Arctic tales coming next week

While the Snow Goose Festival marks its 11th year next week, Chico State University will celebrate the opening of the new museum of anthropology and its exhibit "Living On Top Of The World: Arctic Adaptation, Survival And Stewardship."

To bring attention to both, two free storytelling events are planned.

Named for the Chico State Professor Emeritus, the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology will officially open Jan. 28. Smith's name will be a permanent part of the museum because of the impact she has made in her field of anthropology and to the museum through gifts and contributions — totaling some $4.6 million.

Museum co-directors are anthropology professors Stacy Schaefer and Georgia Fox. This year's guest curator is anthropology professor Jesse Dizard.

Jan. 30, Heather McCafferty, who teaches cultural anthropology at Butte College, and is an ad hoc educational assistant to the museum, will tell the story, "The Boy and the Loon," at the museum. With its new name, the museum has a new location in the Meriam Library Complex, across from the main library. McCafferty's storytelling will be from 1-2 p.m.

While there, visitors may browse the inaugural exhibit. Designed and installed by Chico State students, it encompasses the ancient and modern ways of life of Arctic peoples, the animals that share their icy environment, and the rare artifacts that come from the top of the world.

Pieces from the Jensen Arctic Museum collection at Western Oregon University and modern Inuit artworks from the Turner Museum on the Chico campus are on display. A centerpiece of the exhibit is a rare auklet parka that once belonged to Smith and is on loan from the Phoebe Hearst Museum in Berkeley. The parka, made from the skins and feathers of some 80 auklets, took two years to hunt the birds and another year to piece it together. It was made for Smith in 1965 by Hilda Aningayou on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Strait.

Displays also include artifacts from the museum's collection as well as some of Smith's personal pieces.

Smith taught in the anthropology department at Chico State from 1967 to 1998 and has been a supporter of the museum since its beginning in 1971.

"The Boy and the Loon," will travel Jan. 31 to Chico Family Masonic Center — headquarters of the Snow Goose Festival. There, Museum of Anthropology Curator Adrienne Scott will tell from 1 to 2 p.m. her version of the "The Boy and the Loon."

"They are different in presentation," she said Tuesday, about the versions of the story. "The moment inspires you to co-create with your audience. It's never the same story twice."

"The Boy and the Loon," isn't necessarily a northwest story, she said. "But it's close."

One version of the story tells of a young hunter in the Arctic who becomes disabled and can't hunt. He suffers from lack of good food and clean water and is eventually rescued by a giant loon who helps him restore his health. The process is the hunter's evolution into a shaman, explained Scott.

"We are not native people to this continent, but the message of this story can be universal," she said.

After the storytelling events, youngsters may stay to make a loon necklace to take home with them.

Published in the January 21, 2010 of Chico Enterprise-Record