Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Alutiq Baskets - Primitive and Advanced - Flawed Concepts

Often people in so called 'advanced' countries feel, at least subconsciously if not consciously, superior to the people in 'third world' or 'less advanced' countries.  Having dropped back in time, technologically, as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand in the late 1960s, I quickly learned that Thais had many advanced skills I couldn't ever hope to match.

I thought about this while watching this new video released by Frontier Scientists in a series of films of Alutiq basket weaving.  In Thailand there were many 'simple' basketry products.  But I would challenge the vast majority of Americans to create even a simple basket on your own, even after googling basket weaving.

How many of us, if we had never seen or heard of something called a woven basket, could even imagine, when looking at the grasses, that this could be turned into a beautiful and useful object?

This video is just about collecting and curing the grasses.  There are six more videos on Alutiq weavers.  You can see a 500 year old basket in the second video (Karluk One Baskets).

Alutiiq Weavers

[ video ] Collecting and Curing Grass
[ video ] Karluk One Baskets
[ video ] Coral’s Cabinet
[ video ] Coral’s Basket Feat: Russian Inspired
[ video ] My Little Basket
[ video ] Where Are My Grass Socks?
[ video ] Teaching and Learning the Art of Basket Weaving

Coming to appreciate the imagination, the knowledge, the technical skill, and the social bonds necessary to create the objects used by pre-industrialized peoples helps us recognize that there aren't superior and inferior peoples.  Rather all human societies  have a range of people with and without many talents and many flaws.

Progress, for me, in this world is figuring out how societies can create environments which promote those qualities that foster the talents that lead to happy communities (really all the other things - prosperity, health, loving families - are means to the end of happiness) and minimize the human flaws that hinder happiness.

Every culture, every human, has aspects of being 'advanced' and 'primitive.'  Recognizing that all cultures have some unique knowledge and skill is the first step toward recognizing we are all equals in this world, which itself is the first step to respect and humility. 

By the way, I imagine most people in the world have no idea who the Alutiq people are.  The Alutiq Museum and Archeological Repository has a great website.  In the Educational Handouts section of the Resources page I found a link  with a page of explanation of names used to identify alutiq people.  Here's a part of that page:
alutiiq – “Alutiiq” is the way Sugpiaq people say Aleut. It is the Native way of pronouncing the Russian-introduced word “Aleut” in their own language. Alutiiq is a popular self- designator in Kodiak, and reflects the region’s complex Russian and Native history.” People used this term occasionally in the Russian era. It gained popularity starting in the 1980s.
 Here are some other links on that page:


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