Oct. 18, 2012
To the editor:
Our beloved Sonny Man (Leonard Stickman Jr.) was born on Aug.13, 1961, to Leonard Stickman and Paulina (Ambrose) Stickman. He was born in a helicopter above the Melozi River on the way to Tanana Hospital.
Sonny was an accomplished artist, known for his traditional dreamcatchers. He had graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Sonny left us in May in Tulalip, Wash. He was buried on May 12 in Nulato.
Sonny lived with the Tulalip Indians in Washington state. We attended a memorial ceremony held by Sonny’s Tulalip family. Like us, the Indians there burn food before the service. They prepare whole meals on platters, then put the food in the fire and give the plate away. They burned food this way for Sonny and others they had lost. Then they burned the table cloth and two sets of brand new clothes and a couple of blankets for Sonny. They put Sonny’s belongings on a blanket, prayed and held his stuff in the smoke and prayed. Then they burned the blanket it had been on.
They gave his belongings to his sisters for our giveaway. His Tulalip family will put a cross at their cemetery next to Ivy and Barney, who “adopted” Sonny.
We had a potlatch at the Tulalip Tribes Community Building. We ate fresh bread, salmon, crab legs, prawns, clams and baked desserts. We made some moose soup and we had also brought salmon strips and dry meat. Everyone made speeches, sharing stories and laughter about Sonny. We then watched a slide show of Sonny that his friend had prepared. The Nulato people then shared our Athabascan dances and songs. Right before the giveaway, the four boys that Sonny helped raised were crying very hard. Everyone stopped what they were doing and prayed over each one of the boys, singing their healing songs until they were OK.
We learned a lot from the interaction with our cousins from the south, who so graciously adopted our beloved Sonny. The family wishes to thank everyone who helped during the time in Nulato and in Washington.
Josephine Elizabeth Semaken
Paul John Mountain