When the M/V Christian pulled into Middle Harbor last Thursday all those aboard were greeted with singing and drumming. The boat's passengers, all members of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood, were welcomed to shore by several ANB/ANS members “singing in” their arrival.
Traditional practices for “singing in” visitors dates back to the days when visitors would come by boat to different locations around Southeast Alaska, said Ross Nannauck III.
The event was just one stop on a historic ANB/ANS Camp Visitation Voyage. On board the M/V Christian was Grand President of the ANS, Mary Brown, her sister from Craig Camp, Adeline DeCastro, as well as Mary Guthrie, Grand Camp Executive Officer, and Mary Brown's daughter, Kathy. Grand Officers are advocates for the Native People of Alaska.
After the boat arrived and a few hugs were exchanged, the group went to ANB/ANS Camp 16 hall for a potluck dinner and meeting.
The first-ever voyage commemorates 100 years of ANB. It is the oldest Native organization in Northern America fighting for civil rights and land claims. Before there was the Alaska Marine Highway, ANB/ANS members traveled via seine boats from port to port and also gathered for Grand Camp by traveling on seiners, Nannauck said.
This voyage began on April 1 in Klawock. The boat arrived in Wrangell on April 4. This was the group's first Camp Visit. There the group was met with singing from ANB/ANS members on the dock. A dinner was held at the Salvation Army Church. And the voyage picked up another ANS member, Caroline Demmert from Wrangell.
“We had to delay our departure one day, due to weather, spending a harbor day in Klawock. However, we have been blessed by calm seas ever since,” said M/V Christian first-mate Sharon Geldaker. She and her husband Pastor/Skipper Stan Berntson are hosting the camp dignitaries.
The travelers stayed in Petersburg from Thursday to Saturday. They were joined by Grand Sergeant-at-Arms, Brenda Louise, Executive Officer Cecilia Lopez Tavoliero, and ANS member Mary Ann Rainey on the next leg of the trip to Kake and then Angoon.
“In Kake, we were met again by community members in regalia, and spent the first evening learning Christian songs translated into Tlingit, taught by Ruth Demmert,” Geldaker said. The group celebrated Easter at the various community churches, and held an ANS officer installation and luncheon on Monday, she said.
Also on Monday, the Grand President of the ANB, Dennis Demmert, flew in to join the group for the remainder of the voyage, Geldaker said.
On Tuesday, the group stopped at Baranof Warm Springs while they waited for slack tide at Angoon's Kootznahoo Inlet. In the evening they arrived at another dock to a welcome of community members in their regalia. Welcome songs were exchanged, and a potluck was held at the Angoon Presbyterian Church. A meeting was held on Wednesday to reorganize the Angoon camp.
On Friday, the group will depart for Hoonah, and will end their voyage in Juneau on April 16. Some of the passengers plan to stay in Juneau for a general assembly meeting of Tlingit and Haida.
The mission of the voyage is an outreach to ANB/ANS Camps, to encourage the camps to elect officers and send delegates to the 100th Anniversary of ANB Grand Camp, which will be held in Sitka, October 2 -7.
The M/V Christian has operated in Southeast Alaska since 1988. It is currently operated by Lutheran Indian Ministries (LIM), a non-profit organization supporting Native ministries across the United States and Canada. Its mission is to support and encourage Native Christian leaders, to minister to their own and others, said Geldaker.
Berntson and Geldaker are the third pastor and wife couple to operate the M/V Christian in Alaska. During the Petersburg gathering, the couple announced that they will soon turn the helm over to Dennis and Roberta Jack from Angoon. The Jack's will be training throughout 2012 to take on the ministry of serving the villages of Southeast Alaska.
LIM is funding the voyage, however donations of food and fuel have been accepted along the way. During the stop in Petersburg, Skip Hallingstad presented the travelers with a $200 donation. Geldaker did not say what the estimated cost of the entire trip will be.
The journey ends April 18 when the MV Christian returns to Petersburg. Traveling dignitaries will fly home.
Anyone can join ANB/ANS.
For more information about Lutheran Indian Ministries, go to www.lutheranministries.org.