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Jean McDermott is a freelance writer and professional muscian.
I'm typing this using wireless! Yippee! A friend had an extra Airport card that worked in this old Apple clamshell, so now I'm stylin'!
We traveled through smoke, smoke and more smoke, to the point where just driving in the car, we had burning eyes and lungs. We headed for Anderson Bluegrass Festival, but when we got there at 3:30, found the music didn't start until five. The idea of paying $15 each to sit in the smoke and choke didn't appeal to us. We sure were disappointed that we couldn't go to the festival, but it was a choice of breathing or music, and much as I love music, breathing does have its attractions.
Instead we traveled on over to visit Scott's nephew, Ramy Brooks who is a well-known dog musher. He and his wife have worked very hard to get a summer dog team ride/tour thing going on their land, and it's coming together very well, I'd say. The amount of work those two folks have done is amazing. Ramy had a cart made of metal, with wooden seats, that he has twenty dogs pull. Folks can arrange to have rides, and it's great because in the summer the dogs get to run! When we left there were twenty happy dogs patiently waiting in the traces for Ramy to get ready to go, and a van of four tourists eager to take a ride.
I managed to pick up my violin from the repair shop at last, and I can't tell you how wonderful that is for me.
The drive in was so awful, what with heavy rain and even heavier RVs, buses and Road Idiots that next time we come down here it will either be on a train or a plane, but not an automobile.
Day 2 (July 23) of the Powwow was so hectic and busy that I was too tired to do anything but fall asleep when I got home. More Germans showed up that day, and some folks from Japan, Denmark and other exotic places. We always post a wall-size map of the US where folks can color in the state they are from. The entire Lower 48 was colored in last time I looked, sometime on Day 2, except Mississippi, Rhode Island, and a couple other states. Folks had drawn in representations of their homelands overseas, E. Timor, Canada and Afghanistan, besides Japan and Denmark. Next to the huge US Map we posted a large drawing of the state of Alaska. Alaska is two and a half times the size of Texas. Stop and try to get your head around that--it's almost too big to be able to imagine. Why mapmakers have to put it off to the side in a little box next to Hawaii, as if they were similar in size, I don't know. This is probably why most folks don't realize that Alaska is the biggest state in the union.
Be that as it may (phhhht! to all you Texans who think your state is so big) we needed a big Alaska map so all the folks from different villages and other parts of the state could put pins in their hometowns.
I picked up my friend Skyeler Sunday morning, the last day of the powwow. He'd actually asked for time off so he could help me out that day. I needed a break, that's for certain. The weather on Day 2 was muggy and extremely hot. If it hadn't been for the shade of my booth, I'd have had heat stroke. Even so, I sat down and put my feet up when I could.
At the end of the day a couple guys showed up just as folks were leaving the grounds. The set up in the tent, two guitars, and started playing good old country music, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, and others. Scott and I had a ball two-steppin'. It was a very enjoyable way to end the day. I spoke at length with the main singer, Frank Jerue. They have a third member, Katie, who couldn't come with them, but they are from Anchorage and I'll have them back up for a fund-raising dance next year. Great folks! He played an old, vintage Jazzmaster, so we had to stand and talk Fender guitars for a while.
With Skyeler helping, I could now get away a little bit and see more dancing, do some dancing, and check out the other booths. There were two food booths (I don't count cotton candy as a food), one with all sorts of hamburgers, burritos and such, and the other with game meat. Both were pretty great. The buffalo bratwurst was the best I think I've ever had, and I got great reports on their other sausages and meats (reindeer, moose and others).
At about 2:45 on Day 3, we released a rehabilitated eagle that was brought to the powwow by the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage. Excitement rippled through us at nine that morning, when the truck bearing two draped crates pulled into the powwow grounds. The eagle's here, the eagle's here echoed around the circle from many hushed voices.
At 2:30 folks started gathering at the far end of the field, around the big crate. The wooden box had holes drilled in the sides, but only enough for air. We could not see the eagle, and it could not see us. David Salmon, traditional chief of the Athabaskan people, on whose land the powwow is held, spoke to the eagle, and to us, prayed with us, and with the eagle. Several other representatives of both the Athabaskan and Tlingit tribes (Raven and Eagle clans) likewise spoke. The Tlingits sang a song for the bird. David Salmon said that the bird should fly north, that that would be the most auspicious direction for him to go. All this took about forty minutes. We were all sweating in the sun. No one was talking, everyone was still. The top of the box was raised and the bald eagle burst into the sky! He circled us four times, as if acknowledging us and the four directions, and then took off toward the north. He then circled around again (no doubt getting his bearings) and disappeared into the distance and the trees.
Later, Scott showed up and I took him dancing in the circle. We did the Indian two-step and got thoroughly out of breath in the process. I dance a crow-hop, my favorite. We browsed the booths and got two plates of fry bread, something I miss from New Mexico. It sure tasted great! It was funny to have people asking me what it was!
Skyeler was watching the booth as the chairman of the powwow, Bob, handed me a blanket of money. The blanket dance had just been performed, where we carry a blanket around while the drums play, and the audience throws money in the blanket to be given to the drummers and singers. Bob said, "Go count this, would you, Jean?" So off I went, despite looming, dark clouds in the north, to the security tent to count out the money and divide it into four piles for the four different drum groups.
I got it all counted but was very nervous the whole time because I knew I had to get my booth broken down and my stuff under cover before that storm hit. I could hear the wind picking up. I counted as fast as I could. I was starting to divide it when someone else finally showed up to whom I could pass the job, and I ran out of the security tent through rain and wind to help Scott and Skyeler load up. Scott went to retrieve the truck, and Skyeler had already closed all the boxes, but if I hadn't arrived when I did, everything would have been a big, soggy mess. Try packing away a sopping tent sometime. It's a real pain.
Just as we got everything stashed in the truck, the skies stopped their sporadic sprinkling and busted open. We slung ourselves into the truck and Scott started trotting back to the parking lot to get his vehicle. We planned to meet at a local eaterie and chow down.
Except one thing. Scott still had my keys in his pocket.
After a minute or two of frustrated yelling, and having the wind whip the words out of my mouth and away away, I turn to Skyeler (who is only 20 and a great kid) and said, "Run like hell and catch him!" Luckily he could, and did, and he returned wet but with the truck keys, thank goodness!
At the restaurant we talked about the day and relaxed. It was a great powwow. I can't wait for the next one.
A friend of mine recently went fishing and caught 77 salmon. Now he has to buy a freezer. Even so, he's giving away many salmon to all his friends and I'm lucky enough to be high on his friend list. After all, he's the guitar player in the Tanana Highlanders, our band.
I brought home four large freezer bags full of fresh salmon, froze three and have been working away at the fourth. Put those filets in a baking dish with a chunk of butter, season with salt and pepper, or garlic, or dill, or whatever suits your fancy, bake and about thirty minutes later you have the most heavenly meal your mouth or tummy could desire. Eating it fresh makes all the difference in the world, and if you don't live in Alaska or the Northwest, you have no idea what you are missing.
I don't hunt, and I definitely don't fish at the level that my various friends do, but I need to buy a freezer myself, due to the bounty of this land. If a friend gets a moose, I get lots of moose steaks. Same with caribou. I'm hoping to go halibut fishing myself sometime this summer, but if I don't, I have friend who will, and I can look forward to lovely, white halibut as well. Heck, I have venison in my freezer from a hunting trip to Ohio by the same band member.
There are hundreds of moose killed on the highways every year. It's illegal to take them home for yourself. All of those road-kill moose go to charity and feed hungry families.
Yesterday I stood in or near my flag booth all day listening to singing and drumming, watching dancers, and talking to people.
A Native man bought a Scottish flag because his great-grandfather was Scottish.
Two German families came by and I found I could still speak German after all these years, and understand much of what was said. I was surprised at how shy I was of speaking. Let's see, it's only been since 1975, hey, wait a minute, that's thirty years!
Watching the fancy dancers bob around the circle, their bustles giving them birdlike outlines, especially when they bend over. I love the looseness of the good dancers. Get down, you guys, you rock!
Meeting a fellow blogger and writer. I almost fell over when he said something about knowing me from my blog. It was unexpected at the powwow! Then, when would I expect something like that? Ah, yes, I'd expect that when I'm performing, that's the answer to that. Ah Fairbanks, I love living in a small town! (And I do, I am not being sarcastic.)
Eating a buffalo bratwurst, which I have to say was the best brat I've ever had. And I've been to Germany.
The weather was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold, clear and just enough wind to push the flags into the air. Today looks to be the same. I'll let you know what Day 2 brings.
Tomorrow the powwow starts and I've been a) laminating ID badges, so far about eighty of them, b) getting my booth together, and c) talking to the various local media on and off all day.
All this frantic activity will stop as soon as the gates open at 11AM tomorrow. Then I can just sit and mind my booth and relax and enjoy the sunshine! It's been piercingly blue outside, windy enough to make the aspen leaves twinkle, and not a whiff of forest fire smoke to be had.
Today is my last day off until next Tuesday, as I'll be Powwowing Friday through Sunday and teaching on Monday. All the last-minute stuff has to be taken care of. My part of that is to make a whole bunch of signs that will be needed, plus last minute goosing of the local media, since I'm Media Director.
However, first things first. There is a new Harry Potter book to read! I'm not even halfway through it, just got it and have the the recipient of many a jealous and yearning stare as I carry it around. I don't know why, since there are millions of them out there!
I'm not going to tell you what happens, but I will say that I like, very much, the way the book starts. Quite funny, and much different from the other books. A good feat too, for Rowling, because it can't be too easy to find a good start after five other books.
So in order to keep my sanity amidst powwows and having a booth and making signs and taking Sofia to the vet (she has a bladder infection, I get medicine for her today, I hope) I take the time to sit down and enjoy Harry Potter.
There's a music festival tomorrow at the Ester Community Park. I'll be there selling flags and wearing earplugs. It's called the "Young, Angry and Poor" festival, though after talking with the organizers, an admirable group of four young women in their twenties, I think it should be named the "Young, Bored and Underemployed" festival. They told me it was to fill the gaping hole most young people feel exists in Fairbanks. "There's nothing to do," they said, "So we thought we'd MAKE something to do." Hey, it works for me! Good on these young women for taking action!
Last night my boyfriend was talking to the fellow who is in charge of the sound. This guy swore that everyone would be in tune and there would be no tuning on the stage. He was very emphatic about that. Frankly, I'd rather they stop and tune, should things go bad, than simply continue on at ear-melting volume offkey. However, I see from some reports that there will be some older folks that I know (not just all punk bands), so I guess I'll get to take my earplugs out at some point.
Hey, it's not that I don't like punk! I like it just fine. I had pink hair once upon a time. It isn't that I don't want to hear the punk bands, it's just that you can hear it just dandy with earplugs in, too. Then maybe your ears will ring less later.
I'll be interested to see how many people show up and what the scene will be.....
Having had a cup of coffee I've got diarrhea of the keyboard. If you had me on the phone I'd be talking your ear off. Tip: the key to drinking the old, reheated coffee from the pot you didn't finish yesterday is half and half. Enough half and half can make anything taste great. If you happen to have whipping cream (unwhipped) use that instead. Butterfat makes it better.
I'm gearing up for the Midnight Sun Intertribal Powwow. As Media Director I have my hands full. Today I need to fax a bunch of PSAs to more radio stations, I handed out posters to folks to put up yesterday, and the postering efforts continue. I've written all the news articles I'm going to write and you can find one of them here. In the same issue you can also read my interview with Emmylou Harris. The other part of that interview is in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, but unfortunately they make you pay to read it online. Sorry, folks!
Last night was the first time it didn't rain all night at my place. We have been having a monsoon season early, with lots of thunderstorms. On the 4th of July I played for an hour down at Alaskaland under a big tent. I started out with three people in the audience and one of those was my boyfriend! By the time I was done I'd attracted about 25 folks, and I could see folks dancing and skipping around to the fiddle all over the grounds outside the tent as well.
My landlord is retired and has nothing to do but set projects for himself. Unfortunately for me and the other tenant, he has fixated on the water system. Every day he arrives and starts messing with the plumbing, resulting in combinations of a)no water at all, b)no hot water at all, c)rusty mud instead of water and/or d)no water pressure so that it's impossible to do anything with what water is available. These projects inevitably entail large grinding, drilling, cutting, sawing and banging noises from the garage, which is underneath my place. The floor is a mere one inch-thick, and everything that happens down there is brilliantly audible. Including the ringing of his telephone, which sometimes starts at 7am.
So what with firecrackers, thunder and lightning, and the industrial cacophony from below, Sofia was close to having a nervous dog breakdown. It got so that as soon as the sky clouded over she'd start shaking, and then hyperventilating. She's been crawling into my lap, or staying at my heel for weeks now. Petting her and talking to her didn't seem to make things better, instead, she shook more and panted even harder. Sometimes she'd crawl under the coffeetable or my desk. Nothing I did would distract her and I was beginning to get pretty worried.
Luckily I got an email from the Humane Association that had an article about this very subject. I found out that petting and soothing does make it worse for some dogs. What many dogs need is a safe, dark cuddly den place to hide. My house is particularly dark, and the closet is very dark. So I put her dog pillows (she has Stevie's pillow under her pillow for emotional comfort, we both still miss him a lot) in a corner of the closet and closed both the sliding doors, leaving one end just open enough for slim Sofia to slide through. She immediately went in, curled up and went to sleep. This morning she's a much happier dog!
Some dogs have a RUN AWAY reaction to thunder, lightning and loud noises. Sofia would probably react that way if she were outside during the noisy times. You can read the article here.
Meanwhile I'm doing fine. The rain doesn't cloud the sky with gray all day and all night, like in Oregon. The clouds break up, blue sky pokes you in the eye with its brilliance and I'm getting tan from the sun. This year has been great as far as mosquitos go, nary a bug during the normal daylight hours. It's been a beautiful summer so far, albeit with a few forest fire smoke days, but nothing serious.
July 22-24, 2005
The Midnight Sun Intertribal Powwow returns July 22-24 in Fairbanks, Alaska.
The Midnight Sun Intertribal Powwow is a traditional powwow meant to enrich the lives of all Native people, educate the general public, honor elders and share our similarities and diversities. It was begun in 2000 by a small group of dedicated folks who saw the need for an intertribal get-together. Besides the native Athabascan, Eskimo and other indigenous peoples in Alaska, there is a population of a wide variety of transplants from other tribes, from both the US and Canada. An intertribal powwow was needed to keep all traditions alive and recharge everyone’s spirits. Chief Peter John of Minto gave his blessing to the group and the Midnight Sun Intertribal Pow Wow was born.
A bald eagle will be released Sunday, July 24 around 3:00pm (exact time not yet set), with prayers and honor songs. The Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage is bringing the rehabilitated bird up for the occasion. Please join us for this special event.
This year the powwow moves to spacious and green new grounds and conjoins WEIO (World Eskimo-Indian Olympics). On Kiwanis Field, behind the Big Dipper ice rink on 19th and Lathrop you’ll find the big tent full of dancers and drummers surrounded by food and crafts booths. Lodges will be found at the back of the field.
The Guest Drum this year is the Steiger Butte Singers from Chiloquin, Oregon, a family group from the Klamath area now in its second generation of singers and drummers.
Also attending will be the Mt. Susitna Singers from Anchorage, and the Eagle River Singers from the same area.
George J. Bennett Sr. will be our Master of Ceremony for the Powwow this year. A former resident of Fairbanks, he has a long history of participation in our community. We are very pleased to have him.
Leading up to the powwow a fiddle dance is planned as a kickoff event. Alaska band Arctic Thunders will play and sing rock music in Native languages, as well as local fiddlers and bands from around the Fairbanks area. The dance is tentatively scheduled for July 16 at the Tribal Hall. Email Jean McDermott at email@example.com if you would like to help man the ticket table or bake sale booth, or put up posters.
Volunteers are always needed to make any community event work, and the powwow is no exception. Opportunities to help include phone calling, postering, ticket taking, manning the information booth, security, first aid and more. If you want to have some fun and meet great folks, please call Valerie at 452-5155.