Voices from Russia

Monday, 17 August 2015

Alaska’s Unangax Work to Preserve Culture Quashed by World War II Internment

00 alaska native 170815

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Harriet Hope’s family was last together in one place at the dawn of World War II, when she was five-years-old. In 1942, Hope was one of nearly 900 indigenous Unangax that were given only hours of notice to pack one suitcase and leave their homes in Alaska’s Aleutian and Pribilof islands. Without any choice or sign of where they were going, American soldiers put them onto crowded ships, who sent them to squalid internment camps in the then-territory’s southeastern rainforests. Hope, now in her late 70s, said, “Our whole lives were just a total upside down wreck. It was a huge tragedy that the US government pushed on us”. In 1945, the USA resettled the last interned Unangax. According to the National Parks Service, at least 74 people died in the camps, many from the unsanitary conditions. Many elders, who would’ve passed on traditions and customs to younger generations, succumbed to disease in the camps, along with the very young. Seven decades later, the cultural damage of the internment is still clear and many of the remaining survivors are hesitant to talk about the experience. However, even as the number of survivors dwindles, Unangax communities peppered along hundreds of miles of volcanic islands are working to preserve and restore their culture through educational programmes geared towards their youngest members.

Restoring a Culture

Sharon Svarny-Livingston’s mother, Harriet Hope’s older sister, was 12 when the family had to leave Unalaska. She went to a boarding school with other school-aged Unangax kids. She said, “The boarding school was the first place they learned that they would be beaten for speaking their language. So, a whole generation of these kids never taught their kids to speak their language. Our mother never taught us. When you lose those languages, you lose so much”. In the 1990s, for a short time, the school in Unalaska was able to hire a teacher who was fluent in the native language. As a result, they passed on the language, Unungam Tunuu, to a few young people, including the man who is now the Russian Orthodox priest in Unalaska. Svarny-Livingston noted, “To be able to keep that language in the church and be able to have the kids hear it is so important”. Svarny-Livingston also mentioned how important it is to teach subsistence to the next generation, the traditional way of living off the land and sea still practised by many Alaska Native communities, “It’s not necessary to survive, it’s necessary to sustain spirit”. Harriet Hope recalled, “None of the men were able to bring any kind of subsistence gear when they were interned. We couldn’t go out on our own and subsist. It’s sad. They just disconnected us from our whole culture”.

In the decades following the internment, Alaska’s Unangax community mobilised to preserve its cultural traditions; it’s created programs to pass them onto the next generation. Crystal Dushkin of Atka, who is involved in one of several Alaska summer camps that promote Unangax culture, said, “I’ve always wanted us to keep everything we’ve had and make sure that future generations know about it and learn about it, because it’s who we are, we aren’t the immigrants that make up the rest of this country. We actually originated here. This is where we belong”. The camps focus on traditional foods and other activities, such as basket weaving and carpentry. Dushkin observed, “So much has been lost as a result of World War II, and just all the changes that have come around since then”.

Rachel Mason, senior anthropologist with the National Park Service’s Alaska Regional Office, said, “The internment really hastened the erosion of some of the old customs. The deaths of many elders and the forgetting the language, and being outside of their ordinary environment, hastened the loss of the traditional way of life”. Mason was part of an effort that facilitated a trip to several Unangax villages never resettled after the internment. In 2010, a handful of former residents and their families visited three such settlements. She added, “It’s painful thing, and the trauma continues”.

Dark Years

The Japanese invaded Alaska in 1942, capturing the 44 inhabitants of the Unangax village on Attu in the Aleutian Islands. They eventually took them to Japan as POWs, where many would die, including Brenda Maly’s great-grandfather. Maly, 39, whose grandfather Nick Golodoff was six when the Japanese captured Attu, said, “They were strong at the time. My grandfather’s mother, I think she was the strongest of them all, because she remained strong after her husband disappeared in Japan”. Eventually released, the US government didn’t allow the surviving people of Attu to return to their village, as the battle to take back the islands destroyed its remnants. Maly, who has never been to Attu, said, “The war robbed them and future generations of their island and their sense of place. It’s history. If there’s no history, there’s no today”.

The Japanese also bombed the port of Dutch Harbor near Unalaska, prompting the quick evacuation of the Unangax to camps near Juneau in 1942. The government only forced the native people of the Aleutians to leave their homes and villages… they allowed the region’s white residents to stay, sometimes, breaking up mixed families like Hope’s. Even though they were still in Alaska, the camps were in a different world. They dropped the Unangax in the damp forested panhandle in southeastern Alaska, more than a thousand miles across the Gulf of Alaska, far from the treeless, wind-swept islands in the North Pacific and Bering Sea they’d called home for thousands of years. Hope said, “It just broke up the whole family, and it broke up other families. When it came time to come home, a lot of them couldn’t come home for whatever reason, and a lot of them got back home and their homes were just wrecked by the military. It’s just sad”. 88-year-old Nicholai Lekanoff said of Unalaska’s historic Russian Orthodox church, recalling when he first saw it after the war, “They’d thrown rocks and everything at it. [They’d] broken the windows”.

There were as many as 20,000 Unangax living in the Aleutian Islands when Russian explorers arrived in the late 1700s. There were less than 1,000 in the islands by the time of the internment after waves of violence, disease, and famine took its toll on the population over the centuries. Near Juneau, the government put the Unangax in inadequate living quarters, sometimes, dozens of people in one structure, with a few days’ clothes. There was no electricity or running water. Tuberculosis and other diseases persisted with little or no medical services available in most of the camps. Survivors reported facing discrimination in nearby towns where many sought work. Hope recalled, As I grew into the age that my mother was at the time [of the internment], I thought, ‘My gosh, how did they manage this?’ I started getting angrier and angrier because of what they’d done not to me, but to my parents and family”. Congress passed the Aleut Restitution Act in 1988, giving a one-time payment to the surviving Unangax evacuees, months after granting Japanese-American internment survivors similar compensation. The act also provided funds to restore damaged Russian Orthodox churches in Unangax villages. Hope remembered getting her restitution check, reportedly about half the amount given to Japanese-Americans, in the mail, and thinking it was too little too late, “This shouldn’t ever happen to another group of people again. How they got away with it last time is beyond me”.

16 August 2015

Ryan Schuessler

al-Jazeera America

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/8/16/alaskas-unangax-work-to-preserve-culture-quashed-by-wwii-internment.html

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Friday, 13 December 2013

Link Between Native Americans and Siberia Encoded in DNA History

00 Tlingit people in traditional regalia. Alaska USA. 13.12.13

Tlingit people of Alaska in traditional regalia

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Recently, a team of scientists, including seven researchers from Russia, revealed the results of a study on the DNA of the ancient inhabitants of Siberia during the Upper Palaeolithic period. Scientists were able to obtain new data on the early stages of human settlement in various continents, including the Americas. The research confirmed that the first inhabitants of the Americas, the Paleo-Indians, arrived via Beringia, an isthmus between Siberia and Alaska that existed at that time. Scientists consider Altai Krai the genetic birthplace of the first Americans. Their ancestors settled in Siberia and eventually reached the Americas. Whilst the first Americans were thought to have a close genetic relationship with East Asia, until now, scientists weren’t able to determine exactly to which people of the Old World their genes could be most closely be associated with. Through the study, scientists were able to make new conclusions about the makeup of ancient Native Americans.

The team, led by Maanasa Raghavan of the University of Copenhagen, studied the genome of the ancient inhabitants of Siberia and compared these data with the genes of other peoples. They published their results in Nature. The researchers took a DNA sample from the 24,000-year-old skeleton of an ancient inhabitant of Siberia, discovered during excavations in 1928–58 in Usolsky Raion (Irkutsk Oblast), near Malta station. Now, it’s part of the State Hermitage Museum collection. Scientists conducted DNA sequencing on the remains and compared the data with the genomes of individuals belonging to 11 modern ethnic groups, four Eurasian groups (ancestors of modern Mari, Tajiks, Avars, and East Indians), as well as with the genome associated with Denisovans, a subspecies of Homo Sapiens discovered recently in the Altai Mountains. The results showed how the Karitiana, an indigenous people from Brazil, are genetically close to ancient Siberians.

From these results, the study concluded that genes typical of the people of West Eurasia came to the Americas earlier than previously believed… namely 24,000 years ago, during the Upper Palaeolithic period. Furthermore, the data revealed why Native Americans carry haplogroup X, a mitochondrial DNA haplogroup commonly occurring among the peoples of western Eurasia, but not found among East Asians. Lyudmila Osipova, co-author of the study and head of the Population Ethno-Genetics Laboratory at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics SB RAN, said, “The results refer to the early stages of peopling of the continents, particularly Siberia and the Americas. In addition, they have indirect links to the issues of race genesis, although scientists discuss the matter cautiously. However, the issue is biological in nature and deeply connected to the topic of adaptation of human populations and to their different living conditions in different climatic zones of the globe”.

Osipova argued that despite the relatively good degree of research conducted by geneticists on the early peopling of our planet and the identification of early human migration patterns, life is more complicated than any taxonomy, saying, “The question is… ‘At what level of organisation were race genesis processes taking place… Homo sapiens, or, even at earlier stages?’ There are a lot of discoveries still to be made”. According to Osipova, the study confirms an earlier hypothesis about the origins of Native Americans, and provides a great deal of fundamental knowledge on lesser known aspects of migrations, including the movements of the people belonging to the European type towards the territory of Siberia in ancient times.

1 December 2013

Yana Khlyustova

Russia Behind the Headlines

http://rbth.ru/science_and_tech/2013/12/01/link_between_native_americans_and_siberia_encoded_in_dna_his_32159.html

 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

17 September 2013. OCA Makes Big Deal Over “Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America”… IMPORTANT Issues Left Silent… I Wonder Why

01 smoke and mirrors

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On oca.org, they made a big deal over a so-called “Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America”. This is nothing but an EP-sponsored talk-shop. It generates tons of wind, issues pretty position papers, and does nothing of practical import, save for publishing a pretty group photo. It does serve one purpose… it’s a venue where the contestants in the EP/MP Great Game can meet and palaver… it’s much like a Cold War Summit in that regard. In short, it’s not important at all… but do note that oca.org made it sound like it was such… in a pathetic attempt to pump up the shaky position of the OCA.

Note how oca.org pumped up an EP-financed-and-run centre at ChambésyGenève and a so-called “Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference” (mistranslated into English, since we’re of Russian background, it should be “Fourth Pre-Conciliar all-Orthodox Conference”; we shouldn’t be pandering by using constructions derived from Greek). Firstly, the EP centre at Chambésy is inactive, shuttered for four years, as the Greek government defunded it. That was its major source of funds, so, the centre closed down for all practical purposes (it’s formally-open, but there’s been no conferences since 2010). You can see where oca.org is sucking up to the EP… if they were loyal to the MP, they’d point up the fact that centre was a dead duck and a sham.

Secondly, the so-called Fourth Pre-Conciliar all-Orthodox Conference was phoney baloney. These conferences have been going on since the ‘60s with no practical result whatsoever. There’s going to be NO Eighth Council any time soon… there’s no one to call it! The Roman Emperor called all of the Seven Councils; today, there’s no Christian Emperor to call the council, ergo, there can be no Council. The Ecumenical Patriarch has NEVER had the ability to call Ecumenical Councils; he’s NOT the “Orthodox Pope”. In short, there’s not going to be an Eighth Council any time soon (or any time later), so, one can see that’s nothing but SVS wind and bullshit, 100 percent pure, straight from the Ivory Tower.

Thirdly, there’s going to be NO resolution of the canonical situation in the diaspora. Besides the EP, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Cyprus, Greece, Albania, and Romania all share a common position… they don’t accept the legitimacy of the OCA as an autocephalous Local Church, they see the OCA as the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of North America… they don’t accept it as being the Territorial Church at all (neither does the MP, as it’s never given up its claim to North America as its canonical territory). The OCA is the odd man out, everyone knows it, and do note that the service for this so-called “Assembly” was at the ROCOR cathedral.

Lil’ Mizz Ginny isn’t a good spin doctor. She attempted to spin it… but you can see her laziness. The post sounds like an EP press release; she didn’t even rewrite it to make it look like it came from Syosset. The OCA should fire her… but they won’t, they’re sucking up to the konvertsy for some odd reason (probably, they’re the only group that attends to the noxious treacle that issues from SVS).

Crazy world, ain’t it? It hasn’t gotten any saner in the last 24 (nor is it going to in the next 24). Do note that there wasn’t any mention of the Syrian Golgotha in the post (nor in any other on oca.org). Our brethren are dying, killed by American government-supported militant fighters, but our Church here is silent. That’s EVIL… none dare call it treason and blasphemy (although it’s both, in spades).

Remember Ma’loula… the OCA doesn’t, take heed of that fact (and DO follow the money)…

BMD barbara-drezhloBarbara-Marie Drezhlo

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Albany NY

Thursday, 18 October 2012

18 October 2012. My Musing on the Present London Conference

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ROCOR‘s going to cease to exist as an independent body… but the ROCOR will still live. It’s very much, “The King is dead; long live the King!” In short, the awkward transition will end. The ROCOR’s legal framework (if nothing else) is well-worth salvaging. However, the ROCOR that stabbed the Rodina in the back in ’91 WILL cease to exist, although we’ll still have to deal with some hardhead rightwing remnants. For instance, the Centre will leave Potapov alone until retirement, then, it’ll make certain that no new priest works for the American special services. ROCOR will be nothing more than what its name implies… the parishes of the MP outside of the territory of the former USSR. There’ll be no more Vitaly Ustinovs… God willing, we’ll see Psaryov and Larina brought to heel. Yes, the ROCOR will live… but it’ll no longer be the “Jordanville” Church… I think that you know what I mean.

I sense that the Centre has settled on the ROCOR as its vehicle for uniting the diaspora. This isn’t the ROCOR of pre-2007, nor is it the present ROCOR (a very transitional body, indeed). Mind you, the “new” ROCOR will build on the positive achievements of Antony Khrapovitsky, Anastasy Gribanovsky, and Philaret Voznesensky. It’ll also draw on solid Metropolia legacies from Leonty Turkevich and Iriney Bekish. It’ll reject all that was wrong, especially the crook legacies of Vitaly Ustinov and Aleksandr Schmemann (and his puppeteer Meyendorff).

That is, the ROCOR that’s “aborning” is going to be a big-tent church with a wide sweep, not a small band of unsmiling zealots. No, it won’t be “daddy’s ROCOR”… that’s why it’s going to attract all decent Russian Orthodox Christians in the diaspora. We’ll all join because we want to… not because we’re going to be forced to. Watch for Mark Golovkov to get a white hat and be the effectual leader of the ROCOR (Hilarion Kapral will remain in Australasia and remain First Hierarch until his death).

This is going to be an exciting event, if the Centre can pull it off… I, for one, pray that it does.

Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Thursday 18 October 2012

Albany NY

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