Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wainwright Day 2

Wainwright, Alaska

• November 23, 2001

This morning we had a great breakfast at the Olgoonik Hotel of scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, toast,  bacon-sausage-or-ham for only $12 each. Last night my chicken-and-shrimp-curry was only $15. Prices don't seem as high as I thought they would be here in Wainwright where EVERYTHING has to be flown in.

We came to school about 9 a.m. when Dan, the social studies teacher, and Trish, the English teacher, had planning periods. Carl gave 3 presentations of his Vietnam slides, and his Army buddy Terry Tagarook came by for one of them! We made arrangements to go to dinner with him tonight at the hotel.

The English teacher let me visit with her students, and I talked to 5 classes--7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th graders. I learned SO MUCH about Inupiat culture, and I encouraged them to ask me questions about where I live. It was very enjoyable.

There are no trees here on the tundra, so when they talk about hunting and fishing, it's different from what we know in the Midwest. Families are involved in whaling, and almost everyone participates when the village gets a whale. If it's on a school day, they ditch school to help butcher and package the blubbler and whale meat. They go 37 miles up river to their cabins in the summer to fish for grayling and salmon. They collect berries--salmonberries, blueberries, and cranberries. They hunt caribou, seal, walrus, geese, and ducks. In fact, at the feast tomorrow on Thanksgiving we will share in that bounty. Everyone takes a bowl or plate and silverware to the school gym (or to the community center for a smaller gathering where there are more native foods). They also take Ziploc bags to bring home the leftovers and the whale blubber that is shared by the whaling crews. Afterwards there will be Eskimo dancing. Can't wait.

Some of the girls brought their parkas to class to show me. There are skilled women in the community who are known for their parka construction. The fur around the neck and the bottom of the long coat is wolverine. Some of their brothers hunt the furs and tan them for use in parkas or mukluks or slippers. One had the wolverine claws on the fur collar around the neck of the parka!

More to follow with photos.

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