A look at the indigenous art in Alaska

Dixie Alexander

Sheri:- Well, first of all thank you so much for taking time to, you know, out of your day and your day off to meet with us and, um, you know we’ve had a chance to go over some of your, your work, different interviews, and, uh, the importance of a native artist but I think want to give you a forum to kind of go over a little bit of your own bio, and then we have the questions, so um, um, don’t know if, ah, anyone has anything they want to start off with, say, or should we jump right in?

Dixie: No, I wanted you to control the interview

Sheri: Oh

Dixie: But, why don’t I introduce myself.

Sheri: Please

Dixie: I wanted to say just a little bit about, cause, I’m on a timeline, I’m working on a big project at home, and it’s been wonderful and I’m in my own zone and I’m happy. I’m on that happy place where I’m producing, and working, and sharing my time. The other day one of my students, who’s studying IT and he’s 21 now, and I worked with him since he was 14. It was amazing he’s half Eskimo and half ______. And he was just a wonderful part of my life at the Morris Thompson. So, I’ll introduce myself, you guys can say a little bit about ________ get into the questions, and after the interview and all the answers there’s a good time for you know, you can have answers but do something later. My whole life I’ve been educating people about Native people. When they can’t see what’s the difference between your culture, my culture, other people’s culture. It’s all the same, but it’s different from anywhere your environment is different, it’s all different. So, there’s a lot of people that need to learn how the environment affects us. Sheri, thank you for doing this, I’m happy to do it, and it’s a beautiful day outside, I’m working on some exciting projects at home, and, um, working for my life is changing, but it’s, I think it’s a good change with the students that i affected over the years. I’m the cultural program director for TCC, Tanana Chief Conference, for the last 10 years. And, before that I trained and I was the Native person that trained all the Native people for the riverboat Discovery for 20 years. I will be 63, and I’ve been teaching since I was 9. I have 6 brothers and 6 sisters and 2 very energetic parents that were very ______(difficult to understand, maybe “busy’) and took their time to train us to do the garden, to do the fishing, to do the subsistence living, to make sure our environment and the weather that we were always on top of things. And ____ was a wonderful life and I thank all my relatives I think I’m the only one out of the family of 13 I have 47 nieces and nephews, and I keep telling my kids “hey, when am I going to get real grandkids?’ I’ve been adopted by a lot of people who don’t have grandparents no more so they’ve adopted me, but we’re related ______ , it’s been wonderful. My whole point of my whole life is to educate people how they could live and still have the culture of Native people running through their blood veins and how I could teach them when they had nobody else to teach. My funnest 10 years at the Morris Thompson Center working with the native kids from 14 to 21. It’s a full time job, and we painted and we raised the money, and everybody just loves him because they’re so unique. I had a 14 year old student who was so shy, couldn’t get on stage,but at the end of the first summer we couldn’t get him off the stage to stop talking. And that’s how it was, and it was heartfelt. I didn’t take after my parent’s, I only had 2 kids ; a boy and a girl, and I have all my nieces and nephews, which I am very close to and that’s why I love the thing about teaching and educating. Without that a lot of people lose a lot of things that they can’t understand. And one of my favorite groups that comes to the Morris Thompson Center is the Rhodes Scholars.

Sheri: Dixie I’m going to interrupt rudely right here, but I also want to point out how this is so Dixie, this is so you; when we ask you to tell us about you, you tell us about everybody else. And you blend yourself in there, but we want to know all about Dixie (laughs). I can see, and I’ve seen and I know the love that you have for community especially the kids, but how was your upbringing before, what was your road to Fairbanks? How did you get here?

Dixie: We got here, and it was a long road, with 6 brothers and 6 sisters in our family we moved here to Fairbanks in the fall of 1967. I was born in ‘57, we got here, and that’s when a big flood was going on, and we lost everything – all our treasures with all our pictures, and we lived on Dawson Street so we ended up over ______ that’s a long story but that’s what brought us here to Fairabsnk. It was an exciting story for us because we’d never seen no dog except for Huskies, working dogs. We’d never seen a weiner dog or anything else and that was a whole story that the kids were laughing around for the whole 8 months that we were here in Fairbanks. It was just an exciting time for us to see different culture, different churches,Baptist, ______, and our life was just so different from the way we lived on the river on Fort Yukon, with such a big family, and those stories are the best. Even before coming here, we’d never seen a disaster until we did come here in 1967 and that’s when the big flood was here. So anyway, so , I was a fast learner, except when I had trouble with translation with down river people with their accent, upriver people with their accent, southern people, I mean we were used to living, we were so subsistent living with such a tight family and everybody was learning and everybody got better every day and every year that they worked.

Sheri: Do you think that that bonding to gether with your family and going through the different changes together had really, I mean I know that it’s benefited you. You always take things for the way that it helps and makes you stronger. Do you feel like that as an artist it comes out through your work?

Dixie: Yeah, comes out through my work and it pops and then it’s exciting to be able to learn things from my grandmother and my aunties, and everybody that I learned from, the way that they taught, the way that they share, the way that they were thinking about what they knew,that was the best way to do things. That was really exciting for me, with different teachers, different missionaries as I was growing up it was kind of strange, and kind of harsh but I feel with the teaching if kids who are in foster care or adopted or orphaned, when they come to me and tell me “I want to learn this’ and “I want you to explain to me’, “if you could share your time’, “if you could share what you love about how you were taught’ And that’s why I think people who are into education, and they could see that spark, and that love, and they look at you like, you know…it’s a surprise, how you learn to be better, and how you could be better for being a good mother, to be a good auntie, and there’s a lot of people that weren’t blessed with kids, and I just think that teaching is a big part of our culture and that’s what’s so important.

Sheri: Can you, um, I’m gonna share with the class that aside from being a culinary artist, and nobody ever leaves Dixie’s presence without a full belly, um, so she does, uh, lot of Native cooking, and um, that’s a program that’s also run through the Morris Thompson Center, through TCC, but Dixie can you tell us about your art, what different art forms that you do?

Dixie: That’s a long list.

Sheri: I know, I know.

Dixie: I just think, you know, when I was growing up with six brothers and six sisters, fifth to the youngest…and um, I can say this ‘cos my whole family knows. I’m my daddy’s favorite. And we bonded and I bonded with my grandmothers all our relatives and I had a sense of humor where I laughed when the words didn’t come out right in English because I knew Gwich’in Athabascan before I knew English, until the missionaries came and our whole life changed and education was different and I had a safety zone at home with such a big family and the education that was first brought to us wasn’t perfect and was very scary. But you know, I’ve always been willing to teach somebody that could to make their life better and that’s why I love education in ways that you could share with somebody that has nothing.

Sheri: You recently had to cancel the tufting and the quillwork and I know that you’re really involved with the beadwork, and um, mainly what they see at TCC is your sewing. Can you…do you wanna, I don’t know how to pick any one thing, but how did that start? How did that start with you showing your sewing skills?

Dixie: Oh it was teaching and sharing, and Emma Hildebrand that did the tufting work. In class. The tufting, beadwork, and porcupine quillwork…she was my student! When I was very young, I went to Northway and the Corporation had me go drive up there and I did, every year I did two weeks workshop. Left my kids and went up there and I had everything taken care of and Emma Hildebrand is a master artist. Top of the line beadworker. And the last class that she did at the Morris Thompson we had to cancel because of everything that’s going on. But, and Emma Hildebrand is from Northway, and she’s a wonderful artist she’d be (?) “This is what Dixie taught me she came up here every four years, two weeks annually and teaching us.’

But one of the beautiful things about teaching them…I was on vacation and I had to leave my
family in Anchorage and then drive to Northway cos I had (to be) teaching for about a week and a half, and it was all planned out, all the agenda. We’re gonna do porcupine quill dying, caribou hair dying. We’re gonna show you how to do everything with all the materials first and in between we had a scheduled lunch where people donated salmon and goose and dry meat and salmon strip and different native food and that’s all we cooked.
So the first day I got there, and my daughter was like eleven and my son was ten, they had us fly back to Fairbanks where we left our (car) and I drove down there and everybody was in the class for me, everything was all set from my, for all my schedule and we had lunch going in between dying and drying and tuffed-up fur and then lunch was prepared and, Emma Hildebrand, I looked at her and everybody ran out they had an hour off. And I said “What’s going on! I thought we were going to eat lunch?’ And the other ladies that was with Emma Hildebrand they all laughed and laughed. And…“They saw your speech and they saw your dying and all your materials and they’re all going back to the dump to pick up their caribou skins that they threw away.

Sheri: Oh my goodness. Wow.

Dixie: And they came back and all the caribou skins were in the back of their truck and they were able to learn that day about how we used to use everything, and never throw away nothing that they take from the Earth.
And they all laughed about it after they ate lunch and they were all, went back home after the class was done at five or six, and they said “Oh yeah we stretch it out and we’re drying it, and we salted it, and we’ll rinse it off and we’ll wash it with soap and we can dye it. Because caribou and moose hair (inadible)he hair absorbs the dye. (?) and it just sparkles.

All of the years I’ve been teaching at the university everywhere I’ve been for travel, but teaching is a wonderful thing.

If somebody could make something…and I remember one time I taught at Denali Center, and it was right across the street from Center for Kids, and Abused, ah, Abused Women and Kids, where they had safe shelter, and nobody knew they were there, and they had an afternoon class, and this little boy came in and he said his mom’s friend was sad. He wanted to make her a present and I said “We could do that.’ And I donated the beads and I was there teaching and they were all excited about Christmas. And he made three pairs! and he had learned so fast and he said “Is it perfect? It’s gotta be perfect just like yours, like that one!’ And this kid was only about seven years old. And he says can I make one for my mom’s friend, she’s so sad and she’s got a little girl, too.’ It’s just, you know, it’s the sparks, that good, that helps you go to the next stage of teaching and that’s you know, where I am.

Sheri: Yeah, I’ve seen that definitely with the Youth Connection in your workshop, and they just get so…you don’t…they don’t have to be told, you know, to want to please you and to do things with better instruction and to ask you “Is this ok?’ you know, and you just have that ability to to get that out of kids that, that you know, and I know that most wouldn’t get that same kind of direction. How many years have you been teaching..or doing…how did the fiddling start? How did that fiddle and the dance…?

Dixie: Athabascan Old Time Fiddling, the name has changed since then, but it started in 1983 and I was one of the founders and we got a grant from Alaska State Council on the Arts, to research all the music, ‘cos the Gwich’in and Koyukon, everybody loved the fiddle music when it reached our area about 150 years ago, and the people fell in love with the fiddle music. And we had a festival in 1983 in November and we brought all these musicians together and it was the first (dance) from Koyukon, all the different villages from as far as Arctic Village, down to (?) Area, and it was Richard Frank one of our board members at the end of the three day festival then, with twelve fifteen hours of music with kids coming in from the schools and at the end he said “We’ll see you next year.’ And that’s how it became a festival.

Sheri: Nice. Um, how many languages…I think that I’m going to end with that part, for this portion, and then we’ll move on to the questions I’ll let you add anything else you want, at any point, but you also teach a lot of the languages and reclamation and preservation of languages? How many languages do you speak, and how do you feel about the kids now being really excited about reclaiming and re-learning their language?

Dixie: Oh, they have a good time. We have a language word of the day all the time and we make fun, we laugh together. We tease together ‘cos some words are different than other words and some people that are learning that are young, we could crack up and laugh at them because they’re saying something that they don’t know. All my brothers and sisters were real, they were all older than me. And I used to be so jealous of them because they could even sing and say our language in the bible. And, at that time, I was so young that then we went to the school, the different missionary schools that were kind of set up and time and he was like we were broken cause it was different. The culture was different and the training was different and the understanding between two missionaries whether they were baptist, penecostal, catholic and there was many different groups that came up here and the reason for coming up were, seemed a lot different for our existence for being here for so many years before then. So Yea, I like having fun with people

Sheri:That is True (laughing)

Dixie: Yea, I’ve been interviewed for 20 years from every culture all over the world. And that was a hard part of my job because that’s what grabbed a lot of people in and they had a videotaping every day, every day. Germans, Japanese, every culture all over the world. But what I loved about working for the big biz was raising my family down there. Driving a boat, teaching my kids how to learn to live on the river, we had a fish wheel, we had an island and plus i didn’t need to pay for a babysitter.

Sheri: Laughing

Dixie: And they were with me and they were helpful. When they were hungry and they just wanted salad I give them a bowl of water and they go down and wash all the vegetables and sit there by the river and I’d watch them and you know we did a lot of fun things. We had a lot of exciting time with all these people from all over the world because they were different and they had fun and we weren’t ashamed of laughing about how different they were.

Sheri: I will say Dixie is a riot, she is so much fun. And I think before I take over too much. I want to do about 20 minutes of me here but um we’re gonna go ahead on to the questions. Do you want to add anything um before we do that?

Dixie: Yea, why don’t you guys just introduce yourselves, what are you guys doing? Are you in school? What are you…

Sheri: Dixie, were interviewing you not..

Dixie: I know, but….I want to know a little bit about….

Sheri: Absolutely, absolutely. I’ll just gonna go ahead and turn it over so if were if someone’s speaking then well just mute ourselves but Dixie can still here you and you can hear the speaker so I think that Margaret is going to go first so I’ll let her…

Margaret: Hi Dixie, my name is Margaret, I moved to Bethel in August and I am a high school art teacher in Bethel. I also am an artist, I generally work 2 dimensional painting and drawing and I kinda dabble and play around with everything else but those are my specialties are 2 dimensional art. 48:46

Dixie: So, how do you like Bethel?

Margaret: Well, it’s very different than I expected but I find it very charming in its own way and I like the close knit community and I like It’s kind of a mix, they call it urban rural. Where I can get everything I need but I also can go out back and pick some berries or go down to the river and go fishing really easily so I think it’s a really good mix. I’m in a great place to raise a family, I have four children so…

Dixie: I went to Bethel when I was on an exchange and I was living in Anchorage after the big flood in 1967 and they picked one student out of the schools to go to a different place in Alaska since I was Athabascan indian I went to Bethel, Macoy, Cooper Bay and as an exchange student for like a week and a half and it was the first one to see the ocean and raised here. I was staged with some wonderful people.

Margaret: That’s awesome, I’m glad you had a good experience here. 50:04

Dixie: Yea, Yea, it was a great program because they sent Eskimos to indian country and indians to Eskimo country and they gave us a stipend to bring stuff to the children in Bethel who were Bay Macoyek what do they want? Ditching their candies, dipping toothbrushes and eat jerky and special stuff that was good and it was the first time because were on the interior the snow don’t melt as much as the people on the ocean. And this lady I stayed with she bought me a pair of rubbers because she noticed my tennis shoes were all wet and everything and it was a wonderful trip. So, yea, education is great.

Sheri: Margaret, did you want to go ahead with a question or should we…

Margaret: Oh sure yeah, I’m sorry, I thought we were just gonna introduce ourselves. I will go ahead with my question. Um, let me look and see. Oh, when people admire your work are there any significant messages you would like them to know about? 51:20

Dixie: Yes, the most important part and what’s their really intrigued about is even the process of native people gathering the material to do a piece of artwork. And everything, it’s not like picking berries that’s easy or easy things that we do in our culture our subsitic living when we’re gathering here, bones, tools that we never throw away. We used in our artwork, they are so amazing because it’s so precise and it’s such a saving process to communicate, to create a piece of artwork. But right now I have in front of me, a grizzly bear and it’s is carewou and the hair thats dyed that im talking is carwou and there’s bone beads and there’s pearl that’s like snow on top of the head. So when we start talking about the process that’s when the people that are buying this and educating other people and photograph well and taking your words and writing about it, about how expensive the process is where other people who can paint or sew or are working with just any kind of artform but when you’re up here in the artic, its not easy to get everything. I mean We don’t have Sears-Roebucks no more. But we used to love that because you know we ended up in the outhouse and we make barbie dolls and all the beautiful things so it’s a different artform to, like it could be like way back when I was born i mean that was everyday was a, a learning experience by watching out elders in different ages and coming in and i don’t know, It’s different today than it was a long time ago but i still remember those days. Like the beads. The tourists used to hear from the missionaries, the gold miners, gold panners and everybody about how If you take beads with you, native people will take care of you and that was true. Because we use to dye Porcupine quills (inaudible) do save everything all the bones, needles, sinews everything from all the animals that provided a way of to create our traditional sewing winter clothes summer clothes spring clothes, food stuff, (inaudible) pericardium sack from the moose, the caribou the platter (inaudible) just everything, it was amazing.

Sheri: Yea, Dixie I remember the day that the it was for a ceremony and the youth had a whole moose in the workshop that they were taking apart and that was the main message that from the beginning of the process to the very last plate being served, the youth had the responsibility of seeing this animal all the way through and that was a really fascinating thing to watch, because you were guiding them but they were doing all of the work and every piece of that moose had already a destination.

Dixie: Yes, uh hum, they’re wonderful kids, oh they’re so funny, that’s what kept me going for so long there and the best part of the program and rogue scholar people were too because They were well educated, they were knowledgeable, they read every book until they came to me. And answering their questions when they challenged me was so much fun because we both went away with stories about what they thought or what I thought or what my students thought. And they would say oh my god that is so funny.

Sheri: And it was, I think it, I’m not sure the message sent but whoever wants to go in next, well keep…

Rodney: Hello Sheri, hello Dixie, my name’s Rodney.

Dixie: Hello Rodney

Rodney: I live in the Mojave Desert down in California and that’s where i’m sitting right now and i’m glad to be able to listen to some of your stories and hear about your artwork.

Dixie: Thank you

Rodney: You’re welcome. I had a quick question and I wanted to know, could you tell me a little about your process of how you design your artwork and how you create the artwork itself and how is your mindset whenever you’re creating?

Dixie: Well, um. I can tell you one thing. I’m very different. Ever since I was born, I was always curious. And I always thought that my brothers and sisters and everybody would think that my questions of art and beauty and process I always thought they would give up on me for asking the nuttiest questions and I find myself with all of these people from all over the world would come up to us just to visit with me and half the time the in person asking me (inaudible).

Dixie: I’ve been very, since I was younger, I made things easy for (inaudible) and if you can’t think past making thins easy around the ones that love you and the ones that you help and the ones that you care about and the ones you design for, it’s very hard to um, to, they have very different questions on how you share. I just think it’s harder when people don’t understand what you are creating, and why you ask these funny questions. So, um, that’s what makes the people up here so unique is that if you can’t laugh at somebody without hurting somebody’s feelings and you know they are brothers and sisters, the next day you’re going to be doing pancakes or fry bread or they’re going to be chopping wood and getting fur or skinning an animal and we were just all a team together between gardening, and fishing and taking care of the dogs, cutting wood, and you know, just 13 kids. You know how my mother was pregnant for so long. She would have been pregnant a very long time but she had twins. They were very active and very in love people and that’s the way we were raised. To explain how you create all the ideas, from when I create something comes from the person that is spending the money, and giving you ideas of what they love. They may send you a photograph, they may send you a pack of (inaudible) or pictures of things that they love so we it happens that when you create. I draw everything out. I do the colors, I make pea pods(?) Out of colors they would love. There’s pastel, which you know is (inaudible) to taste. It’s cool to do something different.

Rodney: Thank you.

Dixie: You’re welcome.

Ian: Hi Dixie, my name is Ian.

Dixie: Ian?

Ian: Ian, yeah. I’m a student, and everyone is in the same class. I’m in Pennsylvania right now, I got to see, um, Shari showed us some snow a little while ago at the beginning of the session. I had 70 degree weather a couple of days ago. So, I got a lot of gardening done recently. But I would love to ask you a question if you don’t mind. When you create something what’s your favorite part of that process? Is it the beginning?Is it the end when you see it finished? I would love it if you could share that with us.

Dixie: I think that the beginning part is gathering all the materials. And measuring things out. And then a lot of times I’ll ask the person that is ordering it. Now can you send me a shirt that fits your arms, your shoulders, your front whether it’s (inaudible). Send me something that is your favorite color, and your ideas, and why you why you want to order from me. And the one thing I am working on right now, is I am working for a customer that took about five years to find me up here in Alaska and googled me. And made a trip down here two summers ago and it was the first day I worked on a riverboat. I’d been at the (inaudible for 10 years) as cultural director about to have a program for (inaudible) and they thought I was at the riverboat because they still posted my (inaudible) and they still did my history to help that village develop and the artwork and some of them were 40 years old and they just got a new parka down there. And the last one was 34 years old still working but it needed to be on a mounting. So I finally ordered another one. And it was the first day they went down to find me at the riverboat and they said: “Oh my God, where is Dixie, that’s your new coat! She didn’t die, did she? And the people that I worked with, they said, Oh no, she didn’t die she… and they took three days because I work with the architects designing a new wing for the new chief Andrews Cancer Wing at the Chief Issac Andrew Health Center. And she came down there, here and her husband. Who was a robotics engineer retired. An interesting man, I had been working with him for two years. And on June 27th, my father’s birthday, hopefully, everything is good and we’re gonna hand deliver it down to Two Rivers, Oregon. They go to Arizona when it’s cold there. But this is the most exciting, beautiful piece I have ever made. And she’s a Caucasian woman. Blond hair, blue eyes. Her husband was gorgeous and just so interesting to talk to. I could talk to him about how I process things they way he does, I mean it was just amazing. They came and I was in an apron and I was doing road scholars and I was doing a British show and an Athabaskan dinner. Everyone traditional, native. The way we did things fifty years ago and they were amazing. I was like the pied piper with the food. They made an appointment for me the next day at two o’clock. They came and they wouldn’t leave and I had 15 students come and it was fine, you know. They asked me questions, you want me to do this, you want me to do that. And they were just you know, after that they saw the kids dance in the theatre and the culture connection show where they sing in four different languages, they learn to dance from every different culture from around here in Alaska and this is where his program has got me in. I thought they were just amazing because they were so knowledgeable about these people. Not just Athabaskans, not just Inupiaq. She told me when she was a little girl she wanted to wake up in the morning and be an Indian woman. She had made all these beautiful, romantic stories, and legends and histories, from native people all over the world. When she looked in the mirror she would think I still have got blue eyes and blonde hair. And she finally found me and she wanted me to make a beautiful coat for her. And uh, they love the great outdoors.They have a whole parlor a whole parlor of carvings, and oil paintings and so that is what I am putting on the back of her coat. So just bits and pieces of their life, and me gathering all that up and designing it and in the process they’re included into what I am doing. I am going to have to end that. My daughter and I are, she’s in fort Yukon right now I sent her over there because that is her home town. And it was safer for her there and my son is here with me and we’re just producing a bunch of new artwork. So all the artworks don’t just come from me, they come from other people. I’m just the one that gives them the tool to help me make them happy.

Noel: Hi Dixie! My name is Noel. I grew up in Alaska but currently I am located in Montana. And I’m right now studying and finishing up my interdisciplinary degree in health and the environment. My question for you is what art form do you enjoy working with the most? Is there a specific type of art form that you work with that you find more enjoyable than others?

Dixie: I think the best part of me sharing and educating others on art forms is when I work for a big project like the (inaudible) unlimited, which is the largest Athabaskan Corporation, and I just finished one of their contracts, I’ve been asked to do more contracts. Um Morris Thompson Center, we named it after him when he died in 2000 with his wife in Alaska Airlines plane crash and his oldest daughter. And I think the less stress you have ,on people wanting so much from you, is when I am doing, designing a whole center, like the Morris Thompson, I curated that whole thing. And Morris Thompson when he was alive, the (inaudible) Unlimited building, which has 3.5 million dollars with of art in there. And I finished that one and I am still using, I’m still curating and still creating and adding and still designing because they are growing so big. I think it’s the design of other people’s artwork that’s easier for me because it makes me excited because I’m presenting their work. And appreciating the work. And giving the expertise to make it shine when it was created and how it is presented, and that is the most exciting thing that I like.And when I do those contracts I can’t sell my artwork but I can promote other people’s artwork. To encourage them to keep devoting their art form.

Noel: Thank You Dixie

Dixie: Your Welcome. And that’s great because even when its the most loudests give all these artists put bread on the table, put sugar to help their families and that just makes them so proud. Thats what I like the most about what I do.

Sheri : Did anyone else have any other questions?

Ian: Yah, I do. It’s Ian again. How do you feel about the things you have created in the past? When you see them or think about them how does that make you feel now?

Dixie: Well, last summer I got Noel who is 12 years old. He was on the wish list to come to Alaska and when I created this artwork is when my dad passed. I named it after him about the beautiful things that come from the sky to land to the earth that are created about our world. And when my son was born, my dad died 10 days later after he named him Silas Ororick Tindall. And we hung the artwork and my son was there and he was just 9 months old. And I went back to visit the piece, and this Noel said Dixie I wanted to come out here and they told me about you, and when his family he came with his mom and dad and his sisters. He had this genetic disease that they did not think he would live very long and his last wish was to come to AK to see the northern lights. They did that. To go dog mushing, they did that. His last one, That’s when all the people called me and said Miss Dixie he wants to see a native performance, he wants to see native dancers, he wants to see native people singing. So what I said I would handle it. And the elders who were down there were not available. So I called all the native corporations and I told them about his last wish. And they came to the building and all the navtive corporations were so great and they came with baskets of smoked salmon strips, jam, crackers, and all kinds of native food. Native hats and he was so overwhelmed, he was in the front row and I had all the native dancers come and they did this big performance and then people were bringing in baskets and we’d stop and he was just so overwhelmed. And then I said what are your plans after this? They we’re done for the day. I said no your not. I called river boat discoveries and I got them free tickets on the boat and I drove them over the carlson building and I told them I made the northern lights here in AK. He said you did? I said, “Did you want to see it? It is right over here right up these big steps. And I called them ahead of time and told them I need to go and see my art piece. Oh yeah, so we took pictures. They said you did make it. I said yeah I did. It took me 9 months to complete. I had to compete in front 143 people. They chose me. Its of the northern lights dancing in the sky, it has glass beads, porcupine quills, and silver salmon spawning on black velvet with bubbles, Alaskan wildflowers named after my dad and it means beautiful things from the earth to the ground and it’s 4 feet by 3 ½ feet. We took pictures of it. I could send it to you Sheri.

Sheri: I would love that.

Dixie: And we took pictures. They said you really did make the northern lights. And I said I told you I made it. It took me 9 months. I am glad that I was not having another baby. They laughed. Yeah, so it was a beautiful piece I’ve done. I did not appreciate it as much after my dad died and my son was born. It was great. You never know how some things you put the time into makes you happy.

Sheri: I have another question. I am going see if anyone else has another question? I think we are good. Dixie I am going to ask a question that is sotra of a theme I have been sensing from a lot of artists with the current situations. Of not being able to do the workshops or come together or have limited access to resources. All different challenges for you have been none-stop, your still go-go-go, and with the masks you’ve been sewing and what do you think can attribute that kind of spirit as an artist. If you have come into any moments where you’re just kind of not feeling inspired? How do you overcome that?

Dixie: No, I have never had any kind of problems with being inspired. I mean I can laugh at a phone call or an idea. I could laugh at people who say you could do this or you should do that. Just, people up here are so funny and have such a sense of humor. You could gather an idea out of anything. So, I don’t think it is going to slow native people down. I think out of this whole isolation thing I think there is going to be beautiful stuff born. You know it going to be amazing to see what comes out of the wood work after everybody is isolated. And its not the first time because we had smallpox and influenza. It’s not the first time for depression, I think it’s time that we come up with the most wonderful ideas.

Sheri: That is definitely true. And I have also been learning a lot about how new things can be born out of setbacks in the natural world, what we see, in commerce. I know we have talked about this stuff before, but I think that you brought up some really great points that there has been all these things before. People persevere, do you think it is an artist’s responsibility to make sure people stay on track culturally, or in their spirit or in any way do you feel that a responsibility if you have that artistic viewscape?

Dixie: Yeah, like one of my students, Isiah Horus, and we have this same grandma, and were cousins and relatives, and we talk on the phone. He’s got the patterns, he’s got everything that I taught him that’s layed out, even though we can’t be close to each other and he’s such a good sewer. Such an excellent student and easy to teach him and then when he comes back I tell him this story and then he comes back and makes it better. And he just makes me be a better teacher. Now he’s size 11 dancing boots and he’s working on a moose skin vest with eagles on the back and he’ s such a great artist and he likes to sketch and theres never ever been anybody that came up here who ever asked me a stupid question. Theres not a stupid question. You know it might be a little naive, but to bring out what we went through and that’s what makes it unique.

Sheri: How have you seen teenagers change? Cause I know that’s something that you must have experienced. The mindset of teenagers when you were growing and perceived the world. What do you see as the difference in how art can connect all of that with the new modern generation, this era of teenagers? Cause some of them are quite spunky.

Dixie: Oh, yeah. It just depends on, some of the most wonderful students were adopted. Some of the most wonderful students over the 10 years that were scared and afraid, but as you slowly work with them. You can help them and give them a gift. That’s all they want. So if I can show somebody something that’s so easy that is so small and then they come back making it bigger and bigger. That’s what great about being a teacher.

Sheri: I have to say I have seen you. I have been lucky in that. I think that you definitely have as much if not more, you just pour so much of yourself into the teaching and in everything that you do. I want to give everyone a chance to kind of chime in one last time and we will wrap up and if you want I go over stuff afterwards. I know you are really busy, but if there are any last things that you wanted to add that we may not have covered.

Dixie: You know we could meet again. I am out here, I got about 8-9 caribous running around in the back. 2 skins hanging in my wood shed, but the caribou next store do not belong to me, they belong to santa claus house. You know we could talk again. I will be home all weekend and I am going to start monday working with the elders. We are going to start making food boxes for traditional foods with dinach-nagga who is at the Morris Thompson center. I don’t think I will be at Morris Thompson center for another week or 2. Cause with all the artwork that I have been doing and I got to take care of all the chief artifacts to make sure they go to the right place. So yeah you could call me maybe tomorrow.

Sheri: Oh absolutely

Dixie: Does anyone have any other questions I am fine ok.

Sheri: Did anyone else have any last comments or questions?

Ian: I just wanted to say Thanks for letting us ask a bunch of questions tonight.

Margaret: That is exactly what I was going to say. Thank you for your time.

Dixie: Oh, hay no problem. I have one more thing to tell you that a tourist asked me. I live right next to North Pole Santa Claus House and down the road from KJMP which is King Jez Radio Station. I get a hard time connecting with the internet, but this tourist asked me “What’s the difference between a reindeer and a caribou?’ I looked at them and I said there is no difference. They mate with each. They asked what’s the difference. I said well the reindeer pee on your roof and the caribou pee in the woods.