Cultural Comics

Andre Cramblit andrekar at NCIDC.ORG
Thu Sep 29 18:13:40 UTC 2005

Cultural comics

Frontiersman Valley Life editor 

Language is a fundamental link to Native cultures, and in Chickaloon, a
book project is keeping language front and center for future

After creating a CD-ROM package of language lessons for students as part
of the Koh'taen Kenaege project, the tribe has created three comic
book-style storybooks that are aimed at keeping the Ahtna language fun
and educational for students.

"We're trying to integrate traditional Ahtna language into lessons that
are fun," said Dimi Macheras, who did all the artwork for the three
books, the last of which was released this week. "It's one thing to
have tapes with language spoken on them, but it's another thing to have
something like a comic book or a CD-ROM to learn from."

The third book, "C'eyiige' Hwnax," is available at Fireside Books in
Palmer or through the Web site Macheras said that
the first two books in the project, "Tsaani" and "Besiin" were very
well received.

"We printed 150 limited-edition copies, and now we're trying to print
1,000 more because they sold out," he said. "That's what we're hoping
for this book, too."

Originally, the language project was the creation of eight CD-ROMS.
After six of those eight CDs were created, two more needed to
completed, and the Ahtna language lessons were complete.

"So we decided to make those last two CD-ROMs actual stories that used
the Ahtna language," Macheras said. "And after that, we decided to
print the stories."

For Macheras, doing the artwork for the book was one way to not only put
together one of his primary interests, art, but also to give back to his

"The stories are word for word like my grandmother, Katie Wade, a
village elder, would say them," he said. "It's nice because I'm a part
of the tribe, and this is something that helps the tribe."

Macheras has been drawing comic book-style graphics for years. He's only
24, but he can point to a simple project he did as an 11-year-old as his
first paid art job. He went to Ya Ne Dah Ah, the Chickaloon Village
school, for seventh- and eighth-grade.

Now, he's hoping to make his passion for art a full-time career.

He said he's already working with someone in Juneau to illustrate a
comic book detailing an "ancient Tlingit story," and he's working on
his own book as well.

He said he hopes his illustrations end up benefiting rural Alaskans

"It's a lot of fun, and I've learned a lot doing this job," Macheras
said. "I'd love to work with other villages designing books that they
can use to teach, and to make money for their tribes."


André Cramblit: andre.p.cramblit.86 at is the  
Operations Director Northern California Indian Development Council  
NCIDC ( is a non-profit that meets the development  
needs of American Indians

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