Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!  
We have already been to two Thanksgiving meals and it is not the official day yet!  We went to the school community lunch on Monday and then to the Senior Housing Dinner on Tuesday.  We were invited especially so that Bill could pray for the dinner.  There were about 35 people there, and our presence was really appreciated. Bill talked with Nina about beading, his new hobby.  In this community, beading opens up a lot of doors, and leads to many conversations.  Nina makes beaded slippers and gloves and sells them in the store here.  They are breath-taking, the whole top part is beaded.

This last week, we attended our first potlatch and then the second the same week.  A potlatch is a big party in honor of a native who died.  The first potlatch was for Richard, a 37 year old; and the second was for Freddy, another youth who died in a snow machine accident.  When someone dies, the family starts cooking at the native hall.  Usually food is cooked for up to five days, all meals, for anyone who wants to come.  After the funeral service, always held at 2 p.m., the main  potlatch starts at 6 p.m.  Chairs are set up around the outer perimeter of the room, and then another row is set up facing those chairs about six feet apart.  Then another row is set up back to back of the second row and sometimes a fourth row of chairs is added.  Large rolls of freezer paper are unrolled at your feet and this becomes your table.   There is a foot wide space between the freezer paper tables and this is where the servers scooch down the row, serving as they go.  It is tradition to bring your own dishes, and lots of plastic bags, and a soup container.  The family gives away moose meat (a traditional hunt is allowed any time someone dies), and oodles of food.  Moose soup is the big thing, and they make it in vats over an open fire.  When the food is all given out and some of it eaten, everyone helps to clear the chairs.  Then the singing and dancing begins.

The first part of the singing is  mourning.  They are sad slow songs, sung by the elders mostly, and sung in honor of the deceased.  After about half an hour, the drums come out and the dancing begins.  The men stand in front of the drums, then the children and the women in the back.   The drums are so loud, and then the guys start stomping.  Wow, you just have to bop with the music.
There is one dance called the Athabascan Twist, and all the guys go find a partner and do the twist.  

There is a game that is played with candy as the prize.  The family unrolls bolts of fabric to make a huge rope.  There are about 10 bolts.  Everyone holds the rope and gets in a big circle, moving clockwise around the room, as big as the circle can be.

Then when the music stops, everyone runs together to make one long rope, and tug of war begins!  Pull, pull, pull!  After one side wins, the game is started over again.

When the last tug of war is done, bags of candy are opened and the candy is thrown everywhere.  Everyone is on the floor scrambling for bits of sweetness.  

After the dancing is finished, the family gives out gifts to the gravediggers, casket makers, cooks and helpers.  Sometimes the potlatches go on until wee morning hours.

I have been sewing with Ruth for about a year on Tuesday mornings.  We are making quilts.  She is so dedicated, working on one project at a time, until it is finished.  I work on this, then that, then finish something else.  

Vern and Cindy came to visit.  They are the district reps for Village Missions.  We had a great time! They are pleased with our work here and think we are doing all the right things.  Praise the Lord!
And this is our cute gingerbread house!