Campers embrace culture at Unalaska’s Camp Adguyax

Students perform an Unangan folk tale on their last day of Camp Adguyax. (Photo by Berett Wilber/KUCB)

Students perform an Unangan folk tale on their last day of Camp Adguyax. (Photo by Berett Wilber/KUCB)

Campers huddle in the hallway of the Burma Road Chapel dressed as sea otter hunters.

The kids adjust their bentwood visors as community members file into rows of folding chairs.

“Am I missing any whiskers?” one girl asks.

“One of them broke,” says the boy next to her.

With costumes complete, they’re ready to perform an Unangan folk tale they’ve practiced all week at Camp Adguyax, about a greedy otter hunter who betrays the octopus that helps him.

The “whiskers” on their paper visors aren’t genuine sea lion, but imitation — beach grass, strung with beads.

Campers decorated their own bentwood hats based on traditional Unangan designs. (Photo by Berett Wilber/KUCB)

Campers decorated their own bentwood hats based on traditional Unangan designs. (Photo by Berett Wilber/KUCB)

For five years, Sharon Livingston has organized “Camp A”, where first-, second- and third-graders immerse themselves in traditional stories, crafts and foods.

By encouraging kids to explore Unangan culture, she said they learn to see the value in cultures of all kinds.

“We believe that when you accept other people into your culture and teach them about it, they will learn how — at a very, very early age — to respect other cultures,” Livingston said. “That’s important in a town like ours, where we have every nationality you can think of.”

Campers draw draft clam rattle designs. (Photo by Berett Wilber/KUCB)

Campers draw draft clam rattle designs. (Photo by
Berett Wilber/KUCB)

While the folk tale didn’t have a happy ending for the greedy hunter — the final scene involved the kids screaming in terror and falling to the floor — Livingston said the tale encourages honesty and integrity toward your neighbors.

For the Unangax, that’s a meaningful lesson.

“The Unangan people have been here for so long,” she said. “We’ve been here for more than 10,000 years, and we’re not going anywhere.”

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