From Where the River Meets the Sea and Dogs Play in the Rainy Wet

 Can you tell I heard Dr. Thomas Thornton speak last night at the library on the importance of place names in Tlingit culture? His latest book, Haa Leek'w Has Saax'u/ Our Grandparents' Names on Land, has just won the Alaska Library Association's Alaskana Award, and that was presented last night too-- by the out going AKLA president, Klukwan's own Linda Wynn, which was pretty neat. Actually all of it was-- Wayne Price lent a killerwhale house post he's been working on to the library for the celebration. (You should see it. It will be in the library a month and took about ten people to carry in and stand up.) The party was for the unveiling of the storyboard, an interactive sort of computer table, like a giant iPad and computer combined, but smarter, of the area with place names in Tlingit, and the history, culture, fauna, and flora-- plus so much more. (You can add your photos, insights and even voices to it, too. It is a work in progress.) Dr. Thornton's book was used a lot, and so he was thanked. As were all the wizards at the library staff who made it happen, and the dignitaries from the Chilkoot Indian Association who helped fund it, and people who researched it. We also ate boiled fish soup, smoked salmon, hooligan (with seal oil for dipping or adding to the soup) and boiled black bear and mountain goat. Dr. Thornton reiterated what we all know, I think, that Tlingit place names are more than the name of a thing-- they tell the story of the place-- what it looks like, or is for, or what it means-- There are no Tlingit places named after people, for instance. He said that with Tlingits specifically, names are all about a sense of place, culture, and connection to the land itself. But he also noted that the value of place is true of all humans. Everything that we do or feel  happens in a specific location and time. I believe that sense of place is one part of the local Native culture that we non-Natives have absorbed through osmosis, by simply living here. This place, no matter what you call it, Deishu or Haines, holds onto your soul. (In other news, we are also responsible for governing ourselves, and a big part of that is the annual borough budget. It is being introduced today at 4:30 before the regular assembly meeting. I'm going. Maybe you should too?)

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