Rita Pitka Blumenstein - Alaska
"The past is not a burden; it is a scaffold which brought us to this day. We are free to be who we are--to create our own life out of our past and out of the present. We are our ancestors. When we can heal ourselves, we also heal our ancestors, our grandmothers, our grandfathers and our children. When we heal ourselves, we heal Mother Earth."
Grandmother Rita Pitka Blumenstein serves as the first certified tribal doctor in the state of Alaska. She believes her name, "Tail End Clearing of the Pathway to the Light" reflects her mission to heal.
She is a Yup'ik mother, grandmother, great grandmother, wife, aunt, sister, friend, tribal elder. Her early education came from studying with her mother, aunts and village elders. Because of this unique education, she intimately understands the traditional ways and beliefs of her people.
In 1995, she learned she had cancer. She knew she had to heal at the deepest levels. Well known as a traditional healer, teacher, and artist, she has spent over forty years investigating, producing, and passing on many aspects of Alaska Native culture such as song, drumming, skin sewing, basketry, storytelling, and use of plants for dyes and medicinal purposes. She has traveled and taught in 167 countries - Alaska Native plant medicine, basket weaving, songs and dances, leading cultural issue classes where she instructs on the "talking circle."