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Christmas, Basketball, and Sled Dog Races: Common and Uncommon Themes in the New Seasonal Round in an Iñupiaq Village

Julie E. Sprott
Arctic Anthropology
Vol. 34, No. 1, Power, Resistance, and Security: Papers in Honor of Richard G. Condon, Steven L. McNabb, Aleksandr I. Pika, William W. Richards, Nikolai Galgauge, Nina Ankalina, Vera Rakhtilkon, Boris Mymykhtikak, and Nikolai Avanum (1997), pp. 68-85
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40316425
Page Count: 18
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Christmas, Basketball, and Sled Dog Races: Common and Uncommon Themes in the New Seasonal Round in an Iñupiaq Village
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Abstract

Thematic analysis is used to explore the complexity of meanings and to look for syncretic and indigenized features in three categories of public events of the "new" socioreligious cycle in Noorvik, an Iñupiaq village in northwest Alaska. As an initial strategy, events are scanned for expressions of Iñupiaq Ilitqusiat values, and many of these are found within the context of the Christmas celebration. Christmas also contains two probable syncretic features from the precontact Feast of the Dead: the custom of giving presents to namesakes, and gift-giving by families to those who helped in the funeral of a loved one who had died that same year. The theme of competition in basketball and sled dog races, on the other hand, is best understood in terms of indigenization of a rivalry motif from the precontact Messenger Feast and trading fair. All three event types, when taken as a whole, project the meta-theme of a sense of place, underscoring the village as a prosperous and vital locale. The driving force motivating residents to invest time and energy into creating these events seem to derive from a kind of "village imperative," in which community goals and status are ascendent over the goals and desires of individual residents.

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