About a year ago, Nathan Shafer asked me to write a story about Dena’ina Athabascan people in the early 19th century. It was to be a fictional story about a Dena’ina people to be featured in his Anchorage Centennial project, called Anchorage Narratives. Nathan is working with four writers to write fictional stories that have occurred over the past century in the Anchorage bowl area.
My story was published in the Alaska Humanities Forum magazine in November. It is called Dach’shan Qayeh Ch’elchish (How We Made Summer Fish Camp). It was a challenge to accurately portray life of Dena’ina Athabascan people in the early 19th century in Anchorage. The Dena’ina people have a long history in this area and were here long before Alaska was even a state. I spent a lot of time at the library and reading books about Dena’ina people. I was struck on how similar Dena’ina people are to Koyukon and Ahtna people.
Dena’ina Historian Aaron Leggett read my story for accuracy and gave my characters names. He also contributed most of the language elements into the story. Aaron really gave me the confidence to move forward with the project.
You can read the story on Nathan’s site: http://nshafer.com/anchoragestories/.
The project features a very new technology, called mobile augmented reality (mobile AR). Indie Alaska featured Nathan Shafer in a short documentary, called “I Am An Augmented Reality Creator.” Learn more about the art of augmented reality.
“It was important for me as a new media artist to propose a world class project that uses a global medium and designs new ways of art making while staying true to the idea of the Anchorage Centennial. And not that being first is important, but designing a project with this level of significance outside of New York or Amsterdam, which will predate other projects like this in the future is really too cool to not do. It is also important to make work like your story that incorporates the global consciousness of honoring indigenous cultures.” – Nathan Shafer
Nathan Shafer expertly illustrated the story in a cartoon-like format, and really brought the story to life. When people scan the pages they can also see and hear translations for Dena’ina Athabascan words. Actual historical Dena’ina stories and audio recordings are shared through the app. With all of the elements combined, the story of the Dena’ina people comes alive and give you a real sense of what life might have been like about a 100 years ago in the Anchorage area.
I was honored to work on this multimedia project. Nathan says, “Storytelling is a serious art form in Alaska, one that cannot be overlooked when discussing who and what we are.” No matter how it gets done, our stories need to be told and shared, whether fiction or non-fiction. I endeavor to continue telling and sharing stories on the Athabascan Woman blog and other places.
Access the Dach’shan Qayeh Ch’elchish (How We Made Summer Fish Camp) story here: http://nshafer.com/anchoragestories/
Read the Alaska Humanities Forum magazine online at: