A Reader- Foreword by Akwasi Asabere-Ameyaw
Edited By George J. Sefa Dei
12. Neo-Colonial Melancholia: Alaska Native People, Education and Oil Maria Shaa Tláa Williams 189
For thousands of years Alaska Native people survived and even flourished in a region of the worldthat is often considered extreme. I grew up hearing oral histories of great leaders, of Raven’s great adventures (our trickster-hero), and how my father grew up along a trap-line along the Alaska/Canada border, of a life that was built upon the collective work of extended families and on detailed knowl- edge of the environment. The Indigenous knowledge base enabled survival and continuity through- out all regions of Alaska. Native people know their environment, surrounding flora/fauna, weather, and climate changes intimately—we can read the tides, use the star systems to navigate, employ math systems to make elaborate baskets and textiles. All Alaska Native people developed ways to smoke and dry fish and preserve summer foods such as berries through the long winters. We have beauti- ful songs, stories, and dances that set us apart as unique peoples. Our epistemologies and scientif- ic knowledge have been perfectly attuned to our landscape. The Arctic and sub-Arctic hunters who use the winter sea ice to hunt have dozens of terms for ice and developed ingenious footwear and hunting techniques for the dif ferent types of ice. Marine mammal hunters in Alaska invented the kayak (found all over the world today) and still use open skin boats for whale hunting; these water- craft all use waterproof stitching for the hide boat covers. There is ample evidence of Native science and engineering in every single village in Alaska. I...
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