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As usual, Saxman outdid itself in its hospitality on a rain-soaked day in Southeast on Saturday.
It is always a pleasure when the state’s chief executive visits the Ketchikan area, as Gov. Sean Parnell did this past weekend. He was here for the raising of a totem carved by Donnie Varnell in Saxman, and to be adopted into a Tlingit clan.
But the hospitality was typical for these parts, not something put on just for a visiting dignitary. If we live in these parts, it’s possible that we begin to take for granted such things as totem raisings, Native dancing and the coming together of people — Natives, non-Natives, locals, tourists, elders, children — to celebrate milestones.
We should not. Former Ketchikan resident Ed Thomas of Tlingit and Haida Central Council thanked those assembled for taking part in the soggy proceedings, saying the dancing and singing represented “the way we were in ancient times,” and thanking those who participated for “bringing back the story of our people.” The totem poles also tell the stories, and the words of our elders.
It is an important story, and it is the story of all of our people.
If we live in Ketchikan, if we live in Saxman, if we live in Metlakatla, if we live on Prince of Wales Island, whether we are Native or not, the culture that is celebrated — with the raising of a totem and the dancing of a dance, the wearing of a button blanket — is the culture of our land, too. We thank our Native brothers and sisters for making it so accessible to all of us. They guard the stories from this place’s past, and share them with us. We respect the stories and the culture, and give thanks for them. And, as always, for a good party, rain or shine.