Tenenbaum, college serve Dena'ina culture well

Posted: Sunday, April 11, 2004

Last night (April 1), it was such an honor to meet anthropologist and artist Dr. Joan Tenenbaum at Kenai Peninsula College's spring lecture as a featured speaker for the "Connected to the Tundra" presentation. To hear her speak of how she melded her past experiences living in villages in rural Alaska with her current work as a jewelry maker was so inspirational. Her book the Dena'ina Sukdua'a and her dissertation regarding the Dena'ina language have been books that have been invaluable resources to me for 20 years now as I travel around Cook Inlet teaching the Dena'ina language, history, stories, songs and dances.

Dr. Tenenbaum has truly captured the spirit of the Dena'ina people as only she could as she lived with our relatives for years studying and recording the Dena'ina language and stories. Her work is very much appreciated, especially as the Dena'ina people who, through her work, have the resources available to continue to compile much needed teaching materials in order to continue to distribute the Dena'ina message throughout Alaska and the world.

Few people know that Joan spent four years of her life preserving the Dena'ina language and stories. Fewer people yet know that Dr. Tenenbaum donated all of the royalties she would have received from the sale of her book to the Alaska Native Langu-age Center as her way of gifting back to the people who contributed to her works. An honorable concept almost unheard of in today's society, but a concept well established within the Dena'ina culture.

Thank you Dr. Alan Boraas and Kenai Peninsula College for allowing me the opportunity to meet Dr. Tenenbaum and for allowing me the chance to thank Dr. Tenenbaum personally for championing her fine works. Now I can add her signature to my list of many others I have acquired from famous people from around the world. Her signature will be even more special to me as I will forever remember how she was able to capture the true spirit of the Dena'ina people and share it's significance with the world.

"Whatever you do in life, I hope you succeed, in good health." A Dene' blessing

Donita L. Peter


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