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To (temporarily) loose a Narrative

April 27, 2019

A few weeks ago Rick and Charlotta were interviewed by a journalist from Live Science about Nunalleq. He had a list of questions, but during the interview it became clear he was very intrigued by the evidence for a violent attack at the site that we discovered in 2015. Now, we haven’t written much about it here on the blog, out of respect of the dead, but also because, frankly, we think that it is far from the most interesting story of the site – and we have always had a bit of a fear that this violent episode – which was just one day in the life of the people at Nunalleq, could overshadow the far more important stories.  The story of  a Yup’ik village, thriving for generations on the Bering Sea, and how their descendants in Quinhagak have worked to recover, preserve and share their archaeological heritage.

On Monday Live Science published their story – and sadly it’s headline was all about the dead:

Screen Shot 2019-04-27 at 15.05.10

“Massacre” was never a word any of us used before for this event. It’s a snapshot from a war between villages that have been preserved at Nunalleq – and there’s evidence that the people living at Nunalleq were both victims and perpetrators of this war. (This time period is referred to as the Bow-and-Arrow Wars in Yup’ik oral history – if you want to read more about it we recommend Anguyiim Nalliini/Time of Warring: The History of Bow-and-Arrow Warfare in Southwest Alaska by Ann Fienup-Riordan and Alice Rearden). 

Now “massacre” is a word the tabloids really like – you might have seen the headlines this week “Alaskan war”, “knifing in the head”, “blood-thirsty tribesmen”… the list goes on. For the moment we have lost the narrative to the sensationalist press. Just remember that the real story of Nunalleq is so much stronger, more intricate, fascinating and beautiful than these journals would have it – and keep following that story 🙂 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. ABIGAIL cooke permalink
    April 27, 2019 16:22

    Thank you so much for addressing this. My friend and I were mightily puzzled by this story from a parallel universe. The story of the excavation is so much about discovery of lifestyle and culture without focusing on how or why the site was destroyed. Sensationalism is ugly. Thank you for consistently sharing the beauty of life.

    • April 27, 2019 20:11

      And thank you Abigail, for your support. It is perplexing, just sitting here and see the headlines unravel. It is out of our control, but we believe it will soon blow over, as you say, the story of the excavation is so much more…

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