Culture Clash: Fast Food and Indigenous People

July 10, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Health, North Pole, Traditions | Leave a comment
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I find this interesting audio recording through Indigenous People Issues. I was quite surprised not only because of the subject, fast food, but specially for the format. Audio recordings is still not a widely extended way of communication on the Internet for formal issues, though its pedagogical skills made it a very good tool for spreading knowledge in an easy way. A podcast or something like this would be great to have.

Culture Clash: Fast Food and Indigenous People (Audio Piece) from Sharon Shattuck on Vimeo.

Sorry for the lack of preview or embedded video, it’s just Wordpres that’s not friends with Vimeo…

The subject of fast food and its impacts really interested me, as I’m, or I try to be a conscious consumer concerning food and some other stuff, beacause of the ecological and social impacts and also for the health. Off-trend iniciatives around indigenous communities seem a very good iniciative, as the impact is (even) worse in some of them.

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The significance of the Bear Ritual among the Saami and other Northern Cultures

August 28, 2008 at 6:36 pm | Posted in Community, Japan, Scandinavia, Traditions | 2 Comments
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Things are becoming more and more interesting! As I told you yesterday, I remember some kind of religious ritual related to the bear as a Saami practice. I saw it when visiting the Ajte Museum in Jokkmokk last December. So I keep searching, and see what I found! A very interesting article by Brandon “Kál’lá” Bledsoe:

The Significance of the Bear Ritual Among the Sami and Other Northern Cultures

By Brandon “Kál’lá” Bledsoe

There is an ancient belief that the bear is in communication with the lord of the mountains and with the sky, and certainly he has from time immemorial been surrounded by an aura which enjoins caution and respect.
-Ivar Lissner, Man, God and Magic, (p.163)

Of all the animals that inhabit the worldís northern climates none has been subject to greater reverence than the bear. Indigenous societies of North America and Northern Eurasia share a seemingly uniform belief that this elusive creature is endowed with supernatural qualities. Ceremonies venerating slain bears were, until more recent times, an important aspect of the Sami belief system. Close examination of eyewitness accounts shows that this ritual is in many ways typical of other bear ceremonies in the northern hemisphere. In this essay I will explore possible explanations for the common occurrence of bear ceremonialism, and what this indicates about the Samiís relationship with other indigenous cultures. This subject has received a fair amount of scholarly attention, and a few anthropologists have actually theorized about the origin of the ritual. Based on their information I believe that we can logically infer three possible explanations for this cultural parallel.

1. Convergence – In each culture the bear is recognized, on some level, as the archetypal messenger to the supernatural world. The uniformity of this belief is the result of an inherent human tendency to venerate certain animals. The special role of the bear in the aboriginal metaphysical system is not due to contact between these societies, nor is it the result of a common ancestral belief system. The contention is that the rituals are a consequence of semi-isolated groups of people reacting to similar environments in a similar manner. These northern people can be said to constitute ìa single circumpolar cultural district in which a single environment forms the basis of common developmentî (Lissner, 160)
2. Ancient Ancestral Belief-System – The bear’s position of prominence within the totemic dominance hierarchy, in each of these groups, is the result of a common ancestral belief-system of Asiatic origin dating back to the time of the Magdalenian period of 20,000 years ago. The Sami, the ancient Finns, the Tungus, the Gilyaks and various other tribes of Siberia, the Ainu of Japan, and Native North American groups, such as the Algonkins and Tlingit, all derived this belief (more or less intact) from the bear cult of prehistoric times.
3. Historical Interaction – Reverence is a common reaction for humans living in close contact with bears. However, many of the similarities in rites, rituals, and folklore are the result of cultural interactions. Other similarities are purely superficial and do not indicate a shared ancestral system.

One of the inherent difficulties of a broad -based cultural analysis- especially one requiring an outsider to explain alien practices- is the temptation to interpret data in a manner favorable to the ethnographer’s assumption. The author of Theoretical Archaeology warns against this tendency. Dark asserts, ìin order to recognize artifacts, structures or actions associated with religion or ritual, we must employ a reliable middle-range theory capable of doing so, unless we choose a relativist positionî (Dark, 145) It appears to me that the best way to create a ìmid-range theoryî in this particular case is to explore multiple levels of ritual interpretation. Once multiple interpretations have been established we can investigate how these levels overlap and influence one another. The bear ceremony is a good example of a ritual containing multiple functions. I will maintain that these functions can be interpreted as follows:

1. Religious Level – The bear ceremony is a form of communication with the supernatural world, and is an expression of the belief in a hierarchy of spiritual entities. The bear is the representative of a high-ranking deity.
2. Economic Level – This belief-system is the result of a perceived need for reciprocity with nature. ìSuccess in hunting and fishing is dependent on the good will of the bear that rules over the reproduction of animalsî (Shnirelman, 9)
3. Psychological Level – In hunter-gatherer societies there is a certain amount of guilt associated with killing animals. The level of guilt may be greater when it is necessary to kill an animal that is seen as being more anthropomorphic or rare. The bear ceremony is performed in order to pacify the bear’s vengeful spirit.

I will not claim that any one of these levels alone is the causal motivator. Nor will I assert that one of the three hypotheses on its own can sufficiently explain every aspect of this subject. However, in order to avoid a ìrelativist positionî, I will attempt to integrate all of these hypotheses, and levels of interpretation, into one satisfactory conclusion.

[…]Particulars of the Bear Ceremony

The Sami

The hunting and killing of such animals is certainly necessary, but at the same time it is frequently a dangerous matter, because in doing so the hunter naturally incurs the anger of the animal killed.
-Rafael Karsten, Religion of the Samek, p.113

1. Departure for the forest. Bear hunting usually takes place during the hibernatory season, late winter or early spring. Once a den has been located the hunters are assembled, the Noajdde and his drum are consulted, and they then depart for the forest. The one who has located the bear takes the lead. He holds a staff with a brass ring attached to it. A Noajdde usually follows him and precedes the hunter elected to strike first.
2. The Hunt. The one who located the bear is sent into the den to awaken it. The Sami were known to have used firearms, bow and arrow, lances or spears, and even axes as a means of slaying the bear. The animal was not attacked directly if a spear was being used, the weapon was held in reverse until the beast began its attack and impaled itself.
3. ìBirchingî the bear. After the bear has been killed they drag it out from the lair and begin to whip it with soft twigs or birch branches. ìA switch is twisted into the form of a ring which is fastened to the lower jaw of the bear. It is tied to the belt of the principal bear-killer; the latter pulls at it three times singing (joiking) in a peculiar tone that he has become the bears masterî (Karsten, 116)
4. The Bear Master returns. When the hunters return to the sijdda their wives greet them by spitting elder bark juice in their faces. The principal bear-killer brings the ring to his goahte, knocking three times at the door. If the bear is female he calls out s–ive neit (holy virgin), if the animal is male he shouts s–ive olmai (holy man) The bear master’s wife keeps the ring in a linen cloth until after the ceremonial meal.
5. The Feast. It was customary for the men to prepare and cook the bear meat in a specially erected goahte that no woman could enter. Women must cover their heads and during the next five days can only look at the bear killer through a brass ring. After this prescribed period of three days, the bear’s skin is stretched out in the center of the banquet area where various libations of tobacco and foodstuff are offered to its spirit. After an apologetic speech is given the feast of bear meat begins.
6. Ringing Him in. After the feast the ring is removed and the women and children attach pieces of a brass chain to it, which is then tied to the bears tail. Next, the ring is given to the men who bury it with the bones. Great care is taken to ensure that the bones are arranged in their original form.
7. Immunizing the women. Finally, the skin is laid out on a stump and the blindfolded wives of the bear slayers take turns shooting at it with arrows.

This last feature is the most outstanding of the Sami ritual. Special care must be taken to guard women and children against the bear’s vengeful spirit. By shooting the carcass they conquer this fear.

The Gilyaks

The bear plays a great part in the life of all the peoples inhabiting the region of the Amoor and Siberia as far as Kamtchatka, but among none of them is his importance greater than among the Gilyaks.
-J. Frazer, The Golden Bough, (517)

1. A cub is captured in the forest; its mother is killed if necessary.
2. The cub is brought back to the village, where it is confined in a cage until reaching maturity. During its time at the village the cub is treated like an honored guest, it is routinely walked, cleaned, and well fed.
3. An arena where the bear will die is prepared. It is then removed from its cage for the final time and is lead from hut to hut where it is teased with fir branches. At the same time reassuring words are spoken to it. The bear’s host sometimes sneaks up on it and kisses it good-bye.
4. The bear is led down to a river, around the host’s house three times, and then into the house. Everyone must leave the house except for the oldest kinsman. Finally, the bear is led to a place that has been prepared for it and tied down between two stakes. The animal is left alone for a moment while the banquet commences.
5. The host feeds the bear for the last time. ìFarewellî, he says to the bear, ìI feed you for the last time; go directly to your owner. May you be able to gain your master’s affection.
6. The procession of the executioner begins. The village headman walks in front, carrying a kettle and an axe, he is followed the Narch-en (shaman), holding the same, and then the rest of the guests.
7. The executioner waits for the bear to turn in such a way that an arrow can be sent straight to its heart, all the while he speaks to it reassuringly.
8. The bear’s corpse is laid out in the snow facing west. All of its skin is removed except for the head. The head and skin are laid out on a framework resembling a body. A quiver of arrows, tobacco, and eatables are laid beneath the head.
9. The meat is eaten on the day after the execution. A lively feast goes on through the night.
10. Two dogs are often sacrificed to the bear’s spirit on the day after the feast.

The great winter festival is only an extension of the rite that is observed at the slaughter of every bear.

The Ainu

I-yomante- ìthing/send, ìthing/let goî
Hunting, particularly bear hunting, required strict adherence to ritual. The bear itself is a deity and the Bear Ceremony is the best known of all Ainu rituals.
-N.G. Munro, Ainu Creed And Cult, p.4

1. Hunters capture a bear cub from a den or shortly after emerging.
2. The bear is raised among the villagers for a year and a half inside a special hut. The women of the village sometimes nurse the cub.
3. The Iyomante festival is held at the beginning of the cold season, September or October.
4. Prayers are offered to Fuchi the fire goddess and to Kimun-Kamuy the god of the mountains.
5. The bear is lead out of the hut by a procession of prominent village men to the nusa (sending place). At this time the women begin addressing it with terms of endearment.
6. The bear is shot with blunt arrows. Critical wounds are made using sharp arrows, and then the bear is strangled between two logs. ìMeantime the women and girls had taken post behind the men, where they danced, lamenting and beating the men who were killing the bearî (Frazer, 508)
7. Male elders skin and dress the bear. The skin is left attached to the head. Afterwards they place the skin in front of an altar with gifts that may include food, sake, and a sword and quiver. She-bears are sometimes adorned with a necklace and earrings.
8. The meat of the bear is taken to back to the hut and left there till the next day. Its liver is cut into small pieces, salted, and then eaten. The men drink the blood that has been gathered in cups. While the bear is being disemboweled the women begin to cry and dance mournfully.
9. The meat is eaten the next day and the celebration continues.

The Iyomante ritual was performed in honor of many of the other animals that the Ainu hunted, as well as certain plants and tools. However, the bear ceremony was by far the most important and elaborate
Conclusion

Many of the peoples living in Siberia and North America called the bear ìold manî, ìlordî or ìsacred animal.”
-Viktor Shnirelman, Grandfather Bear, p.9

Interpreting the rituals

The parallels between the bear ceremonies of these three very distantly related cultures are unmistakable. In each case all three functional levels are simultaneously present. A consistent belief in the bear’s role as mediator between humanity and the lord of the forest reveals much about the rationale behind the ceremony. It was not the physical manifestation of the bear that controlled natural phenomena, such as reproduction; rather it was his or her archetypal ìownerî. In each of these examples the creature’s spirit is begged for forgiveness -the blame is often ascribed to a neighboring tribe- and offered gifts to take to its master. Many of the rites performed may appear paradoxical to the western mind. Why is it that they would kill an honored guest? Why tease and praise the bear at the same time? Why fear its wrath if you are paying homage?

The motif that reoccurs most often is reciprocity with nature. The animal is expected to sacrifice its mortal self so it may return to the god with words of praise for its human counterparts. Still, there may be some uncertainty as to whether or not the animal wishes to leave. The bear’s spirit is not feared because of any inherent malignance, he may simply be angry for having been slain. This idea could indeed be the result of the respect, and guilt, experienced after taking the life of a formidable creature. Equally plausible explanations can be given in terms of religious beliefs, economics, or underlying psychology, but I find none of them alone to be adequate. Only by assuming the participant’ mind set can one hope to appreciate the ritual’s true meaning.
Origins

The widespread dispersal of these notions, from S·pmi to the Hudson Bay, does suggest that its origins are indeed rooted in the bear cult of prehistory. A wall painting from the Trois-FrËres cave, which dates back to the Magdalenian period, clearly depicts an ancient bear ritual. The bear is shown being shot and stoned to death while blood streams from its mouth. Countless collections of Ursine bones and skulls have been found deposited across the Northern Hemisphere. Of course many of the similarities shared by the Gilyak and the Ainu ceremonies can no doubt be explained by the close contact between these two groups. But this should in no way negate the theory of its ancient origin. Nor should the fact that reverence for bears does seem to be a natural inclination for humans everywhere. There are remnants of this in western culture as well: the word berserk is of Norse origin meaning ìbear shirt,î the Welsh name Arthur is usually translated as ìbear hero,î and the Greek myth explaining the origin of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor is strikingly similar to some of the beliefs of the peoples discussed.

The animal’s peculiar habit of hibernation certainly lends it an air of mystery. Bear remains are difficult to find because they usually crawl away to the mountains to die. Above all, the bear is a creature that lends itself easily to anthrophomorphication, its habit of standing on two legs to strike and the human-like appearance of its skinned carcass gave many cultures, including the Sami, a sense of kinship.

Interesting, right? One of the main problems I have found for this projects is which criteria to use when chosing and limiting which communities to include or exclude on the trip. I think that religious practices may be a good one to use, as it provides a very interesting approach.

The music of Nivkhi People

August 27, 2008 at 2:55 pm | Posted in Siberia, Traditions | Leave a comment
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Let’s gof rom language to music thanks to this wonderful article by Natalia Mamcheva, an ethnomusicologist from Sakhalin:

Aspects of the Music of the Nivkhs
by Natalia Mamcheva, Ethnomusicologist, Sakhalin

The Nivkhs are one of the minority indigenous peoples, who live in the region of the Amur river on the island of Sakhalin. Apart from the Nivkh people, other indigenous people who have long lived on the island are the Oroki (Uil’Ta) and Evenki people and until the mid 20th Century, the Ainu people. The Nivkh people have lived in the region for many centuries and indeed millennia. Their musical culture is rich and differs, in many respects, from contemporary European culture. Even at the beginning of the 20th Century they still followed an ancestral system, which ran through all facets of their lives, especially in their beliefs and their folklore. It is unique because it is so ancient and this determines many of its characteristics.

The folklore of the Nivkh people can be divided into 2 groups, the first being distinctive by its ritualistic character and the second by its lack of ritual. Ritualistic folklore is the most ancient and distinctive folklore because it is closely interwoven with traditional beliefs. Many of its specifics can be appreciated through the prism of religion. Until the end of the second millennium, the Nivkh people’s complex beliefs were connected to shamanism and in particular with the particular worship of the bear, which even had its own festival and where music played a vital role.

Nivkh music is chiefly vocal although it also uses musical instruments. In the most ancient forms the music is onomatopoeic and made up of signals. These are mainly imitations of animals, birds and the sounds of nature.

Shaman rituals took on their own specific form of music and song. They were played during special gatherings for healing and augury when the Shaman came into contact with spirits. When a Shaman passes into a trance, his singing would move from exclamatory sounds, growls, wheezing, and different tonal modulations and rhythmic changes. During the Shaman’s ritual, percussion instruments are often used, such as the Khas – a tambourine with rattles, as well as the Yampa – a girdle with metallic rattles. Apart from their musical role, these instruments have another function. The buben is a combination of a tambourine and a drum made either out of the skin of reindeer or seals. It is the main instrument of the Shaman and is believed to hold secret powers. Indeed it is believed that the power that calls up the spirits is contained within it. The girdle symbolizes the intermediary earthly life, as part of their trinomial view of the world, a characteristic of the ancient peoples of Sakhalin. One of the girdle’s functions is to protect, as the Nivkhs believe that ringing sounds, noise and metallic bobs drive away the forces of evil.

The bear ritual was a complex ritual, which lasted several days. This is the initiation of the main Nivkh totem, the bear, considered to be related to man. During the bear ritual the main instrument used was a percussive instrument, the Tyatya Chxach – Musical Log (a percussion instrument). It is played exclusively by women, who beat it with wooden poles. The pole symbolises the body of the bear. On one of its sides is carved the head of a bear. The instrument was considered sacred. The rhythm of the strokes depended on the rhythmical texts. The words were made up from ancient mythological texts, symbols, which are connected for the most part to the bear. The log dances were performed by the women dancing with fir twigs and wooden clacks – Korgosh – or with sacred bark from the Inau (a tree believed to have great healing powers). The dances of the women imitated the movements of the bear. These ritualistic dances were considered the climax of the Bear Ceremonies.

The music of the Shaman Rites and the Bear Ceremonies belongs to the most ancient times and has its roots deep in the Neolithic period. The ethnographer E.A. Kreinovich, wrote: “During the days when I observed the Bear Ceremonies, I was overwhelmed by everything that I saw and heard. Indeed everything that the Nivkhs uphold to this day with their worship of the bear, comes down to us from the Stone Age, thousands of years ago, of which neither we, nor they (despite having preserved these traditions) have absolutely any comprehension.

The epic genres of the Nivkhs are made up of myths and sung legends, both recited and in prose. In particular there are two specific genres; the Tilgush, which are heroic myths and the Nasmund, which are magic tales about wild animals and the need to co-exist with them.

The songs reflect the everyday life of the Nivkhs. The majority of the songs are improvised, although there are some that have a fixed melody and text. Musical instruments are divided in to several different groups. The most ancient are the ritual instruments of the Bear Ceremony and Shaman Sacred Rites.

Apart from these, the non-ritual instruments are very diverse. On Sakhalin one finds three types of Nivkh Jewish harps, the Zakanga, which is an arched form made of iron, the Kanga or Kongon, a brass and wooden laminar with an inner reed, and the more ancient Koka Chir which is a grass instrument.

During the playing of the instrument the wavering of the reed amplifies with the help of the performers mouth, which is the main resonator. The melodies played by the mouth organ do not differ very much in difficulty, but the attraction is in the beauty of the flowing ‘cosmic’ sound, which is rich in deep overtones.

Tynryn – a peculiar Nivkh viola with round bow – belongs to the string instruments. The playing technique is unique. The instrument has three soundboards: a pannier made of birch tree bark the fingerboard and the performers mouth. While playing the performer lightly touches the open string with the tongue causing a tremolo. In the result of that an extra overtone line in appearing. Therefore one can play even two or thee voiced melody.

There are a great variety of woodwind instruments. The simplest are the wooden buzzing instruments, which rotate on a long rope. Over the years they have served many functions from being used as ritualistic instruments, or imitating the sounds of the wind, or have even been used as children’s toys.

There are many variations of the whistle, known as the Pevs, which is made from different kinds of cane – reed, bulrush, bamboo and others. Kalni is a peculiar musical pipe transforming the human voice. In to it melodies are sung with different colours caused by the vibration.

Nivkh Folklore has always been carried from one generation to the next through an oral tradition. It has never been written down. This means that improvisation and variations of character make up the whole process of folklore creations. At first sight Nivkh melodies are not difficult in their formation. They are based on 3 to 4 musical degrees. At the same time if one listens carefully, one realises that they don’t stay unchanged but vary all the time. Each sound should be thought of as a living organism. In most cases the melody represents improvisations on a theme.

The same song sung by different performers or even the same performer will sound different every time and will never repeat itself. Variations will remain within traditional musical norms and will have been produced in that particular ethnic environment.

All the songs are in one voice (without harmony) and without instrumental accompaniment. The instrumental music also has a solo character. There are two types of intonation – natural singing and singing with a throat trill. The second way is more ancient and traditional (with the throat trill) but only very few performers are able to master it. With this manner of performing the voice becomes richer, wider and creates different colours.

I would like to draw attention to the perception of early folk music and its specific nature. Sometimes its sound goes fundamentally against the aesthetic norm of general European listening traditions. That is why its value must be measured against other aesthetic changes and criteria of beauty. In early folklore music, including Nivkh music, the beauty is not in a richness of harmony, nor in complete forms as is the case in European classical music, but in the finest nuances and micro movements within the improvisation and sometimes with completely unexpected developments. As a result, someone who has been brought up within other musical traditions needs to try to penetrate as deeply as possible the very roots of this culture and to comprehend the rich possibilities of expression (with the very minimum of recourses) in full appreciation of its humble beauty.

In the twentieth century the traditional Nivkh way of life has chanced fundamentally. Due to this, the traditional lifestyle has also transformed gradually and with it the traditional beliefs and the rituals. This has fundamentally affected the culture. Some genres have begun to fade away and some have disappeared altogether. Nevertheless at the same time many musical genres have received a second life within the national folklore groups and we can only hope that this original and unique culture will not vanish and will continue to give us much joy for a very long time.

I am not specialist enough on music to know if there are common elements between all the cultures around the Artic circle. Maybe common construction materials or techniques? That is a point I never had thought about, but it could be very interesting, as music in old communities is strong and important, sometimes closely linked to spirituality or shamanism as well as to celebrations and rituals. The weak antropologist on me should start kicking the linguist! As far as I know, and i know it is not too much, the Bear Celebration could be a common element in many of this cultures. At least was practised for Saami people, as well as Nivkhi. Throat singing is practised also in Alaska, maybe in other places too.

Riding an Utapanashku

August 14, 2008 at 10:34 pm | Posted in Alaska, Traditions | Leave a comment
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Have you ever wanted to ride an Innu toboggan through the snow? If this was your childhood dream, you can now make it come true thanks to François Bellefleur of Uanamen-shipu, who offered the description for the diary of Peter Armitage (Fall 1982):

Construction of an Utapanashku

utapan – a toboggan; automobile
utapaniapi – rope used to haul the toboggan
utapanashku – a toboggan; snowmobile; he/she loads his toboggan
utapanikueu – he/she makes a toboggan; he loads someone’s toboggan
utapatshimaushu – he/she pulls a child on a toboggan.
utapatshimeu – he/she pulls, tows someone
utapeu – he/she pulls, tows someone
utapeun – a tobaggon load
(Lynn Drapeu. 1991. Dictionnaire Montagnais-Français. Montréal: Presses de l’Université du Québec. p.879).

Tools used to make the toboggan included a hacksaw, pocket knife, crooked knife (mukutan), extremely sharp axe, small hand plane, pot for hot water, “brush” (split stick with old rag in end), holding wedge tool, a flat carpenter’s pencil, screw-driver-push drill, and a “needle” made out of twisted snare wire.

Some pictures

Looks like quite a hard job, but summer can be so boring for snow addicts!

Avataq Cultural Institute

August 6, 2008 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Canada, History, Language, Organization, Traditions | Leave a comment
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Yesterday I found this interesting website from Avataq Cultural Institute:

Avataq Cultural Institute

Avataq Cultural Institute provides a strong foundation for the living culture of today’s Inuit. Since its inception in 1980, Avataq has built a solid reputation as the cultural leader for Nunavik Inuit and as an important resource for Inuit culture in Canada and beyond. Our goal is to ensure that Inuit culture and language continue to thrive into the future, so that our descendants can benefit from the rich heritage passed down to us through the wisdom of our ancestors.


About Us

Founded in 1980, Avataq Cultural Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the language and culture of Inuit in Nunavik (Northern Quebec). The organization has its head office in Inukjuak, Nunavik, and an administrative office in Westmount, Quebec.

Avataq receives its mandate directly from Nunavik Inuit at the biennial Nunavik Inuit Elders’ Conferences. Avataq has a board of directors comprising five Inuit members elected for two-year terms.

The programs and services of the Avataq Cultural Institute include: an Inuktitut promotion and preservation program, a genealogy program, a Nunavik museums program, a Nunavik Inuit art collection, an archaeology department, an artists’ support program, a documentation and archives centre, local cultural committees, traditional skills courses, as well as a research and publications service.

Through its language, heritage and cultural programs, the Avataq Cultural Institute is striving to support and preserve Inuit culture for present and future generations.

I have a photographic day, as you see 😉 I copied a lot of nice photos they have on their website. They have a very very interesting section about the Inuit in Nunavik, as well as maps. This will be for another post tonight! As an extra, you can download the Inuktitut fonts for your computer too! The link is here!

Traditions live on up North

August 4, 2008 at 3:18 pm | Posted in Scandinavia, Traditions | Leave a comment
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The Aftenposten in English it is being quite useful! Look at what I found:

Traditions live on up north

A traditional reindeer feast is a big part of Sami confirmations. PHOTO: OLE MAGNUS RAPP

Spring is busting out all over, and in the far north of Norway it’s accompanied by a wave of confirmations and weddings celebrated in traditional Sami style.

The past weekend unleashed what some observers call “the most beautiful fairy tales” of the season. It was wedding and confirmation time in Kautokeino and Masi, before the Sami people herd their reindeer from the vast inland areas of Finnmark to coastal grazing land.

Confirmations quickly turn into community events, and normally full local churches are packed to overflowing. Family members are given tickets, to be sure they get seats.

The event is a spectacle of bright colours, smiles, brilliant handicraft and serious expressions of the Christian faith.

The pastor speaks in Norwegian, which in turn is translated to the Sami language (Samisk). There are few if any shortcuts: Sami congregations sing all verses of the hymns, sermons are detailed and all those being confirmed are expected to come forward to take communion.

Months of preparations have taken place before the young Sami teenagers kneel in church, both religious and non-religious.

Special reindeer were slaughtered last fall, to feed guests at the parties that follow the church services. The reindeer skin has been well taken care of, and turned into trousers. Colourful, traditional dress is an important part of all Sami celebrations.

“Everything should be new, from the innermost to the outermost clothes,” said Berit Andersdatter Buljo Eira, mother one of the teenage girls being confirmed. “It’s best when the clothing is sewn by the parents, the grandparents or the godparents.”

She has sewn her daughter’s jacket and the family invested in the silver that goes with the traditional dress. Her mother, Gunnhild Sara Buljo, also contributed to the weaving and sewing that goes into the elaborate and colourful garments.

Her husband handpicked all the cloudberries (multe) served for dessert. Several hundred guests can show up at traditional Sami weddings and confirmations.

“Its important to have traditions,” said Berit Eira. “And we take care of them.”

Berit Andersdatter Buljo Eira (left) makes a final adjustment to her daughter’s traditional handsewn Sami dress before confirmation festivities begin.PHOTO: OLE MAGNUS RAPP

Sara Karen Elle Persdatter Eira admires the traditional wooden chest she received to hold her silver and other items to be used at an eventual wedding. PHOTO: OLE MAGNUS RAPP

Do you know other newspapers like this one? It is quite a good way to be aware of what is happening in the far north, right? At least in Norway. If you find other ones for Alaska, Russia, Canada… Let me know!

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