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Keeping Native traditions alive with new technology

Posted: Thursday, March 30, 2000

NOORVIK (AP) -- In an attempt to keep traditional Native hunting practices alive, the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge and NANA Regional Elders Council have put together a practical guide to caribou hunting using modern media.

Eleven hours of video footage was recorded to make the 26-minute video, entitled ''Tuttunnaiq,'' meaning caribou hunt in Inupiaq.

The video includes interviews with Enoch Stalker, Ralph Ramoth Sr. and other elders from communities around the Northwest Arctic Borough. Both Inupiaq and English are spoken in the video.

A rough draft of the video was shown to the regional elders council at the March 7 quarterly meeting.

The video is just one of a number of attempts by agencies in the region to reduce the waste of subsistence resources. The borough, National Park Service, state Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the regional elders council have been trying to get the word out about good harvesting practices in the past few months.

''I think it's more positive to work with the elders who are trying to pass on the traditional ways to hunt,'' said Leslie Kerr, manager of the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge.

After completion this summer, the video will be distributed to schools in the Northwest Arctic Borough School District and in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Copies also will be sent to tribal and elder councils in the region.

The video is the culmination of three years' work.

''I'm pretty happy with the way it came out because it was definitely a low-budget operation,'' Kerr said.

Money to make the video, which cost about $25,000, came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service's refuge and subsistence programs. Kerr said the money was a grant to the NANA Regional Corp.'s Robert Aqqaulk Newlin Sr. Memorial Trust.

By passing the money through the trust, Kerr said the elders were able to retain the rights to the footage instead of ownership going to the federal government where it would be public domain and possibly could be taken out of context by anti-hunting groups and misused.

The film shows step-by-step the methods Natives in Northwest Alaska use to hunt caribou -- from stalking the animals to where to shoot them, what size rifle to use and how to clean and preserve the meat.

The idea is to teach the next generation the traditional way to subsistence hunt, Kerr said.

The video also includes segments on hunter safety and oral explanation of the traditions behind some of the Natives' methods.

''We want to encourage people to use nonwasteful hunting techniques because it is the practice of their culture,'' Kerr said.

A student workbook is planned to accompany the video to give students more detailed instruction.

The 12-member elders council was pleased with the video and already is suggesting expanding the project.

''We need to make one on seal hunting for the coastal villages as well,'' said Levi Cleveland, council chairman.

By helping make the practical guide, the elders council is just following one of the main lessons of the video: Never waste what one has and always share with others in need.

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