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Episode 16: When words return

By KTVA Alaska 12:49 PM August 16, 2015

Think back before radio, TV and movies. There was only the story — words that returned from the past and lived on into the future.

In Alaska Native cultures, these stories were passed, almost word for word, from storyteller to storyteller. Sometimes, they included catchy songs.

This week on Frontiers, we hear from two men who inherited an oral library of stories from their grandparents – John Active, a Yup’ik storyteller, and David Katzeek, a Tlingit orator and educator.

Active, a longtime public radio broadcaster and Yup’ik language translator, says his work on KYUK-AM/TV in Bethel came naturally to him, because his grandmother, Maggie Lind, was a well-known story teller in the Bethel area.

He grew up hearing her stories at bedtime and retold to friends and family who would gather at her house.

John Active is our featured guest on Frontiers this week. He shares two stories: “How the Fox Turned Red” and “How the Crane got its Blue Eyes.”

Host Rhonda McBride also profiles David Katzeek, who talks about how, as a child, he was punished for speaking Tlingit at school. But today, he is an honored weekly visitor at Juneau’s Harborview Elementary School, where he shares Raven stories and traditional wisdom, learned from his grandparents.

David lives in Juneau and is actively involved in the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s efforts to revive Tlingit language and culture.

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