Athabascan, Minto, Alaska
Join us as we travel the distant and fascinating lands of Indian Country. This download was originally aired nationally as a public radio program titled Oyate Ta Olowan--The Songs of the People during the 90s. Each Oyate download includes the 30 minute program plus the full length songs featured during the program.
See the longer description below to hear a short clip of this show and to read for a full account of our journey to meet Evelyn.
Oyate Ta Olowan was produced by Milt and Jamie Lee with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. The series was aired nationally by Public Radio International.
Athabascan from Minto, AK
Evelyn Alexander grew up when dog sleds were the only mode of transportation and there were no televisions, radios, or white people. Her people still went to hunting and fishing camps on a seasonal basis to gather food for the coming year.
Social dances and the potlatch were the framework of life in this remote Athabascan village. Like many of the elder women, she wears dresses and prefers to sit on the floor rather than a chair. Evelyn is an Athabascan elder (in her early 80's) from Minto. She has a quick tongue and an even quicker mind. Evelyn is well respected and loved.
To reach Evelyn we traveled from South Dakota into Anchorage, changed planes, flew into Fairbanks, rented a car, and finally drove several hours through lonely lands to a small Athabascan village that sits above the beautiful Minto Flats. In Minto, Alaska the houses sit on stilts to keep them above the permafrost and many have sled dogs chained nearby. The Minto Lodge serves as a hotel, school cafeteria, office space, conference room and elders lunch program. There are few jobs in Minto and their lifestyle still depends upon subsistence living for survival. Milt and I got to participate in a bear sausage making party with the community. What an event!
The Athabascan natives are not Eskimos. They have occupied the interior lands of Alaska between the Brooks Range on the north and the Alaska Range on the south for thousands of years. Only one of the Athabascan groups (the Tanaina) lives by the ocean.
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Listen to a short sample here.