Cultural Heritage Week

The girls and I just returned from Peksulineq aka Cultural Heritage Week.  What a great experience!  The week was started as a two day festival back in 1994 by the teacher at the Tatitlek Community School. Since then it has grown and changed into a week-long celebration organized by the Copper Mountain Foundation which is a nonprofit set up by the Tatitlek Corporation.  It was truly an amazing experience for both kids and adults!

The village of Tatitlek has about 50 year-round residents...during Cultural Heritage Week (CHW) roughly another 150 people are added to that number.  As you can imagine, a town of 50 does not really have room to quadruple their population, but regardless they open their doors and invite family and friends to stay with them.  They open their IRA Council building and allow people to sleep on the floor of the big rooms.  They open their clinic and allow folks to sleep on the floor of the big waiting room.  They open their school and welcome people into their classrooms and library to sleep for the week.  Last, but certainly far from the least, they open their school kitchen and kitchens across the village to feed everyone.  A van leaves with crockpots and foil trays full of food every morning, distributing them to ovens around town. The same van collects them every evening and returns them to the school to feed everyone.  A massive undertaking to say the least!

Older kiddos rotate through six 1 hour classes during the day, learning different crafts and skills from volunteers.  The younger kiddos stay in one class during the days, doing crafts, learning stories, walking the beach, learning NYO skills (Native Youth Olympics) and traditional songs and dances.  Evenings offer a bit of free time and then some group time with guest speakers, performers, a talent show and the week wraps up with a dance.

The experiences that my kids had were too numerous to list here. They tried new foods (seal, porpoise skin, porpoise meat, salmon eggs), made new friends, learned traditional songs and dances, experienced village life and so much more!

The trip started on a Sunday morning.  The boat left Whittier at 11am and two and a half hours later we had arrived in Tatitlek.  Things kicked off that night with a bonfire on the beach.  At some point that evening a major water line in the village also broke, but we didn't know that until the next morning.  We woke up Monday morning to no water and soon found ourselves without electricity as well.  The power line was inadvertently cut while folks were digging out the water line.  By Monday night things were patched back together though, and it was fairly smooth sailing from there!  Our group slept in the school library all week and we arrived home around 1pm on Saturday. 

A few of my favorite pictures from the week...

Sunday afternoon

fast friends on the way to the bonfire Sunday night

Kelsey tries kayaking Monday night

Stacy tries kayaking Monday night

dancing performance on Monday night

subsistence education, skinning a sea lion

Mama kayaking on Friday morning

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Stacy snoozing on the way to Tatitlek
Stacy snoozing on the way home from Tatitlek