What? Another cruise?
Day 6 - Cultural Immersion
by Pokin Y.
on Sep 14, 10)
Today would be a light day for physical excursions. Actually, there were no activities planned at all. We had pulled into Wrangell late last night, we started the day with a jetboat ride along the Stikine river with
followed by a cultural visit at the Tlingit Tribal House.
I was really excited about the Stikine River ride. I really didn’t know much about it other than the fact that I’d once seen a documentary on the origin of the Stikine river. I learned that it’s the fastest free flowing (undammed) river left in North America, and also one of the wildest due to the environmental protection put into place. Riding up this river sounded like quite the treat. Maybe we’ll end up seeing some bears!
Taking off was a bit surreal. Given that the Stikine River is fed by glaciers, there is a lot of glacial silt in the water, resulting in its murky appearance. As the river waters enter the sea, you can see a clear demarcation line right across the river's mouth as the fresh water meets the salty water.
Getting into the river too was a mini adventure as the silt deposits created an ever changing shallow delta that led to some hard bumps as our jetboat flew over the waters. Ploughing ahead at full speed seems to be THE established way to avoid getting grounded around here.
This trip and this year have been unusual for many reasons. Aside from the continuing nice weather, there’s been very little rainfall, so the water levels were very low everywhere. This meant that parts of the river not normally visible were sitting completely exposed. We saw houseboats that would usually be floating by the riverbed just stranded up on the bank. At other bends, the stranded dead trees stripped down bare but with the root system fully intact lay strew around the shores of the river. It made for quite a striking scene.
Unfortunately, due to the timing and the water levels, we weren’t able to make it as far down the river as I’d hoped (our destination would have been the Shakes lake where we could have seen more glaciers). What was cool though was we were able to stop, get out, walk around, look at some wolf and bear tracks before turning back around.
Heading back to the boat, we had a quick lunch, then got ready for our afternoon meeting with the Tlingit Indians. We were greeted on Chief Snake’s Island with a song and dance. Now normally I have to admit I’m not really a cultural person so these types of events don’t usually do it for me.
But there was something that was a bit raw about the presentation (from them discussing among themselves what to sing and when to start), to the sometimes candid introductions and descriptions they used to talk about their heritage and family that I really appreciated. I sat there, fully engaged as I listened to their song, heard their welcome, and learned the story of the mosquitoes. Afterwards, we stepped out of the house to hear about their approach to sustainable living, the harvesting and using of kelp, their fishing and trade, and use of local berries and plants.
In the end I stood fascinated, trying to soak it all in.
Since the Tlingit Culture is all verbal, much of their history and culture was lost when they were forced to speak in English. (I'm guessing around the 1880's to 1920's) And learning that, I felt a tinge of regret. I barely know my own family history past my grandparents, and I’d love to have had the opportunity to learn more. To see them with their carvings and cultural artifacts but to know that they have lost their stories, the original meaning and purpose behind each item was sad. But it’s great to hear the new stories developing now, and to see their effort in preserving their culture.
By the time the talk was over, we just had a little bit of time left so Abby and I ran towards town to check out the Wrangell museum (more like blitz), looked at the Totem Pole Park, noted the church, and then it was time to get back on the boat for departure.
Tonight dinner was salmon and prime rib. Every night we’re given a meat or fish option (there’s always vegetarian too), and I love the fact that I don’t have to choose by requesting everything half and half. Yes to not having to make choices and to getting everything! :)
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Next: Day 7 - A day of trying new things >>
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What? Another cruise?
Getting to Juneau
Day 1 - Arriving to Seattle
Day 2 - Boarding the Safari Quest
Day 2 - Juneau and the Mount Roberts Hike
Day 3 – Surrounded by humpbacks in Frederick Sound
Day 3 - Kayaking in Windham Bay
Day 4 - Walking on Baird Glacier
Day 4 - The Rather Ambitious Hike
Day 5 - Northern Lights!
Day 5 - Floating with Icebergs
Day 6 - Cultural Immersion
Day 7 - A day of trying new things
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