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Lucille Stevens

Stevens Village, Alaska

    I am Koyukon Athabascan from Stevens Village on the Yukon River. My mother is Susan Stephen; my grandparents are Hilda and Benjamin Stevens of Stevens Village.

    Here I am pictured with one of my brothers, Jay Stevens. This photo was taken at a traditional memorial potlatch my family held in Stevens Village. We hold traditional memorial potlatches to honor our lost loved ones. Together, with one of my sewing partners, we sewed the moose skin vest Jay is wearing in the photograph for the potlatch. We sewed many moose skin vests that year, for all of the men in our family.

    To prepare for a traditional memorial potlatch our family and friends sew for years. We sew beaded gloves, beaded slippers, beaded necklaces, beaded barrettes, fur hats, shell cases, gun cases, and other traditional items. We gift these traditional items (along with traditional foods, blankets, and rifles) to those who come to celebrate the life of our lost loved ones and to those who were important in their lives.

    A traditional potlatch may last for three days. During the potlatch we also cook traditional foods for all of our guests, which requires a great deal of hunting, gathering, and preparation. We cook moose, geese, salmon, ducks, beaver, porcupine, muskrat, rabbits, and whitefish. Every night we celebrate and dance to fiddle music until the morning comes.

    Holding a traditional potlatch requires a great deal of hard work and team work within our family. Honoring our lost loved ones in this way makes us strong, and makes us who we are today.

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