DANCE ON A SEALSKIN by Barbara Winslow


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Young Annie formally joins her Yupik community by performing her first traditional dance during a gathering of the villagers, in a tale based on Winslow and Sloat's experiences as teachers along the Yukon River and the Bering Sea. As Annie nervously watches other dancers and remembers her recently passed grandmother Olga's instruction, readers will get a perceptive, unselfconscious look at how new and old commingle in modern potlatch; musicians pounding skin drums wear jeans and t-shirts, smiling faces sport eyeglasses, dancers in work shirts wave lovely fur and feather fans. The dances commemorate hunts, and in Sloat's lively full-page and three-quarter-spread paintings the animals themselves seem to rise up and join the action. At last it's Annie's turn, and as she dances a walrus hunt on a silver sealskin (which she later gives to a baby for her ""First Dance""), Olga's figure silently joins the group. Afterward, Annie's father offers everyone mittens, dishtowels, fish traps, ax handles candy, gum, and akutaq (Eskimo ice cream). Potlatch customs may differ from place to place, as the authors properly point out in a prefatory note, but the feeling behind them is universal, and comes through clearly here.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Alaska Northwest