Rita Pitka Blumenstein

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Rita Pitka Blumenstein
Born 1936 (age 80–81)
Tununak, Nelson Island, Alaska
Nationality American
Other names Tail End Clearing of the Pathway to the Light
Occupation Tribal Doctor
Known for Traditional healer, teacher, artist

Rita Pitka Blumenstein (born 1936) was the first certified traditional doctor in Alaska.[1] She works for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Blumenstein has been a member of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers—a group of spiritual elders, medicine women and wisdom keepers—since its founding in 2004.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born to her recently widowed mother who lived in the village of Tununak, Nelson Island, Alaska, Blumenstein was born while her mother was in a fishing boat.[3] Blumenstein felt angry not having her father around when she was a girl, because he died a month before she was born.[4]

Blumenstein was given a Yup'ik name means 'Tail End Clearing of the Pathway to the Light'—Rita sees the poetry in the name as she regards herself as being born during "the tail end of the old ways".[5]

Blumenstein's healing abilities were recognised by the wise elders (grandmothers) of her tribe from an early age. Blumenstein began healing at the age of 4.[4]

At the age of 9, Blumenstein's great-grandmother gave her thirteen eagle feathers and thirteen stones to give to the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers.[6] Years later, when the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers convened for the first time, Blumenstein passed out these precious objects to the rest of the members with tears in her eyes.[7]

Family life[edit]

Blumenstein was married to her husband, a Jewish man, for 43 years. Five of Blumenstein's 6 children have also died.[8] Blumenstein's own health has not always been good and in 1995, she found that she had cancer.[1] Blumenstein saw that being diagnosed with cancer made her realise that she needed to heal herself at a 'deeper' level—concluding that the cancer was due to being angry that her father had not been present in her early years.[4] Blumenstein is training her granddaughter to follow in her footsteps in order to be a healer and to know their Yup'ik traditions.[8]

Work as healer and doctor[edit]

After Blumenstein started healing people from the age of 4.[4] She "worked at many hospitals delivering babies as a doctor's aide in Bethel and Nome".[9] Rita carried on learning from her elders to become the first certified traditional doctor in Alaska and presently works for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.[10]

Work as a teacher[edit]

Blumenstein has taught in over 150 countries on cultural issues, basket weaving, song, and dance, "earning money for Native American Colleges".[9] Her teachings about the "Talking circle" have been published.[8]

The International Council of 13 Grandmothers[edit]

In 2004, Blumenstein was approached by The Center for Sacred Studies to serve on the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. The Council has been active in protecting indigenous rights and medicines, and traditional teachings on wisdom.

She was interviewed on her work with the Council by the Women Rising Radio Project in 2011.[11]

Acclaim within Alaska[edit]

In 2006 both Blumenstein's tribe, the Yup'ik and her mayor declared the 18 February to be Rita Pitka Blumenstein day.[8]

In 2009, Blumenstein was one of fifty women inducted into the inaugural class of the Alaska Women's Hall of Fame.[12]


  1. ^ a b "Rita Pitka Blumenstein - Alaska at Evergreen". The Evergreen State College. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  2. ^ Schaefer (2006) p. 2
  3. ^ Schaefer (2006) pp. 43–46
  4. ^ a b c d Schaefer (2006) p. 46
  5. ^ Schaefer (2006) p. 45
  6. ^ "Heartland: Just Like Grandma Told You". Utne Reader. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  7. ^ Schaefer (2006) pp. 48–49
  8. ^ a b c d Schaefer (2006) p. 48
  9. ^ a b "The Center for Indigenous Service Learning presents "Planting Seeds for Seven Generations"". Northwest Indian College. 2011. Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  10. ^ Native Village Publications
  11. ^ "Women Rising XI: International Council of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers". Women Rising Radio Project. 2011-10-21. Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  12. ^ "Alaska Women's Hall of Fame announces inaugural class". University of Alaska Anchorage. March 4, 2009. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 


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