So the big culmination of the Yuraq dancing (see previous post for description) is the Bladder Festival in mid-March, often called the Louis Bunyan Festival in recent times. But most people still recognize it as the Bladder Festival, the time of the year when all the bladders of the seals caught during the year, dried and filled with air, are sent back to the sea. Helen Smith, an elder I've been speaking to lately, told me that they used to poke a big hole in the ice and push the whole cache of bladders through, and the bladders would sink without any weight attached. She said the cache of bladders would never re-appear later in the year, never wash up on the beach like many things lost at sea do. They believed this was because the spirits of the seals resided in the bladder, and sending the bladder back to the sea would let those seals hunted and caught be born again into new seals. I don't know if anyone in the village still does this with seals caught in present-day, but it's memorialized with this festival.
During the festival there is lots of Yuraq, traditional dancing, with Hooper Bay groups and visiting village dance groups. I was slightly nervous about dancing with the group, because I knew it was alright that I had practiced with them, but I wasn't sure if it was OK if I performed with them. So I went to a woman who is Esther's great-aunt and also in the group, and also a teacher-aide in the school, and asked her if she thought the group would want me to perform with them at the festival. She said "Yah! If they didn't want you to dance at the festival with them the would have already told you to get off the way in the practices. Anyone who practices with us enough is free to dance with us." So that made me feel better about dancing with them, but I was still nervous during the performances and made a million wrong moves.
Sorry my back is to the camera, but I didn't get too many good pictures of myself dancing. Esther, on the other hand, looks great in this picture, so that makes up for it. I try to stand on the end to try to not draw attention to myself! :) As you can see in the picture that begins this post, the rest of the group looks fabulous. This is all in the new school's gym, by the way.