This dog show was an Alaska style dog show in Bush AK. He even competed against the Delta Breed group…bush…mutts as well as the traditional dog groups. There was a lot of comic relief in the whole event. It was a bush/eskimo sanctioned event; not AKC, but BDC (Bush Dog Club). This was a cabin fever event for sure, but Nolan did it in style, winning over the crowd of 120. There were about 60 dogs of varying breeds and combinations. That is a big crowd for Bethel. Folks in bush AK see mostly sled dogs, so Nolan was a novelty, and wooed them by exposing his belly and with his good looks.
Anyone who spends time in Alaska will run across the infamous pilot bread cracker. We received a whole case with our barge order this fall. Adding Peanut butter, cheese, or soup greatly improves the taste. I was relieved to hear that they have a 10 year shelf life. We won’t be scarfing them down quickly, but they are great for bush trips. Bread molds too quickly and doesn’t travel well.
There was a big panic here this fall when the company who bakes these treats announced they were going to discontinue Pilot Bread.
Maggie Roberts learned to love Sailor Boy Pilot Bread in the village of Venetie, where her grandmother always has a big box on hand. “I like eating it in soup, like moose soup or something.”
Susie Merculief prefers to feast on her own homemade bread these days, but has fond memories of Pilot Bread from when she lived on St. George Island. “I used to eat it before and after the Second World War. I would toast it in the oven. It was nice to put butter on it when it was warm.”
Lawrence Baker of Ninilchik would eat Pilot Bread every day if he could. “I like that whipped cheese on it. But I have to drive 34 miles to buy it, so I don’t always have it.”
Alaskans may not live by Pilot Bread alone, but they profess an unmatched devotion to the round, durable, unsalted crackers that are the staff of life for villagers, cabin-dwellers and a few city folk.
I spent all day Saturday in my Yupik culture class. We studied masks and dance. Both play a large role in Yupik storytelling and spiritual life. Our Instructor Nita, is trying to provide us with some insight into these traditions before the Camai dance festival in March. She has done a great job introducing us to the culture. But there are many layers. I am reading several books that are very insightful. ( Yupik Words of Wisdom and Our Way of Making Prayer: Yup’ik Masks and the Stories they Tell) I wish I had read these before our last class on stories. When you first hear Yupik stories they seem a bit disjunct and edgy. Once you understand their philosophies and teaching styles you understand the lessons within.
Tom had a chance to hear these stories first hand. This is a harsh environment. The elders tell stories to pass on their survival skills. Survival and sustenance are a huge theme in everyday life here. Tom is going to Anchorage this month to present the biological description of Nelson Island in comparison to the traditional elder knowledge. He worked with a team of elders, scientist, and students to meld western science with traditional Yupik knowledge. Ann Fienup-Riordan is the social anthropologist who wrote the books I am reading. She is one of the scientist Tom worked with. Tom really enjoyed the experience.
I had to create my own mask and dance for class. Here’s my attempt at creativity. I used a Ptarmagin fan and wings that Tom shot. You can’t see the dance. I have no coordination.