State Briefs

Posted: Monday, December 31, 2001

Unalaska woman chooses traditional face tattoo

UNALASKA - In a world where ancient traditions and cultures are disappearing, 20-year-old Laresa Syverson is proud of her Aleut-Unangan heritage. You can see that pride on her face. Syverson has chosen to have her face tattooed in the ancient tradition of the Unangan.

"I remember seeing an old woman with her face done when I was about 13," Syverson said. "I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen."

A soft indigo tattoo now crosses her face, one-quarter of an inch wide, a pair of parallel lines with a broken centerline, the ancient pattern of the village of Unalaska.

"People are trying to bring back many of our traditions like weaving and bentwood visors." she said. "I thought this was a much more personal way, a beautiful personal adornment, a beautiful representation of the people."

Syverson had the tattoo done in Santa Fe, where she is studying art at the Institute of American Indian Art, because she knew of no one who was able to do the work in the traditional manner using a fine bone needle, sinew and lampblack.

She called her mother to ask if there were any rituals involved in the tattooing process.

"I told her I didn't really know," said Sharon Svarny-Livingston, Syversons mother. "I thought she was working on a paper so I asked her when it was due. She said she had an appointment that Tuesday."

Creating her own ritual to replace those long forgotten, Syverson boiled some yarrow and used the leaves as a hot pack on her face to prepare her skin for the tattoo, and she burned some sweetgrass.

It took the tattoo artist about 45 minutes to one hour to line up the pattern and get it straight, another half hour to actually create the tattoo.

"It hurt most right by the sides of my nose and by the ears," Syverson said. Because no one actually knew what the ends of the pattern should look like, Syverson asked for the top line to end in an upturned wisp.

"It just didn't seem right for the lines to just end," she said.

Christmas gift returns include unwanted dogs and cats

ANCHORAGE - The Anchorage Animal Shelter is bracing for an influx of unwanted pets.

Between Jan. 1 and 15 there usually is an increase in animals brought in by people who received pets as Christmas gifts but cannot or do not want to care for them, said Erin Myers, spokeswoman for Animal Control.

On Saturday morning, a woman brought in a black Labrador puppy, a gift for her daughter. But the family already has two dogs and couldn't care for another. By late afternoon, the pup was lying in a cage trembling. A pat on the head drew a slight tail wag.

"He's still small," Myers said. "We can find him a home."

Another influx will come in about six months, when Christmas puppies and kittens become grown dogs and cats, Myers said. The largest population of animals at the shelter is of young dogs that have grown out of their puppy stage.

"These cute puppies and kittens grow up, and they are not so cute anymore," Myers said.

In years past Animal Control has opted not to adopt animals out during the Christmas season. But this year the shelter was full and had many puppies, Myers said.

"We asked this year that if people can't take care of the animal that they bring it back so it can have another chance at adoption," she said. "We'd rather have them bring them here than just let them go."

Pets left at Animal Control have the opportunity to find a new home, but some unwanted pets are simply set free or abandoned in parking lots, Myers said.

In the weeks before the holidays, Animal Control also promoted its gift certificates. They allow recipients to pick their own pet, Myers said.

"So somebody isn't surprised with a huge dog when they wanted a kitten," she said.

Vandals damage high school

ANCHORAGE - Vandals broke into a construction site at Dimond High School and caused damage that one police officer estimated at "several tens of thousands of dollars."

A construction worker discovered the damage Sunday afternoon. Police arrived about 3:15 and found numerous broken windows, green and red paint splashed around the site, and equipment and ducting smashed. The vandals also smashed the windows and damaged the engine of a dump truck.

"From what we're seeing, there were at least three people, maybe more, involved," Officer John Daily said. "They spent a good amount of time doing this.",

The vandals climbed a 6-foot chain-link fence surrounding the new building and broke a padlock to gain entry, he said.

School Superintendent Carol Comeau said it's unknown whether Dimond students were involved, but she suspects the vandals were young.

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