Monday, February 22, 2010

What A Cool Way To Celebrate The Census

Decades after xian missionaries outlawed dancing as a spiritual expression for Eskimo people, it's back.

For Atoruk, dancing is a way to tell stories for all occasions, weddings, funerals, birthdays, the subsistence lifestyles of people who live off the land as Noorvik residents do. Motions and songs represent the movements of fishing, ice hopping, even traveling by snowmobile. And as far as Atoruk is concerned, shamanism is an important part of his people's spiritual culture, not a satanic tool.

"I think we lost a lot of our history because the missionaries came," he said. "Now it's coming back."

But too many villages continue to cling to the oppressive legacy left by Western missionaries, according to Theresa Arevgaq John, a Yup'ik Eskimo and Native studies professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Indigenous people saw the destruction of their sacred traditions, including shamans, who were revered as spiritual leaders empowered by the creator with skills and tools to communicate with the spirit world to ensure the welfare of communities. Dancing had nothing to do with devil worship, John said.

"It was our only way of prayer," she said. "Can you imagine someone coming in and saying your way is wrong?"

As Ehrenreich notes, some form of communal dancing is pretty much global in terms of group rituals. My wonderful circle of amazing women loves to dance. I can't imagine how it would feel to have that outlawed by xian missionaries.

Honest, was there ever a worse idea than missionaries?

Picture found here.

1 comment:

Teacats said...

You should cross-reference that wonderful story to the reports (and comments) about the Pagan circle at the Air Force Academy. And I would indeed say that their warriors/hunters did dance in a circle ..... and I, for one, would follow them into battle/hunt ....

Cheers! Jan at Rosemary Cottage