Saturday, June 22, 2013

Radio Babies And 113 Year Old Public Opinion Put Redistricting Into Context

Three white men, two over 60, from Kenai and Fairbanks and Kodiak.  A white woman from Juneau, and a Native woman from Kotzebue.  These are the members of the redistricting Board who are mapping the election districts for Alaska.  And those labels don't capture who these people really are any more than do their maps capture what Alaska is and how significantly their task affects all our lives.   They have state requirements and federal requirements to meet, plus the conflicting expectations of those Alaskans who are paying attention.  It's not an easy task.  I left the Board meeting Friday feeling a little empty.

They adopted all seven Board maps and all four third-party maps, which were only due at the time the meeting began - noon.  So how could they have rejected any?  Not only had they not articulated any criteria for selection, they really hadn't even seen the third-party maps.  I'm not sure it matters.  Having them all gives people more ideas to look at.  Or some might be so outrageous that mediocre ones look good in comparison.  I don't know.

But I decided to stop by the museum on my way home to wash out my brain.  And it worked. 

With the Board meeting in mind, things took on a new meaning.  For one, fighting over land in Alaska goes back a long way. Here are some images from the museum that the Board and all of us should consider.

A Haida Gwáahl beaded hunting bag.  From Southeast.  Not sure of the date.

 A diorama of a traditional bowhead whale hunt on the Northwest Alaska Coast.

The Episcopalian church in Anvik.  The mission was established in 1887.

I try to get the captions so I know what I have but here I only got part of this one and the wrong one on the wall.  But this is Siberian and Alaskan indigenous leaders coming together  - I think - in Wales around 1900.

Still pretty accurate 113 years after it was published in 1900 in the Dawson Daily News.  If you click on the image it gets bigger and clearer and you can see that Public Opinion is propped up on a lot of broken promises, oratory, credulity.

German artist Julius Ullman got talked into a trip to Alaska when he was 35 to see the Gold Rush, and stayed around in Dawson City for six years.

If you click on the image with the red wing, you can read the airfares from Anchorage to points around the state in 1926.  Rates are per person for one, two, or three passengers.  Shipping rates are also on there.  Trip to Nome for one passenger was $750!  Wasilla was only $35.

Ketchikan sketched by WPA artist Prescott Jones in 1937.

This one is one of the more amazing and magical pictures I saw.  It's called Radio Babies and it was done by George Ahgupuk in 1940.

Be sure to read the second paragraph below. Again, click on it to see it better.  Can you see the baby going from Anchorage to Bethel via radio waves? 

This one is called "Headquarters Camouflaged Umnak."  It was painted by an army artist, Ogden Pleissner, in 1943.  Umnak was an important location in the book Thousand Mile War, I read recently.

Fighting over land isn't new.  We all need to see ourselves in the larger context and make decisions that history will look back on favorably.  We aren't just Republicans and Democrats.  We're human beings.  We all have (or had) mothers and fathers, struggles becoming adults, figuring out who we are and how to be true to ourselves and those around us.

We should be striving to create a place where parents can raise their kids to fulfill their human potential.  We should be thinking about a legislature that keeps those basics in mind and doesn't get caught up in petty politics.

This summer the museum's special exhibits include spectacular Alaskan portraits by photographer Clark James Mischler.  Here are a couple to help remember who we are and what Alaska is.

Mischler:  St Mary's

Mischler - Gun salesman Al 'Bondigas' Anchorage

Mischler:  Vera Spein Kwethluk

Alaska is a lot more than this:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great pictures from the Museum.I appreciate all the coverage you've been doing on Redistricting.


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