Museum

Tununeremiut

by Sarah Elder and Leonard Kamerling, color, 35 min, 1972


Four sequences, filmed over a two-month period, portray aspects of the lives of the people of Tununak, a village on the south-western coast of Alaska. In the first, the villagers evacuate their homes and camp on higher ground, fearing that a Nuclear test on Amchitka Island, 1000 miles away, may cause a tidal wave. In a quietly ironic scene, the Eskimos listen to the countdown on their radios, wondering if this modern blast will bring forth an ancient disaster.

In the second vignette, a group of men travel by snowmobile to place fishtraps under the river ice. They become lost in heavy fog, blinded by the glare of the ice, and confused by the complicated turns of the rivers in a landscape where the only landmarks are short, low-lying bushes or old fishtraps. In spite of the difficulty of seeing, they discus their quandary calmly and eventually find their way.

A sudden storm from the Bering sea hits Tununak with gale force winds and heavy snow. Laundry blows wildly in the wind as people prepare for the storm.

The concluding sequence captures communal warmth as people gather in the meeting hall for traditional story-dancing. All participate: men beating drums, and singing, women dancing, adorned with beaded headbands and feathery finger masks. The dancing in Tununak still provides an important outlet for individual expression, at the same time communicating the village's unwritten history.
 

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