Monday, July 14, 2008

"Footey, Amen!"

"Footey!!! Did you do that?"

We would say that when we smelled something stinky. We heard it a lot after Mom made a big pot of yummi bean soup!

I laughed when I showed Mom the book I had just recieved from our Native Corporation and she said, "Eeee!" Then she laughed when I asked her what "giinaquq meant. She said well they would say that when they could not figure out who someone was and it meant like, "Who the heck is that?"

"Two Journeys, A Companion to the Giinaquq: Like A Face Exhibition" is a beautiful book and is a supplement to the now showing display of masks at the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository in Kodiak, Alaska. The masks that originally came from Kodiak Island and were taken by a French explorer - way back when (Read PDF file). Actually, it is amazing that these items are still around surviving all that traveling - even warfare.

My Dad spoke of a time when a guy came to their village (Eagle Harbor), spent time with the people and became one with them. Living among them, eating the food they ate, learning and doing all the things our people did. Our people liked him and trusted him, "just like he was one of us." One morning after a long spell of drunkeness, the whole village slept while every piece of their handed down past was stolen from a special ceremonial barabara which held only all those things. The villagers woke up and looked for this guy - but he was gone. Where could he be? Then they found that all the items they used for their celebrations and ceremonies were gone. "Yah, they used those things for celebrating a boys first-time successful hunt for seal or bear too; like those times," Mom shared.

In late prehistoric times, Alutiiq people lived in sod houses, known as ciqluaq (barabara in Russian). These dwellings were built partially underground and had a driftwood frame, plank walls covered with sod and a thatched roof. These warm, insulated homes provided protection against Kodiak’s wet, windy weather. On average, a ciqluaq accommodated about eighteen residents; which generally consisted of related families. There was a center room connected by low openings to private side chambers used for sleeping, storage, and steam bathing (maqiq in Alutiiq or banya in Russian). OLD HARBOR NATIVE CORPORATION

Of course I can't know who this guy was from Dad's story, but I have thought of his story many times since reading of the Alutiiq (many of my relatives) finding our lost (?) heritage. Finding all this Alutiiq stuff over in France, of all places, one can only wonder.

I told Mom about what Will Anderson, President of Koniag, Incorporated wrote in the Foreword of this book -

"Growing up in Kodiak in the 1960s, I sometimes found myself in one of the downtown gift shops that catered to the tourist market. The shops sold curios, postcards, t-shirts, and the occasional mask or paddled that appeared to be hand crafted by an Alaska native. Since Kodiak Island is predominately Alutiiq, it was always puzzling to me that the only native artwork sold in the local shops were of Tlingit design. Why was there no artwork from our own history and culture?"
I asked Mom, "Why isn't there anything from our culture?" She thought a while then said that she thinks that the people on Kodiak were so freed from their bondage to their old ways that they gave it all up just as the priests of the Russian Orthodox Church said they should do. She said when others would try to speak of those "voodoo-like" things they were discouraged. She said her oldest sister Sasha would quickly say, "Footey, Amen!" when she heard people talk of the scary old ways.

Dad told me of how other villagers would come to their village for dances. A big fire was built on the beach and as each visitor got out of their kayaks they would have to jump over the fire before coming into their village. This was common practice when people traveled from village to village. Dad said it was so that their own old spirits would stay over there and not come and bother them too in their village. Dad said that when the priests began to come to the villages, the people would hollar out as he walked past - there was so much power from God over those dark spirits, even in their shadows.

Remember that!

One day while on Maui in Hawaii, I went to a big international art show under the banyan tree. I walked slowly and quietly, enjoying artwork from different places. A vendor stopped me to ask if I was from a Native American culture. I said I had an Alutiiq heritage. I asked him why. He said, I sensed a strong presence when you stepped on the grounds here, I've been watching you approach. I thought that was strange because there is nothing special about me. There were so many people there why did he single me out? He continued to tell me that he had just returned from a big celebration of the culture of the native peoples of America on the mainland. He said that he could sense that I came from an old culture. (Don't we all!?)

The spiritual world is an unseen world of great powers that most of us don't understand, or appreciate their daily influence. The Bible speaks of it. I prayed that the spirit this man felt was the Holy Spirit! I pray that I do not keep any other lesser spirits comfortable remaining in my life. I've heard that spirits follow family lines (this is how one can "hear" a dead relative speak through a medium). I have renounced all spirits that were strong in my family/heritage. Keep out of my life, I now follow after God through the power of the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Whispers grew strong and loud and my heart would pound as I hurried to be with other people rather than all alone. I hated those times because my heart would fill with incredible, crippling fear. I was silent and told no one. No one else could hear them, and I believed I would be considered crazy. I remained a fearfully controlled person for years, even after kneeling down and accepting Christ Jesus into my life, my heart, my thoughts!

One day during my first year away at the Bible boarding school I was in my dorm room alone when again the whispers started. First quietly, then louder than I had ever heard. I ran from my room and down the hallway to my dorm parents apartment. I pushed open their door. "I hear voices!" Carol was there and she got up quickly then questioned me about why I was so afraid. I frantically told her about the whispers. She was so spiritually wise. She took me to her bedside, knelt down and prayed with her arm around my shoulders. She told me it was spiritual, and that everytime I felt this I should kneel down and pray for deliverance. "Claim the powerful blood of Jesus Christ over this," she said. "God is able to deliver." I did and I was freed from fear! (Occasionally this fear tries to return and I pray.) We read Psalm 139 together. So much power over evil has been gained for us through Jesus Christ's defeat of the evil one! I am thankful to live without fear, just as my ancestors were in Eagle Harbor, and Kodiak Island when the priests shared the Gospel with them.

"When we got to Boulogne, I wasn't expecting that feeling I got. Like there was a presence there. It totally floored me. I was not ready for it. It sent chills up my spine. Something was there, I can't explain it. It felt like somebody or something was there, and it or they were happy we were there. Gary Knagin, Two Journeys, A Companion to the Giinaquq: Like a Face Exhibition.
So it is with mixed feelings that I read about these masks from the Alutiiq's past. It was a voodoo type way, Mom said. They would make little carvings and stick hair or something from a person they wanted to torment, and they would. They could hang this little carving in a tree or someplace, and the cold wind would blow on it and the person would feel that.

I can understand why our people want to revive/find things from the past, it gives one pride in the people that they are. But I worry that they are digging up things our people put aside too - to be rid of their great fears when they gratefully accepted Christianity when it first came to their villages on Kodiak Island.

This is not Christianity against our culture, it is Christianity's power to release our people from the bondages of great spiritual fears and spirits. It is sad that so many tribes and peoples of the world are in great bondage to the ruler of this world through fear when they could have freedom through Christ Jesus. Freedom through Christ for the Alutiiq, and for all who will believe the Gospel. Fear has no strength against Christ. If Christ is for us... who can stand against us?

Incredible! I am thankful.


Tammy said...

This was so fascinating, and I learned a lot about your culture just from this one post. I also loved hearing your thoughts about separating respect of culture from respecting evil good to do the first, but to also be wary of who we all are in Christ.

Faith said...

This was amazing!
I learned alot today!
Love your thoughts about respecting cultures yet keeping away from evil influences/prayng against them.
"if Christ is for us...." awesome!


Dear Connie Marie, I learned so much from you on this post.

I am so glad that Christ has made you free! Some are still in bondage and it breaks my heart. If we have Christ we are fee indeed. love you, connie from texas

Mam said...

Connie Marie, You are soooo eloquent sometimes, it's scary. We have been following the path of these masks and learning about the history and the collection through the Alutiq Museum. I feel, too, a mixed emotion about them. I know there is a way to retain cultural heritage and redeem it through Christ. I have seen so much spiritual oppression among the Alaska Native and Native Americans, making it difficult for them to be totally free. But you are definitely right about renouncing these ties. We have done much of that in our family as well, because of the generational stuff.
There is so much beauty, so much of value in the Alutiq culture, and I am glad to see it being preserved.
Not all the damage was done by paganism, though. When the white man came in and took away the language, then took away the children and forced them into boarding schools, there was a huge blow to the collective heart of the people, which has yet to be completely healed. Only through Jesus. We pray for the Alutiq people.
There is an elder in the Tanana Chiefs named Will (??) Phooey. If you know his name send it to me. it's a short name, maybe 4 letters, I think. A tall, impressive looking man. (I'm sure you know him, he's a key person in the AFN realm). He has spoken on these topics, and I have hardly ever been more moved than I was by his speech at the AFN convention some 10? years ago. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful post.

Marie VW said...

I think that sometimes a "huge blow to the collective heart of a people" is what is needed to break some cultures away from the bondage they are in. Only then can some tribes and nations even begin to be healed. I believe that God can even turn the unwise and foolish laws and motives of humans into avenues of His grace.

Connie Marie said...

(Will Mayo is his name, Nancy.)

Like my Mom said, the Alutiiq people (and the other tribes) were "conquered" by the "white" people.

The Russian explorers exploited them, yes, and the Alutiiq tried to resist - but were not capable of standing against the guns of the explorers, so therefore they had to succumb to the powers that be. Sadly they were like so many other peoples before them which lost their own cultures. I can't help but look for the saving and loving hand of God in all of these exploits ---down through the ages. Not only to our people, but to so many others before them.

The evil hoards of the spiritual realm fight against the goodness of God Who wants to bring hope and peace back to all the people that He created, and then cause them to love and honor Him alone. We all like sheep have gone astray ---and with complete confidence in none other than God's decietful enemy!

I agree with Mom, our people must go on - we must promote the ways of the "white" people in order to prosper in this present world. In all cultures down through the ages there have been wrongs commited by the stronger. I take my stand against those that will make a lingering difference between the peoples... white against native, native against white --- peoples against peoples. The way I see it - this way prolongs the suffering of all people and there is no success in pointing fingers.

We have to teach our children the ways of prosperity if we want them to succeed in this life or to heal; that way is now the way of the "white" people. Many of our kids are doing this very successfully I might add!!!

To promote a bitterness against what happened so many years ago and to teach our children to hate sets us back - not a head. I have seen bitterness and hatred that leads to drunkeness, and suicide because of hatred and unforgiveness, two strong tools of the evil one.

The fishy ways even seem to be diminishing... (even with all the controls of the AK Fish and Game)! Fishing is a big part of the Alutiiq culture and way of life...

I think to embrace all the goodness of each culture brings the peoples together. Sharing our successes are good, but we need to be wise enough to know why our ancestors tossed out some things and those reasons should be heeded.

Ultimately, God's ways should make us one... where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free.. (Col. 3:11) God's ways are the way of the future!!!!