The gift of memories

photo by Greg Lincoln

by Greg Lincoln

The Cama-i Festival is always a great time to meet up with friends and to see and hear the latest songs our local dance groups have come up with. Some of the songs are old, older than us, and have been kept alive through the dedicated leaders of singing and drumming in our communities.

These songs contain Yup’ik values and tell a story in the first person point of view. Ancient words are often used, making them a part of our rich Yugtun vocabulary.

This festival is through the hardworking efforts of the Cama-i Team led by co-coordinators Linda Curda and Carol Ann Willard, our utmost thanks and appreciation goes out to you. Together with their steadfast army of volunteers, they have given our community a festival for us to enjoy and remember, and to look forward to each year. There is the traditional dancing, the Cama-i Arts and Crafts sale which is always spectacular, the native foods feast which feeds our guests, and the other pieces that fit together.

This year there was walrus soup at the dinner. Quyana cakneq to all those who donated, cooked, baked, made akutaq, served, cleaned, and helped. Sharing of food including traditional subsistence gathered foods is a language all its own. Quyana Cama-i.

There were also the special touches, including Drew’s Foundation’s Place of Memory to remember those that we have lost to suicide. It is a deeply sensitive issue, but in the Place of Memory you can quietly reflect and think about how much your loved ones mean to you. Special Cama-i honors were given to the founder of Drew’s Foundation, my friend Paul O’Brien. Thank you for all that you do.

It is also fun venue for photographers who want to shoot that perfect photo. I was really impressed with how far technology has come and it is always interesting to see everyone’s Cama-i photos. We can share ideas and even test out some hypotheses, which I did with the help and cooperation of one of the Tlingit dancers, quyana.

Thinking of the old songs and dances that are sung and imprinted into our minds is like how we imprint the memories of our loved ones that have passed on. It is up to us to keep singing the songs of their lives to keep the things that they love still fresh and strong, enduring even through the passage of time, uneroded, uncorrupted.

It is through these memories that we get our dreams of our beloveds. In our dreams we see them as they were, how we all were when we were together and for that moment, everything is as it was before our lives were changed. How marvelous is this strange unexplainable phenomena of dreams that our Creator has given to us so that we could visit and be with those that we love so much, those that are now asleep. Thank you.

Quyana for the gift of memories, for the prayers you have spoken for us and others who are grieving, and for your good thoughts and friendship. It was good to see you and we hope to see you again.