Wisdom Keeper: One Man's Journey to Honor the Untold History of the Unangan People

Wisdom Keeper: One Man's Journey to Honor the Untold History of the Unangan People


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Ilarion Merculieff weaves the remarkable strands of his life and culture into a fascinating account that begins with his traditional Unangan (Aleut) upbringing on a remote island in the Bering Sea, through his immersion in both the Russian Orthodox Church and his tribe’s holistic spiritual beliefs. He recounts his developing consciousness and call to leadership, and describes his work of the past thirty years bringing together Western science and Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge and wisdom to address the most pressing issues of our time.
Tracing the extraordinary history of his ancestors—who mummified their dead in a way very similar to the Egyptians, constructed one of the most sophisticated high seas kayaks in the world, and densely populated shorelines in North America for ten thousand years—Merculieff describes the rich traditions of spirituality, art, dance, music, storytelling, science, and technology that enabled them to survive their harsh conditions. The Unangan people of the Aleutian Islands endured slavery at the hands of the U.S. government and were placed in an internment camp during WWII, where they suffered malnutrition and disease that decimated 10 percent of their population.

Merculieff movingly describes how the compassion of Indigenous Elders has guided him in his work and life, which has been rife with struggle and hardship. He explains that environmental degradation, the extinction of species, pollution, war, and failing public institutions are all reflections of our relationships with ourselves. In order to deal with these critical challenges, he argues, we must reenter the chaos of the natural world, rediscover our balance of the masculine and the sacred feminine, and heal ourselves. Then, perhaps, we can heal the world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781623170493
Publisher: North Atlantic Books
Publication date: 07/19/2016
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 787,154
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Ilarion Merculieff had a traditional upbringing and a Western education, earning a BA from the University of Washington. He has served as chair of the indigenous knowledge sessions of the Global Summit of Indigenous Peoples on Climate Change, as cofounder of the Indigenous Peoples’ Council for Marine Mammals, the Alaska Forum for the Environment, the International Bering Sea Forum, and the Alaska Oceans Network. He is currently the president of the Global Center for Indigenous Leadership and Lifeways.

Table of Contents

Foreword xvii

Chapter 1 The Unangan (Aleut): Real People Who Live Near the Shoreline 1

Chapter 2 Genocide and Slavery 7

Chapter 3 Callorhinus unsinus: The Northern Fur Seal 13

Chapter 4 Internment 17

Chapter 5 My Legacy as an Unangan 25

Chapter 6 Boxer Shorts and Seals 37

Chapter 7 Every Unangan Child: The Indirect Effects of Government Oppression 41

Chapter 8 Sealing 45

Chapter 9 Death of a Six-Year-Old 49

Chapter 10 A Personal View of Internal and External Oppression 57

Chapter 11 A Young Rebel Is Born 61

Chapter 12 School Without Love 67

Chapter 13 Death in a Village Is Very Personal 71

Chapter 14 I Was a "Hooker" 75

Chapter 15 University Life 79

Chapter 16 Lobbying for My People Begins 85

Chapter 17 Family Life 89

Chapter 18 The Government Pullout: A People in Peril 91

Chapter 19 Homer Gone 99

Chapter 20 Another Kind of Death 109

Chapter 21 The Boat Harbor and Private Enterprise 115

Chapter 22 The Creator Has a Sense of Humor 119

Chapter 23 The Spiritual Journey 123

Chapter 24 The Bear Claw Necklace and the United Nations 133

Chapter 25 As the Island Turns, Part I 139

Chapter 26 As the Island Turns, Part II 147

Chapter 27 An Unangan Love Story 151

Chapter 28 A Yupik Election 157

Chapter 29 The Heart of the Halihut: A Rite of Passage of an Unangan Boy 165

Chapter 30 The Bering Sea Council of Elders 173

Chapter 31 The Mapuche of Southern Argentina 177

Chapter 32 What the Elders Say 181

Chapter 33 Contemplating and Questioning Everything 189

About the Author 193

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