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Partners in Mythology: Preston Singletary and Walter Porter

1st May 2013

For many years, Preston has worked closely with Alaska Native mythologist Walter Porter to give greater culutral meaning to his pieces. Walter speaks about the wisdom and knowledge that has been protected for us by our ancient Elders and how they cleverly disguised this information in mythology so it would come down safely to us through the ages. With rising crime, social problems, environmental impacts on commuities and illnesses at the forefront of our concerns today, he points out how mythology holds many answers for us to regain control of our communities and lives by understanding them.

Via Walter Porter:

Walter Porter is a Tlingit Indian from Yakutat Alaska. He was born in Yakutat in 1944 and moved to Haines, Alaska in 1956. He graduated in 1962 and traveled for 10 years and moved back to Yakutat. He spent a good deal of his boyhood years listening to his grand mother and other elders tell mythologies and legends that were handed down to them by their elders.

When he moved to Haines, he joined the Chilkat Dancers performing dances that were Tlingit Mythologies put into dance. In the mid 80’s he was invited to be the host on the “Box of Daylight” video put together by Sealaska Foundation, Alaska State Museum, Klukwaan Heritage, Alaska Humanities Forum and others.

He discovered at that time similarities with the Box of Daylight and other spiritual information he had been studying over the years. He has since then put together presentations showing how elders understood these stories and how they successfully used them to develop leadership, social, economic and healing skills to build strong and stable communities.

When lecturing or holding workshops, Walter invites his audience to look closely at the symbols in the story he is working with and gives them alternative meanings to choose from. By allowing the audience or students to participate, the experience becomes more meaningful as they begin to understand and see the wisdom and knowledge of our elders unfolding from ancient times to present.

Preston and Walter worked together to create a lecture called "Spokesmen For Culture" at the Museum of Glass in connection to his exhibiton Preston Singletary: Echoes, Fire, and Shadows. Walter was even one of the guest essayists in the catalog, writing about the cultural significance of the Raven Steals the Light myth. They will be collaborating again soon for a major project surrounding the Raven myth, which we'll tell you about as details are finalized.