May 18, 2009

Inupiaq films feature elders

Students' films help capture Inupiaq history and culture

Wainwright:  Traditions favored as topics by high school's seniors.

By Victoria Barber
Alak seniors Larae Ahmaogak, Stephanie Aguvluk, Nellie Aguvluk, Cynthia Ekak and Alyssa Agnasagga spent a week working with professionals to produce and edit their short films, which featured elders Gregg Tagarook--the eldest of the elders in Wainwright--Leo and Beverly Panik, Billy and Gladys Nashoalook, Lizzie Aguvluk and George Agnasagga.

"I loved that the people of Wainwright came to watch the films. We sent the message that we want to learn more about our culture," said Larae Ahmaogak, a 12th-grade student who presented a film on whaling traditions.

The films are part of a new course called Inupiaq literature and composition, offered by the North Slope Borough School District and Ilisagvik College, which focuses on the importance of indigenous perspectives in written and oral literature. Taught by Jana Harcharek, the seniors earned both high school and college credit.

Harcharek said the students have been reviewing works written by Native people and discussing how the Inupiat are omitted from "traditional" literature and media. This led to an exploration of the ways that young people can influence how their culture is portrayed in the mainstream media.
Plus this key point:"Our young people for the large part are gaining their identity and values from the stories and media they're surrounded by--TV, Internet, movies, newspapers--those platforms that have no representation of Inupiaq values, culture or landscapes," Edwardson said. "They all have computers, iPods and cameras; what's missing is the opportunity to control what's being said or have a voice in that medium that will connect them back to their culture, elders and traditions."Comment:  People get identities and values from the media. Duh. Blindingly obvious, but it bears repeating.

Billions of people choose what to believe or buy based on something they see or read (from the Bible to billboards). But movies, TV shows, and books don't influence people?! Ridiculous.

For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

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