Somewhere in Haines between downtown and Letnikof a brown postal package fell out of the back of...
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City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member Karen Crane will be the next president of the Alaska Municipal League board of directors. Currently, Crane is first vice president. She will take up her new position at the end of this week’s AML conference in Anchorage.
She is s excited to be working with communities around the state, she said. On top of the annual meeting in November and meetings in the spring and summer, Crane said she will be busy throughout the legislative session as AML responds to various pieces of legislation.
“We are watching everything that’s proposed, deciding where the league might be helpful and providing testimony and information to the legislature as they do their work,” Crane explained.
Crane said a big issue coming up is making sure revenue-sharing funds are available to all communities in Alaska, “Municipal league only works on those issues that concern all communities in the state and have agreement. We do not take positions on issues that divide.”
This is Crane’s fourth year in the municipal league. Crane originally became second vice president through an AML election, and automatically succeeded to first vice president, and now president.
The Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska no longer practice shamanism, but elements of it still exist in their culture today.
That’s according to Anthropologist and Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl, who spoke Monday as part of SHI’s Native American History Month Lecture Series.
Worl said shamanism used to be a major component of Tlingit life. She said every clan had a shaman before Russian and American colonization largely forced the Tlingit people to abandon their traditional religion.
“Shamanism is generally associated with hunting, fishing and gathering societies that often migrate with seasons to follow their food sources,” Worl said. “To bring food, health and protection from evil, shaman seek connections with animal powers through their rituals.”
The shaman’s responsibilities, she said, included maintaining the well-being of the clan; acting as a military advisor; assuring hunting and fishing success; predicting future events; and curing illnesses. To do that they performed rituals designed to ward off hostile and dangerous spirits, and call upon good spirits to support the clans’ welfare.
Tlingits believed that great shaman traveled in both the physical and spiritual world, and that spirits chose certain people to be shaman, she said.
“The majority of spirits with which the shaman makes his alliances are animals, animal spirits,” she said. “This reflects a widespread belief by cultures that practice shamanism that animals inhabited the world long before human beings and are essential to people because of the unique knowledge that animals possess.”
Worl said Tlingit clans last practiced traditional shamanism in the 1950s, but she said it still pervades the rituals and beliefs of Southeast Alaska Natives today. For instance, Tlingits – including the late-Reverend Dr. Walter Soboleff – still believe that all objects possess some sort of spiritual essence, she said.
“I’ve had meetings here in this room, where people like our spiritual leader, Dr. Soboleff, has pounded on the table and says, ‘Everything has a spirit! Even this table has a spirit!’” Worl said, pounding her own fist on the podium.
About 15 years ago at a clan conference organized by the heritage institute, Worl said several elders attributed modern social problems, such as alcoholism and suicide, to Tlingit societies being out of balance.
“In our society we have a number of practices to ensure both social and spiritual balance, and they were holding that we were out of spiritual and social balance, and this was the cause of the social illnesses that affect our society,” Worl says.
She said that discussion led to some of SHI’s most successful cultural programs.
Worl said the influence of shamanism on modern Tlingit life is perhaps most evident in the use of sacred objects and regalia in ceremonial acts, including memorial celebrations.
“When our ceremonial and sacred objects are brought out and the spirits are addressed or called upon in the same way as they were in earlier times,” she said.
Many Tlingit elders are reluctant to discuss shamanism, perhaps due to the punishment Native people endured at the hands of colonizers for practicing their religion, according to Worl.
She said it’s unlikely traditional shamanism will ever be completely revitalized, but some Tlingits are looking at ways to incorporate more of the old practices in modern ceremonies.
This series is a project combining resources from a few of my business interests. Scott Dickerson Photography is my photo and motion business that I’ve been at for 12 years now. This is my main work. For the last five years I’ve also been developing the SurfAlaska.net website and in the last three I’ve been selling stand up paddleboards, surfboards, wetsuits etc. in Alaska. I’m also partners in Ocean Swell Ventures which offers boat based surfing adventures in Alaska.
I’m directing/producing the series and have been collecting footage over the years. That’s where the teaser video footage mostly came from. In the past few months I’ve been working with JGS concepts to put this teaser together especially the editing and some additional filming on recent trips. They are also helping me promote the teaser and will be working with me on the series.
The surfers appearing in the videos will be myself and a variety of friends. Mike McCune who owns Ocean Swell Ventures and the m/v Milo will be a big part of it for sure since we usually surf together. Other local Alaskan surfers from Homer, Girdwood, Anchorage, Seward, and other towns that we visit will be included along with some visiting professional and recreational surfers.
We surf all over Alaska. We live in Homer so most our journeys start here but we’ve surfed from Southeast to Sand Point already with plans to go further.
The real story here is the incredible Alaskan coastline with its immense wilderness areas and awe inspiring weather. The video series will show what it’s like to venture out into this incredible scenery at times when the weather is not necessarily hospitable. A lot of our surfing adventures take place in the fall, winter and spring when the biggest storms are generating the best waves. This is not always the easiest time to be out at sea or camping on the beach.
How did I get into surfing? I wonder that myself. I grew up in Homer and had never even seen someone surfing as a kid. I must have knew of the concept and had a strong desire to play in the water. It was about the time that wetsuit technology was just making it possible to enjoy being in the ocean without immediate risk of hypothermia. My progression from bodysurfing in a borrowed 2mm wetsuit wearing fish picking gloves sealed with duct tape to my arms to where we are today with a crew of surfing friends and a 58ft boat, fly-out surf trips, and toasty warm wetsuits. . . is a long story. But I can tell you one thing, it was a slow and often very cold process that only a true innate passion could endure. All my dreams of how surfing could be done in Alaska have come true so I just keep making up new ones.
I started the SurfAlaska.net website in 2008 as a place to share some of my enthusiasm for surfing in Alaska. My obsession with surf and photographing it had reached a point where it didn’t fit very well just being a part of my photography business. SurfAlaska.net was the needed outlet for all these photos and stories I wanted to share. I also thought about how difficult it had been for me to learn how to surf in Alaska and if I shared some of the basic information it could really help people along. This same thinking also led into Surf Alaska becoming a surf shop where I’ve been able to make all the needed gear available to fellow Alaskans along with good advice on choosing the right equipment. As anyone that enjoys adventures sports in Alaska can agree – the right gear is really critical if you want to have a good time and stay safe outdoors, and this is especially true when you enter the water.
Surfing in Alaska is not something that very many people are ever going to do. I’ve been sharing photos and stories, we’ve been taking people on surf adventures through Ocean Swell Ventures, and the Surf Alaska video series is just the next step in this tradition of sharing the experience. Being out there in the wilds, immersed in this incredible spectacle of nature is such a rich experience. And it’s so much more enjoyable when you know what a struggle it’s been to get there. I want to share this whole experience and video seems like the right way to do it. Of course I think everyone should just go on a surfing adventure themselves, but practically I think the Surf Alaska video series is going to have to be close enough for most people. So I hope to do some justice to what an amazing experience it is.