Sunday, November 13, 2016
Book: A Dena'ina Legacy
Alaska Native Language Center: 1994
This is a collection of stories, some true, some mythical, and some from that intriguing land between the two. Kalifornsky was a self-taught scholar born in 1911, and the memories of his people tapped for this compilation dated back to the mid-1800s and, through oral storytelling, much further back. Each of these tales from Alaska is presented on opposite pages in Dena'ina and in English. Dena'ina grammar is quite incomprehensible for an English-only reader like myself, but you can pick up a little of the rhythm in the Native-language stories and through the translations. Many stories tell of defining moments in the history of the Dena'ina, from creation thorough the first encounters with white people and up to the present. Most of the stories have a moral point applicable to any culture and time. Respect for nature and for the spirits of every animal and fish a hunter takes is a recurring theme. Apparently legendary creatures like the little Mountain People will make readers wonder if there's a historical source and what it might have been. The Dena'ina are a diminishing people in the modern world, but I hope this collection helps people realize that their heritage of wisdom,history, and humor should not perish.