Monday, April 4, 2011

You know you're in Bush Alaska when...

Sunrise over the hills south of Galena across the Yukon River. Photo by Keith Ramos.
        This is our local public radio website www.kiyu.com/wireless.html .  Reading this helps us stay aware of things that are going on around town. There have been some 'funny' announcements that make you go, "You know you're in Bush Alaska when..." I thought you could chuckle as you read and gain an insight into our bush culture. From the site in recent weeks:

- To all KIYU members, channel 10 television in Galena is now off the air do to malfunctions yesterday afternoon. We will be sending the transmitter to the lower 48 for repairs which could take a while.

- The Nulato fuel depot is now limiting out of Towner’s to 5 gallons of gas per day while in Nulato. Gas will be available when leaving to travel back home.

- The Huslia 36th Annual Koyukuk River Championship is scheduled for April 8th thru the 10th. April 9th is the wedding between ************& ************** and a live band will be playing each night. Everyone is invited. For more information, contact: ****************, *************** or Speedy @ ***********.

This past week was a normal Galena week. By normal I mean really busy. Last weekend was the Galena Spring carnival. This was a great opportunity to get outside and see a lot of people. All the events take place on the Yukon river. There is a dogsled race everyday, youth cross country ski race, 5 mile snowshoe race, and an Ice picking competition. The ice picking event involves men digging through the 2+ feet of snow on the river and with a 6 foot steel shank, picking a whole through the 3+ feet of ice. First one to hit water wins a $100. It was a unique window into the events that fill a normal part of life here. Many families still mush dogs. Snow shoeing is a normal practice while checking traplines. Ice picking is traditionally done for fishing and for setting beaver traps. Galena Bible church moved our Sunday potluck to a house by the river and enjoyed a great time of fellowship, even with some people who wandered in off the street. 


This week also saw grief for the city. One of the long time village elders passed away in Fairbanks and was brought back to Galena for burial. A Viewing (Wake) is held for 2 days at the community hall. The body is not left alone for the full 48hrs. People drink coffee and play cards in the room, and it really is a very social event. In the mean time, men from the village go prepare a grave. This is no simple task. Galena's cemetery is located 10 miles up river, 5 miles of which is a road, the other 5 being a atv/snow-go trail. There is no heavy machinery at the grave site, so all graves are dug by hand. The ground is also frozen, so a fire is built on the grave site to thaw the ground. The fire is removed and the mud is drug out until frozen ground is reached. The fire is then rebuilt to thaw the ground again. This is done until a depth of 6' is reached. I was told that this grave took 5 men 2 days to dig. The service was done in the catholic style (since Galena is a catholic village). The funeral was very well attended and the community hall was full. A small group is usually all that make the trip to the grave side. The casket is loaded onto a sled and pulled behind a snow-go (Snow mobile for those everywhere else) to the grave. The casket is then lowered into the grave and the men shovel the dirt back into the hole. The final part of a native funeral is the 'potlatch'. It happens the evening of the funeral. A moose was killed and prepared for the event. Speeches are given and the individuals life is remembered and honored. Traditional Athabaskan practice is to burn food for the person's journey to the next life. This is mixed with the catholic belief of praying for the dead. In the Summer, some members of this family will go back to the cemetery and will build a small (3' tall)  house over the grave. It is called a spirit house. You can see examples of this HERE.


There were so many other events that took place this week as well:
- Riff-n-Hook Music festival : an opportunity for students throughout the community to develop musical abilities through voice and instrument.  Several students from the church participated and even performed a couple worship songs at community wide events.
- Alaska's state walk against Domestic Violence
- And Hauling Wood (have you noticed a pattern with this one?)


Shell and I LOVE these people. The church is growing and allowing tradition to give way to the work of the Gospel. Thank you so much for your continued support and prayer. May God grant you this kind of love for the culture he has placed you in.

1 comment:

Leslie said...

I love you guys! Was such a great time to meet you and your beautiful family in February! Enjoy your spring!