We Walk in Beauty

Irene Bedard, Malemuit

Greg Red Elk, Irene Bedard, Bob Red Elk

Native name: KAUTAURAK
(Someone Who Dropped Something)
Given name: Irene Marie Bedard
Date of birth: July, 22, 1967
Place of birth: Anchorage, Alaska
Tribe: Inupiaq, Malemuit, Yupik, Cree
Year photograph was taken: 2004

Do you have a specific memory that stands out in your mind when you were young?
"I grew up in Alaska. I remember big dramatic skies, mountains made from earthquakes and volcanoes that blow till the sky is dark. I remember fishing, berry picking, stories about the mountains which look large and majestic. The northern lights. I remember my father and mother sitting around the table, drinking coffee, discussing the work needed to be done in the Alaskan Native community. It was the time of the Alaska Land Claims Settlement Act and my father was a liaison between the State and the Native community."

How is your life different from your parents or grandparents?
"With the onset of satellites, space technology, modern medicine, it seems as though our lives today must be totally different from those who came before us. But we go home to the village in Alaska, and my relatives still subsist by hunting and continue to live many of the traditions the Inupiaq, Malemuit, and Yupik have lived since the beginning. I think even though I am an actor on film, a recent invention in the realm of time, I am still a storyteller. So, maybe my life is not so different."

What traditions from the past do you still continue to practice?
"I just recently came from Alaska where I spoke at the Alaska Federation of Natives Conference for the Elders and Youth Consortium. It was incredible to see the young people working together with the elders. To see the traditions passed on to another generation. To see the language live on. To see the stories told again. My uncle came from the village for the conference and brought seal skin boots called mukluks for my baby boy and dried salmon, seal oil and muktuk (whale blubber) for me. Food is one tradition I'll always keep."

What was your impression on having your photograph taken?
"I thought of the nature of the photographs, the light, the beauty, the fact that they will last 500 years, the potential, and the camera which comes from a time long ago. And then when we were taking the photograph, it struck me that there is a comical quality to its accordion like structure and the man hiding under the cloth."

What do you see for the future?
"I see the beauty of our ways. Our songs, our drums, our stories, our languages, our relationships to the earth, to our elders and our link to the coming generations is what keeps us breathing the life into our tribal ways. I think the future is nothing short of a breath of life!"