Saturday, February 25, 2006

Alaska Library Association 2006: Learning Through Libraries

It’s a great honor to report from the AkLa Conference 2006 in Anchorage! Thank you, AkLa planners for the invitation to join this wonderful meeting. I feel uplifted and warmly received by these friendly, proud, and good-humored colleagues of the north.
During the first day I attended the half-day workshop on “Computers and Automation for School and Small Libraries” and the evening opening session. This is also the week of the annual Rondy (fur rendezvous) in Anchorage. I was unable to resist the temptation to visit the Native Arts and Crafts event at the Dimond Mall on the south side of town. There I visited with Native artisans and explored art expressions including tufted beadwork, carved ivory and whale bone, etched whale baleen, birch bark and red cedar baskets, soapstone carvings, and Native yoyos created from a variety of materials. I felt at home, as many of my relatives also have led lives following the seasons, respect and honor our fellow beings on the planet, and value hardiness and self sufficiency.

Chickaloon Village and the Alaska Native …

Patricia Wade, my friend from the fall 2005 Sequoyah Research Symposium in Little Rock, hosted me during my first day in Alaska. Patricia also edits and writes most of the content for “The Chickaloon News,” which features events such as the annual Culture Camp for young people. There, children learn cultural expressions such as how to construct a fish trap and can moose meat.

Our first stop was in Palmer, northeast of Anchorage, where we visited the public library. We then headed to the Chickaloon Village school, north of Palmer near Moose Creek. We arrived during recess, where the children were skating on a pond near the school. Once in their classroom, children greeted me in their Native languages and I shared some family ghost stories. We looked at some of the letters they were writing and receiving from their new penpals in Hawaii. School staff were generous with their time as we talked about not only their daily activities, especially in Native language education and oral history program, but also their plans for the future as they seek continuing funding to support their efforts.

Our next stop was to the Alaska Native Cultural Center. The Center provides an after-school program for Native Alaskan youth attending area public schools. We were fortunate to arrive during the evening program for parents. The teen dance group gave a twenty minute sampling of their recent dances and songs.

More on the AkLA soon!