africa. To help teach orphans how to shoot and also compete against, I think, seven other countries that compete.”
Stevens also noted that the team from Prince of Wales has been the top archery team in Alaska for the past three years.
John McCormick speaks about Saturday’s (May 18th) March of Dimes March for Babies. He is also planning a bike ride in June to raise money for the organization and awareness of the agency’s mission. MarchOfDimes051613
Those wishing to follow McCormick’s bike adventure can go to his website www.39weekstheride.com
Choir director Tanya Antonsen talks about upcoming Ketchikan Community Children’s Choir performances, Marni Rickelmann of KAAHC reviews other events happening this weekend, and Debbie Ott of First City Players tells about “The Tempest,” ArtsCool and more. Arts051613
ANCHORAGE — An environmental group has given formal notice it will go to court to force the federal government to complete a recovery plan for threatened polar bears.
The Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday gave 60-day notice it also will sue to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete a required five-year status review of the bears found along the northern coast of Alaska and other Arctic regions.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — It may have been the most anticipated package ever delivered to the Buffalo Zoo: an orphaned polar bear cub that arrived Wednesday from Alaska and will spend the summer with another cub born six months ago.
Kali arrived aboard a UPS flight at Buffalo Niagara International Airport shortly before 5:30 a.m., ending a 14-hour trip that was set in motion in March when a hunter in Alaska realized an adult female bear he’d killed was nursing.
SITKA — A buildup of moisture in the soil likely caused a large landslide near the town of Sitka, according to a federal scientist who is taking a close look at Sunday’s slide in southeast Alaska.