Alaska life, Alaska Native culture, Alaska Native/Indigenous People

Slippery Pete’s Gambit by Colin Tass’aq McDonald

Colin Tass'aq McDonald's selfie at the 2019 Iditarod start in Willow.
Colin Tass’aq McDonald’s selfie at the 2019 Iditarod start in Willow.

My friend and colleague, Colin Tass’aq McDonald (Yup’ik), loves following the Iditarod. Each year, he shares his fun and humorous analysis with his personal network. His friends and family relied on his updates and often tagged and begged him for his daily updates. He had a lot of fun with nicknames and memes for the mushers. Tass’aq’s grew up dog mushing in Bethel, Alaska. He graciously agreed to share an update on Pete Kaiser’s win of the 2019 Iditarod. Pete is the first Yup’ik musher to win the Iditarod. Quyana for sharing, Tass’aq!

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I just boarded the plane on my first leg on my journey to Egypt less than 24 hours after flying to Nome to watch Slippery Pete cross under the famed burled arch to become the first Yu’pik champion of the Iditarod. I wanted to share this post (below) from a few days back, because it was my favorite point of an amazing race!

In my opinion, ‘Pete’s Gambit’ out of Grayling is when he put himself into position to grab the belt as the ‘greatest musher in the world’! He put the pressure on the front runners Nic Le Lapin and Joar of The Hill people, and made them make decisions that compromised the speed of their teams down the trail. He eventually did what Slippery Pete does and slipped past both and into immortality.

The atmosphere in the chute last night was indescribable. I have been to about a dozen Iditarod finishes and I have never witnessed that kind of energy. John Baker’s finish came closest. Of course, I am being extremely biased, but it was distant in comparison. Nobody brings the energy like #KuskoNation!

I was so happy to be able to share the moment with my little cousin Ari (Pete’s son and my ticket into the chute…Quyana Ari!) as he got the ‘best seat in the house’ sitting on my shoulders as we soaked it all in. So many friends and family were there in the same state of awe as me. I was teary-eyed during the entire experience. I have grown up around and have participated in sports my entire life and have witnessed many moments that have left me floored, but I have never experienced an athletic feat that had such a personal and emotional effect on me and I’ll venture to guess that Pete’s first championship will never be bested in that regards.

In 2008, when Pete won the Bogus Creek 150, my Dad, John McDonald, said “Pete is going to win the Iditarod someday.” At the time, it seemed unfathomable, but to be there first hand to watch Pete achieve all his goals and dreams is something I will never forget.

This accomplishment has brought so much pride to his family, friends, community, region, state, and to the Yup’ik people and I am just so proud of my friend! I’m also proud of all the other Kusko Mushers this year. Richiero Su zuki, 2 quicklas Niklas Wikstrand, Jessica JR GRowling’ Klejka, and Victoria ‘The Frozen Candle’ Hardwick, ran and are continuing to run amazing races.

I also wanted to give a big Quyana for all the thank yous and encouragement on my posts throughout the race. I loved the people reaching out to tell me they had never really followed the race, but really got into it and excited reading my somewhat silly and irreverent ‘coverage’ this year.

Growing up with a dog team really gave me a great appreciation, love, and respect for all these mushers and dogs do. It really made me smile to get texts and posts from ‘racing legend’ Myron Angstman and the son of an Iditarod Champ, Isa Fredricks to “Update Us!” As I hope you can tell, I truly enjoyed posting them and I am so happy to play my small part in this amazing piece of our Alaskan Culture. Once again, Quyana, and we will see all you race fans next year!! Now off to the pyramids!! What an amazing week!

Tass’aq’s March 9th Analysis of the Point When He Believes Pete Kaiser Set Himself Up for Success

Slippery Pete’s Gambit – When Slippery Pete left Grayling in 3rd, I was sitting at my sister’s house with my parents, Beverly and John. I got the word on the Iditajunkie text thread and we all said, ‘Holy Shit’!! Everybody assumed he was there for his 8 hours [layover], since he had already been there for 6 hours.

But then after thinking about it, it became pretty clear that it’s the perfect move to make if you want to win a race like this. He is putting pressure on Joar of the Hill People and Nic Le Lapin now. He is going to take his 8 hours, but they are going to have to rest too and all that time is time he is catching up. And with the weather still coming in, the teams behind may have a tough trail to make up time. We will see if it works, but Ole’ Slippery is out there playing chess right now and has put himself in pretty good posish to make a run at this thing!

He has passed Nic and is 4 miles behind Joar at this moment. Rawhide Richie had a great run after taking his 8 hours. Pulled into Grayling in 7th at 7:15. I bet he gets back on the trail to start chasing down those leaders pretty soon. JK GRowling left Iditarod just a few minutes ago and Niklas Sixx pulled in there at 10:31. I was asked why I’m not posting about Victoria Hardwick…don’t really know her. 🤷🏼‍♂️ But she is grinding it out like a true Kuskokwim musher and deserves to get in these posts. ‘The Frozen Candle’ (Hardwick…get it?) is out of Ophir at 6:33 pm. Jessica and Vic still both have 14 dogs!! Word on the trail is that Hardwick’s dogs have amazing breath. Going to be up late tracking. May have some updates. Boy that was a long one!!

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Enaa baasee’ Colin Tass’aq McDonald for the fun and exciting updates! Here are a couple other updates from Kaiser Racing Kennels and Indian Country Today.

Update from Kaiser Racing Kennels:

Check out the update from Indian Country Today – Yup’ik musher wins Iditarod! Pete Kaiser is first Yup’ik, fifth Alaska Native to win 998-mile race.

Indian Country Today provided a list of Alaska Native winners of the Iditarod:
2019: Peter Kaiser, Yup’ik, 9 days, 12 hours, 39 minutes, 6 seconds.
2011: John Baker, Iñupiaq, 8 days 18 hours 46 minutes 39 seconds.
1976: Gerald Riley, Athabascan, 18 days 22 hours 58 minutes 17 seconds.
1975: Emmitt Peters, Athabascan, 14 days 14 hours 43 minutes 45 seconds.
1974: Carl Huntington, Athabascan, 20 days 15 hours 2 minutes 7 seconds.

Link:  https://newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/news/yup-ik-musher-wins-iditarod-pete-kaiser-is-first-yup-ik-fifth-alaska-native-to-win-998-mile-race-LS9w67kz5kKFzesSEZKXXg/

 

Alaska Native/Indigenous People, Athabascan in the Spotlight

Blanche Sam – Athabascan & Iñupiaq Beader

Blanche Sam and her daughter, Harper. Photo by Nadine Carroll

My niece, Blanche Sam (Athabascan/Iñupiaq) of Hughes, has really come into her own in the past couple of years with her beadwork, and I hadto interview her. I love her colorful earrings and creativity with using materials, like dentalium shells and hide. Enaa baasee’ Blanche for agreeing to share your beading journey on the Athabascan Woman Blog!

Blanche Sam and her family. Photo by Nadine Carroll

Blanche’s parents are Lester and Ella Sam of Hughes. Her paternal grandparents were the late Frank Sam, Elma (Nictune) Sam and biological (Blanche Henry); and maternal grandparents are the late Arthur Ambrose and Alice (Simon) Ambrose. Blanche now lives in Fairbanks with her own family, including Zeb Cadzow, and children Dakota and Harper Cadzow. She earned an associate degree in accounting from at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and currently works for her village corporation, K’oyitl’ots’ina, Limited.

“My mom and grandmothers did it and were so good at it and it is a big part of our culture as Alaska Natives.” – Blanche Sam (Koyukon Athabascan/Iñupiaq)

Blanche Sam sewed calf skin boots and a martin hat for her daughter. Photo by Blanche Sam

Blanche learned to bead in elementary school from her grandmothers and aunt. Some of her first memories of beading and sewing were in school. Blanche remembers her grandmothers and aunt receiving a grant to get furs, hide, beads and other supplies. She learned to sew calf skin boots with help from her grandmothers, Alice and Rita. Her aunt, Hazel, was the first one to teach her how to bead earrings with a basic pattern with bugle beads.

Beaded earrings by Blanche Sam

After buying several pairs of earrings in 2016, she thought, ‘I should just make my own.’ She began making her own jewelry and connected with it. Now when she’s not busy with her kids, you can find her at her beading table. She invested in supplies and challenged herself with some ambitions first projects. She has learned a lot and improved since the beginning. I’ve loved watching the progression of her styles and themes as she has shared them on social media.

Brilliant Beads by Blanche booth. Photo by Blanche Sam

Blanche stared sharing pictures of her earrings on social media and people were interested and started ordering from her. She found a higher demand once she started an online presence as Brilliant Beads by Blanche. After creating a small business, she started selling more, created a logo, ordered business cards, and learned to take better photos of her work. Although making extra money is nice, she appreciates the therapeutic nature of beading and how it connects her to her culture giving her a sense of purpose. Blanche says, “It allowed me to relax, escape and filled me with purpose.”

Blanche’s Advice for Beaders Who Want to Create a Small Business

  • Find and perfect a niche.
  • Having booths at bazaars is a great way to get known and get the word out about your product.
  • Create an online presence. Her online presence has especially helped increase her sales at bazaars.
  • Learn to take good photographs of your work in natural light.
  • Search for ideas on Pinterest for inspiration and help with your creations. It is also a great place to get ideas for creating an eye catching and inviting booth.

Overall, Blanche says, “Do not give up if you make mistakes. I made a lot and learned from each one of them.” She sells about 60-80 pairs for each bazaar she attends. It is impressive to see how she has grown in her beading journey and how she has come close to selling out at her last bazaars. Way to go, Blanche!

You can find Blanche Sam of Brilliant Beads by Blanche on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Alaska Native/Indigenous People

Indigenous People to Follow

I want to give a shout-out to some writers, podcasters, photographers, creators, beaders and Native royalty to consider following in honor of Alaska Native and American Indian Heritage Month.

Alice Qannik Glenn (Iñupiaq) started a podcast, called Coffee and Quaq, this summer. She describes it as:  “Coffee & Quaq provides a platform for the generation of Alaska Natives who continue practicing cultural traditions, but also enjoy the modern commodities of the millennial era like Mario Kart, iPhones, and Tang.  Coffee & Quaq? It’s a great time to be alive.” Her latest episode was, LGBTQ in the Native Community. I’m looking forward to what she’s creating! She is the first Alaska Native podcaster I know of!

Jen Jul (Athabascan) is documenting her life and building up her business in Denmark as a social media strategist on her new blog, My Kind of Jen. She’s trying to make a life for herself with her family and new life. Give her a follow on Facebook too. She’s an excellent photographer too. I worked with her over 25 years ago in a college summer job. 

Susie Lee Edwardson (Haida) of Haida Life created a “Native YouTubers” Twitter account @NativeTubers. You may recall she shared a list of Native Vloggers, Gamers and Organizations on the Athabascan Woman Blog a couple years ago. I love how she shares her language journey and teaching Haida. @NativeTubers is a great way to share content of indigenous vloggers/sharers! 

While you’re on Twitter, give a follow to Speak Gwich’in To Me. Jacey Firth has been sharing her Gwich’in language journey in Canada. Check out this documentary about her here!

While you are on Twitter, give Indigenous Beads a follow. @IndigenousBeads is a new host every week with about six regulars. I have hosted it a few times over the past year or so. The hosts share beadwork, process, how people can purchase their items, and much more. If you are a fan of beadwork, you’ll want to give them a follow. It’s a great way to converse with other beaders across the Nation.

If you are looking for inspiration from Indian Country, follow up-and-comer Tanaya Winder on Girl On Fire. She is a writer, educator, motivational speaker, and performance poet from the Southern Ute, Duckwater Shoshone, and Pyramid Lake Paiute Nations. Tanaya came up to Alaska earlier this year, and shared her spoken poetry, book and sang with Frank Waln. I love how she uplifts people with her strong voice. She fill people up (especially young Indigenous people) with light in the way they need to be filled up, which is healing. She even has a TedTalk!

 

Photo by Cordelia Kellie of the Nalliq Blog

Follow Cordelia Qiġñaaq Kellie (Iñupiaq) on Nalliq. She shares her perspectives. Cordelia shared this in her latest post was:  Stories in Representation: First figurative sculpture of Dena’ina installed in Anchorage

“Soldotna Artist Joel Isaak, who is Dena’ina, wrought the bronze statue to represent a well known Dena’ina community member, Grandma Olga Nicolai Ezi from the Tyone Lake, and Copper River regions. Born in 1875, she was the matriarch of her family and was married to Simeon Ezi, a chief of the upper Cook Inlet, including Anchorage and the Matanuska Valley and was known as Cheda, or Grandmother, by the region.”

Here are a few articles to read in the news about Alaska Native people:

  • Check out the interview with Irene Bedard (Iñupiaq) in the Anchorage Press. Thank you to her sister-in-law, Vera Bedard, for pointing it out. Vera says, she “talks about Pocahontas, Smoke Signals, Native issues advocacy, and really everything else!” According the article, Bedard will spend much of her time in Alaska through the spring as artist-in-residence with Perseverance Theatre, which is celebrating its 40th season, and its first since nearly going under in 2018.
  • Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson (Yup’ik) shared her story as a sexual abuse survivor on KTUU, in an article entitled, ‘In my childhood the monsters were very real’ — Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson talks about childhood trauma. She is using her voice to bring light to this critical issue. She says,”I think it gets fixed by us bringing light to the issue and shining the harsh light of judgement and reality every time that that injustice happens, because we deserve justice, just as everybody else does, and it’s not OK that that continues to happen.” I appreciate and admire her strength in speaking up for so many people who suffer in silence. I’m a Val fan and love seeing an Alaska Native woman as lieutenant governor!
  • Bob Sam (Tlingit) and other Alaska Native people visited the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. Photo journalist Daniella Zalcman shared the story on the Pulitzer Center, entitled Carlisle and the Indian Boarding School Legacy in America. I was there with the Alaskans. It was a very powerful experience, while I attended the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.
  • Emil Notti (Koyukon Athabascan) said a movie should be made on Percy Blatchford (Iñupiaq). Emil shared some pretty amazing stories of Percy’s life, and it really seemed like he was a Native James Bond in his time. I was happy to see this article by Michael Hankins, which was published in the Last Frontier Magazine and it was republished by the ECHO. It is entitled, Percy Blatchford – Alaska Legend.
  • Read about two Alaska Native teens, John Fredson and Esaias George, getting official credit for assisting historic Denali ascent in the Anchorage Daily News.

I can definitely go on about awesome people doing great things (or who have done), but I’ll stop here for now. Here’s one last shout-out to the new Miss Indigenous Northern Arizona University, Shondiin Mayo (Koyukon Athabascan/Navajo). Congratulations Shondiin on your new title and I know you will be a great role model!

The new Miss Indigenous NAU 2019 Shondiin Mayo was crowned recently. Photo courtesy of Miss Indian Northern Arizona University
The new Miss Indigenous NAU 2019 Shondiin Mayo was crowned recently. Miss Indigenous NAU 2019 First Attendant Brandi Espuma (Tohono O’odham) is also pictured. Photo courtesy of Miss Indian Northern Arizona University

 

Athabascan in the Spotlight
Alaska Native/Indigenous People, Athabascan in the Spotlight

Athabascan in the Spotlight – Glenda McKay

This summer, the Athabascan Woman Blog is featuring an Athabascan in the Spotlight each week. Thank you to Brenda Mahan (Koyukon Athabascan) for nominating Glenda McKay!

Glenda McKay is Ingalik-Athabascan. Her mother, Emily, was born in Flat, Alaska and grandmother, Eliza Tickeny, was born in Anvik, Alaska. Glenda is an artist known for creating miniature dolls using traditional materials. She also creates masks, charm baskets and knife sheaths. Glenda also does beadwork, like making octopus bags. She uses moose skin, walrus ivory, fossilized bone, seed beads, seal skin, whale baleen, sea otter fur and deer hide. One item can take several months, if not up to a year to create.

Glenda has won many awards for her artwork. She travels to many of the Native markets in the Lower 48, such as the Santa Fe Indian Market and the American Indian Arts Market place at the Autry Museum. She has been featured online and in magazines. Glenda received the 2017 Jackie Autry Purchase Award winner for her Yesterdays Warrior bag by the Autry Museum of the American West.

Glenda received the 2017 Jackie Autry Purchase Award winner for her Yesterdays Warrior bag by the Autry Museum of the American West. Photo by Autry Museum of the American West
Glenda received the 2017 Jackie Autry Purchase Award winner for her Yesterdays Warrior bag by the Autry Museum of the American West. Photo by Autry Museum of the American West

The Native American Artists, Musicians and Writers group featured her artwork on their Facebook page. View the page to see her impressive art work collection.

Glenda has been a mentor for Brenda Mahan for about three years now. Brenda says, “She is always willing to share tips of the trade. Her knowledge on Athabascan crafts is invaluable and she is willing to pass down her knowledge and this is why I am nominating her for the Athabascan in the Spotlight.”

Enaa baasee’ to Brenda for submitting Glenda McKay to be an Athabascan in the Spotlight! Do you have someone you admire, like a culture bearer, artist, storytellers, activist, role model, community doer, language warrior, leader, hunter, gatherer, parent, or grandparents? Find out more about how to submit a nomination here: http://athabascanwoman.com/?p=4248.

Alaska Native/Indigenous People, Athabascan in the Spotlight

Athabascan in the Spotlight Features

Athabascan in the Spotlight

Throughout the years, I have featured Athabascan people in my blog through interviews and by sharing our stories. Why? I want to raise people up, promote wellness and counter stereotypes. Let’s celebrate those we admire — our culture bearers, artists, storytellers, activists, role models, community doers, language warriors, leaders, hunters, gatherers, parents, and grandparents! Now, I would like to ask for your help.

To submit a nomination, please email me the following:

  • Your Name
  • Name of nominee (including Native name if applicable)
  • Cultural affiliation (like, Koyukon, Gwich’in, etc.)
  • Background on nominee (where they or their family is from, who their family is, what they do, etc.)
  • Reason this person should be recognized
  • Contact info for nominee (phone, email or social media)
  • Web and/or social media link
  • 1-3 photos (or links from public social media).

Email ayatlin@hotmail.com or message me on Facebook.

Let’s lift up and celebrate those we admire in the Athabascan community. Please contact me with any questions. Enaa baasee’!