THE WAKE OF THE UNSEEN OBJECT: Among the Native Cultures of Bush Alaska by Tom Kizzia

THE WAKE OF THE UNSEEN OBJECT: Among the Native Cultures of Bush Alaska

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This leisurely travel-book-cum-ethnography grew from a two-year assignment for the Anchorage Daily News in which Kizzia, a white journalist, poked around in places ""I couldn't drive to from Anchorage,"" trying to find out whether Native Alaskan culture still flourishes in a world of satellite dishes and snowmobiles. For the most part, Kizzia visits remote villages--Eskimo, Aleut, and Indian--where whites are sometimes not welcome. Ethnic tensions run high; at one point, he receives barbed threats from a Native who mistakes him for an ivory-poacher. Nonetheless, Kizzia finds the inua (spirit) of the land still intact, whether visiting an isolated fishing camp, sweating in a maqi (native steambath), or tracking walruses on a remote island. Native Alaska, he discovers, is a land of iron-spirted individualists, where memories of the old days--including fascinating accounts of early white explorers--remain strong. At times it seems a world created for dreamers, such as the Apache who is trying to teach Eskimos traditional reindeer-herding techniques; at times a moral battleground, epitomized by Kizzia's own mixed feelings about a beluga whale hunt. A broad canvas--Kizzia covers everything from Orthodox church services to a dinner of moose shoulder--and an unsentimental perspective make this a sturdy introduction to America's last frontier.

Pub Date: Jan. 2nd, 1990
Publisher: Henry Holt