12 Comments

AT HOME IN THE LITTLE DIOMEDES


051

“Inuit Mother and Baby” watercolor by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

Returning from a trip to Nome, Alaska some years ago, Dr. Advice brought back two black and white photographs which had been taken in 1913; one of a handsome young man bundled into his furs, and another of his wife, lovingly cuddling her baby in the hood of her fur parka. They were of an Inuit family living in the Little Diomedes, a group of islands off the Seward Peninsula in Alaska. These Little Diomedes Inuit are actually Danish citizens, and speak not only English, but Danish, French, Russian and various other languages. I found them so appealing that I did sculptures and paintings of both of them.
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Sitting in our sunny garden this morning with a latte and watching a small hummingbird perform an acrobatic flip on the feeder, I couldn’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy about living here in this moderate Mediterranean-type climate. The snow has never to my knowledge, buried this house, nor prevented me from walking to a grocery store if I could.

Yet for some reason, I also thought of the large group of people who live far north in the Arctic, and who somehow live just as satisfying a life; marrying, raising a family and who have repeated this cycle for a millennium.

Nevertheless, I’m not trading places. I like it just fine right here, and when our excuse for winter weather arrives, I will turn the furnace up a notch and make another latte while I challenge Dr. Advice to another game of gin rummy.

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12 comments on “AT HOME IN THE LITTLE DIOMEDES

  1. Hi mom at the movies With Carole I will call you in the morning Seeing the James gandolgini movie Enough said Hope you are feeling well Love you

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  2. Katyti I really like the watercolor of the Indian woman and her baby. You are quite talented and this piece is another excellent example of your fine artistic achievements.

    Oh yes, lattes and hummingbirds go hand and hand on a lovely morning.

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    • Thanks Yvonne.  I often wonder what ever happened to that woman and her baby through the generations.  After all, the photo was taken in 1913, so there were many generations after that.  It was fun doing the painting and the sculptures as well of them.

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  3. Wow! Wonderful, wonderful painting. Her gaze and her plaits and the way she has her baby in her hood (like a kangaroo and her pouch). Thanks for this glimpse into a faraway land.

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    • Check out what Gerard Oosterman commented on this blog.  So interesting.  I did not know all that.  I was told that the government built wood homes for them (when?) and they broke them apart and used it for firewood!  Who knows?  But they are interesting people, and darling children.  Different looking from the indigenous people of the Southwest where I have painted for so many years.  A man came here several years ago looking for garden work, saying he had been an officer in the Vietnamese army (which side?) and he looked very much like the Navajo, although there seem to be two distinct types of Navajo!  Aren’t we all amazing?  What a marvel.

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  4. The Little Diomedes have an interesting history. During winter one can walk from American territory to Russia (Big Diomedes)
    It has over 140 residents. Because of the Permafrost water cannot be laid in underground pipes between the water tanks and the houses., so, the residents have to melt snow for water during winter. and in summer draw it from the water tanks.
    It has a school, small medical facility, internet and heliport.
    Sale of alcohol is banned!
    Many relatives used to live across the water in the Russian part which when ice formed a bridge, people could cross and exchange news and tell stories. Russia during the 30s removed most residents from the Big Diomedes to the mainland and forbade the visits of relatives.
    This ban was reversed in the late 1990’s. Sadly most relatives in the Russian part have simply gone and vanished.
    Good painting and excellent story.
    Thank you Patti for giving me the chance into a bit of a fascination history.

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    • Fascinating Gerard!  Thanks so much for the info. I did know about the permafrost, and it is in many places in mainland Alaska as well.   I was told that the government built them wood houses (when?) and they chopped them up for firewood when winter came.  I suppose it could be true, but would have been a long time ago.  Of course the original photos were from 1913, and the Southwest people did some crazy things back then too!

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  5. What a beautiful painting. The inner spirit really shines through. There aren’t many people in our society these days who will look at you that directly, and with so little guile.

    I didn’t know any of that history about the Big and Little Diomedes, although the name sounds vaguely familiar. It could be that some of the Alaskan and Canadian bloggers I’ve followed have mentioned them.

    One of the most amazing blogs in the world is kept by a woman, a doctor, living with her husband in Yellowknife, Yukon territory. They live on a houseboat – frozen in during the winter, happily floating in summer. Here’s one of her posts about winter camping. I admire her completely, but like you, I think I’ll stay right where I am. But you might have fun looking through her blog – they have a winter festival every year where they build an ice palace and hold an art exhibition! And from what she says, that fur keeps everyone nice and cozy.

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    • What an interesting life this woman has!  I read a few posts and she draws you in.  We have camped in some of the most ridiculous, cold, wet and some which were hot and mosquito infested spots, but the grit it must take to actually live in such an unforgiving spot is amazing.  I’m sure my comfortable has something to do with that impression.   I was told that the Government built wood houses some time ago for the people on Little Diomedes, but the tore them up and used the wood for fire!  ‘Sounds possible, but I don’t know what they planned to live in if they burned all the houses!  I do know for a fact that the Govt. took it upon themselves to pave the land in front of a couple of the churches in the Southwest, but the Indians were up in arms about it because they would no longer dance in front of the church.  The Govt. had despoiled “Mother Earth”.  They also filled in a few wells for the same reason.  Of course, this is all a long time ago.  There are more highly educated Indians today than ever.

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  6. If you need some wood for that fire this winter, we have 5-7 cords of oak chopped and stacked. Let us know and I’ll send Sir Lancelot down without his tractor.

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  7. Just heartwarming Kayti. Just getting to your blogs, finally.all is well.
    Your story reminds me of your contentment..always. We are kindred spirits aren’t we..
    I too LUVVV the NO SNOW abounding in winter.. to live in even THIS Bakersfield
    Climate is a Gift from God..hahaha. Fascinating that these people can BLOOM where
    They are planted.!
    Love,
    me

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    • I’m so Happy you are feeling better Joyce.  I think of you so often with pleasure, and know that you willnot have those long winters of deep snow to contend with any longer!  And how nice to be near your sister.  Yes, climate is indeed a gift we should cherish, but I do wish the rains would come soon.  The land is so parched, and though I love the nice temperate climate of the Bay Area, our hills are not golden this year—they are dull brown, and would not make a pretty painting!  Give Lynn my best wishes.

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