Alaska tour 3: Native dancers

Tuesday morning: whale watching in Frederick Sound. This takes patience, standing out on a cold, rainy deck waiting the a whale to appear. To save time, just click on this video link:

Humpback dive

After lunch we dock at the village of Kake (“cake”). With about 300 residents, it’s the main village on this rather large island (about the size of Rhode Island, they say). With over 100 miles of old logging roads, this would be a great place to go out and look at the forest, even if it’s second-growth forest. But that’s not what we’re here for.

IMG_1924.jpgOur first stop is the workshop of a native Tlingit who uses the English name “Michael Jackson.” (He told us his real name, but I can’t remember, much less spell it). MJ is a totem pole carver. He talked a lot about his adze blades, not much about how the totem is designed. Like all the natives we see here, he wears no hat or coat, although it’s cold and raining.

IMG_1928.jpg

Kake has the highest single-tree totem pole anywhere, 130 feet even after the top broke off in a storm. So that’s a must-see.

 

The best stop is at the high school gym, where a troupe of dancers performs for us. The costumes are amazing; each is obviously hand-sewn with great care. Whole families engage in the dance. The first appearance (a long video) introduces each totemic presence in a welcoming ceremony. I don’t know the significance of the second clip, but they take great care to display the totem images to the audience. This is a dance of spirits, not people.

Finally, they invite us all to join in for the final dance and song. I don’t know what the dance was about, ceremonially, but it was a wonderful tonic for me. Sorry, I have no recording of this.

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