Packing My Parka

Finland, here I come!

No, I can’t speak Finnish. Thank heavens Finland’s population is progressive and most of them can speak English, because I’m about to fly off to the other side of the world to share Alaska with our friends abroad.

I leave tomorrow for a week of speaking engagements in Helsinki and as far north as Lapland, reading my books to children, and talking to adults about life in Alaska, our changing world, and what we have in common. I’ll be there at the invitation of the U.S. Embassy-Finland and the American Resource Center. (Thank you!)

The question of “Who Owns the Stories?” will be the subject for several public presentations and round-table talks.

While Finland is working to create a handbook of ethical standards to protect the misuse or misappropriation of indigenous stories and legends, we in Alaska count on the ethics and sensitivities of writers, illustrators, and publishers, most of whom are non-Native. Blunders occur at the expense of the Alaska Native cultures and the individuals who truly can define ownership . . . or can they? Even within individual cultures, rights to stories and other artistic expression can be a thorny topic. Talking about it is important. Listening is even more important. My hope is to encourage more Native Alaskans to write and illustrate their own stories. It’s happening, but successes are just beginning to build.

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