Restoring Alaskan culture and dignity

When I was a small child, we did not have smart phones, computers, the internet, Netflix, DVD players or VCRs. So, it was with great wonder when one week in social studies class we were shown a series of remarkable films using a reel-to-reel movie projector, a technology new to most people at the time. The program included not only films but also games, teaching tools that obviously had a longstanding effect, since I remember the experience to this day.

In fact, this social studies program had a profound effect on me as part of my lifelong fascination with human cultures globally. It is because of this passion, which included a voracious appetite for National Geographic magazines, that I studied anthropology and archaeology.

This remarkable and impressive series of films concerned the Native Alaskan culture, which, fortunately for us all, was preserved in this documentary intact and in its natural state, before being almost completely lost to humanity. I recall being smitten by the cute, young Alaskan boy whose life was featured in the films. The shock stays with me of watching him, after a caribou kill, take the animal’s warm eyeballs out of his father’s outstretched hand and pop them into his mouth. Yikes! It doesn’t get much more natural and indigenous than that!

Loss of Culture

The native Alaskan population is fairly small these days and beset by problems, including alcoholism and drug addiction, that are blamed in part on the severe loss of culture. All native Alaskans, Eskimos, Inuit, Inupiat or other tribe or monikers should have access to these films, which should be shown in every school. In that way, Alaskans can see how their culture was composed of highly admirable survivalists extraordinaires who were able to thrive in some of the harshest conditions on Earth for 15,000 years or more.

These films – which I happily discovered online – could help restore much to the native Alaskans/Eskimos, including teaching such well-honed survivalism but also sparking an interest in native religious, spiritual and mythological traditions dating back many thousands of years. In this regard, a big part of the modern Alaskan malaise is attributed to that cultural loss as well, with native spiritual traditions destroyed and/or supplanted mostly by Christianity. This destruction of native spirituality, which was accomplished by an atrocious amount of abuse that remains unexposed and unatoned for, has been highly demoralizing.

Unfortunately, the assault on natives has not ended with Christian missionaries, as now Islamists want to have a go at them by building mosques in Alaska and engaging in proselytizing campaigns. While the alcohol-free Islam may seem like a good discipline at first, in the long run its effects will be even worse for the natives, as has been the case globally wherever the faith was spread, by force, slaughtering hundreds of millions along the way.

“Rather than throwing off one inappropriate desert cult for another, the native Alaskans would do well to study and maintain their own spiritual traditions.”

Native Spiritual Traditions

Rather than throwing off one entirely inappropriate desert cult for another, the native Alaskans would do well to study and maintain their own traditions, developed over a period of thousands of years and based on their own observations of their natural world. In this way, they can help restore their own culture and dignity, the loss of which is destroying them. A good start is the public showing of these films on a regular basis, whether in schools or elsewhere.

As ultimate survivalists who preserved a wealth of traditions from remote antiquity, as well as a rich DNA databank allowing for scientific analysis of human migrations and evolution, the native Alaskans should be proud of their culture. While they may not wish to go back to such a harsh way of life, at the very least Alaskans can study and take to heart, if they wish, their own spiritual, religious and mythological traditions, as expressions of their culture dating back millennia. The restoration of culture in this way would be a major step along the healing path for this fascinating, beautiful and peaceful ethnicity.

This fascinating film series is online at DER Documentary: Netsilik Eskimo Series

Nakuagigikpin Nakuagikpakpin Piqpavagin

7 Comments

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  1. Alaskan Culture Good as always DM Murdock a star luv the research and writings. Acharya S to cool.

  2. Thank you. If one reads my article, one will see that I included the name Inuit as well as Eskimo and Inupiat. I am aware that some object to “Eskimo,” which is why I titled this article “Alaskan” and avoided excessive use of the word.

    However, most people know that moniker and identify with the term, so it must be included. Note also that the film series itself uses the term, as does the relevant Wikipedia article ([url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eskimo[/url]).

    In any event, this article is not about the name of the people but about their spirit. In this regard, it would be best to focus on the videos provided, rather than on a word.

  3. Get the Name right!
    The natives of Canada’s north despise the Eskimo moniker. Try Inuit. Speaking as a Canadian with many close friend from the far north.

  4. Eskimo
    I get a little tired and weary worn about everyone getting bent out of shape over the word Eskimo. I’m so over it! People are mad when you say American Indian, Native Alaskan or Indian or Eskimo or whatever! Personally, I don’t care! You’re not EVER EVER gonna pronounce my tribal name correctly or my Inupiat name correctly either. So give it up and get over it! If you and the entire country of Canada, want to come down on a poor white scholar’s head, namely Acharya S., for her respectful, loving tribute to a culture who impacted her life and research, then it just proves how petty and unoriginal in thought you are, and how incapable you are of reading a scholarly tribute about my people and GETTING THE POINT!

    Sincerely, Ikkiayouke – the Inupiaq (which according to my birth-father means WESTERN ESKIMO – and he wasn’t offended or ashamed when he taught me the meaning)

  5. Important article
    Thank you for this important article. I’d like to recommend an excellent book about the effects of “civilization” on indigenous cultures: “In the Absence of the Sacred,” by Mander.

  6. Alaskan Culture Good
    I am interested to try reading your article but to no avail because of your stlye of struture of sentences.

    Sigh !!

    Yangyang,

    I am a Han born and rauise in singapore

  7. Yikes! Price!
    It is sad that the films are priced so impossibly high. Only a few institutions and even fewer wealthy individuals will be able to afford the cost of these. It is even sadder when you consider the cultural heritage and that it was already paid for by taxes (NSF) and grants (Ford Foundation).

    It is such a pity that they don’t price them more accessibly at say, $5 or $10 so that they might sell many thousands and spread this knowledge more widely… and they’d probably make more money that way too.

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