Sunday, November 14, 2004

Took a longer walk about more of downtown today and again want to come when the weather is warmer. What a neat place!

I checked out the Oomingmak Musk Ox/ Qivut knitters co-op. They make yarn from the soft fur on the underbelly of the Musk Ox and knit it into the softest, warmest hats and scarves I’ve ever felt. Unfortunately, the craftsmanship involved in every stage from raising the Musk Ox to knitting the products results in a very high priced hat. Another time, perhaps.

I’m in Alaska for the annual conference of the American Indian Science & Engineer Society (AISES). Not in either of those vocations and not of Native heritage, I felt a bit out of the loop at times. I am here as an officer of the Native employee network in my company – someone highly interested in the culture and cause. It has struck me here that storytelling and prayer unite and conquer.
Storytelling can make your experiences real for others – no matter how different their lifestyle may be. It brings the mix of experiences we have down to the common human traits that we all understand. It is the power of words to teach a lesson without the audience feeling like they’re being taught. This even was also very spiritual.
Spirituality plays a key role in Native culture. Each major event or gathering began and ended with prayer here. Even though each group might have their own beliefs, even though prayers were often in Native tongues that only a select few understood, everyone participated and felt the reverence the practice leant to the entire proceeding. It sealed the import of the event and the depth of the sense of family.

One of the Elders today told us to “choose your spirituality”. It doesn’t matter what particular belief you choose, he said, but choose it, “do not let others choose it for you”. That was big for me. I don’t necessarily believe in or understand his Nez Perce faith system, but I respect it all the more for valuing my right to decide how and what I feel is true and right to believe in.

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