Alaska celebrated Indigenous Peoples' Day on Monday and first peoples in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta joined in the celebrations along with tribal communities across the state. KYUK has this story from the Kuskokwim University Campus Indigenous Peoples' Day gathering.
A smudging ceremony joined with traditional singing led by John McIntyre to start festivities off at the Cultural Center in Bethel.
“While they’re purifying the whole area in here as we do the blessing song, if you wanna come up and dance or dance where you are,” said McIntyre.
After the opening blessings, Native Youth Olympians, led by Lower Kuskokwim School District NYO Coach Tommy Bayayok, demonstrated some traditional Native games.
“We demonstrated One-Foot and Two-Foot, which are signals people are out hunting and they need help with a successful catch of big game,” said Bayayok. “Back then there was no cellphones, no Facebook, no CB, so they would communicate with One-Foot and Two-Foot if they need help.”
Song and dance groups from the Kuskokwim Learning Academy and Bethel Regional High School performed as the youth and others ate traditional Yup’ik foods like dried fish, seal oil, and akutaq.
Vivian Korthuis, President of the Association of Village Council Presidents, helped lead the welcoming ceremony and said that she was happy with the turnout, but with the event now made official by state legislation, she hoped that annual festivities would grow.
“I’m hoping that Ayaprun Elitnaurvik joins next year and elders,” said Korthuis. “I think we're missing elders here, and it would be really nice to have a really good celebration next year.”
District 38 Representative Zach Fansler says that he also hopes to see festivities grow, not just in the YK Delta, but statewide too.
“This is a great start and I couldn’t be more pleased and honored to be able to participate today and just celebrate indigenous cultures around our whole region,” said Fansler. “We have so many amazing things that happen here, and this is just hopefully another one in that blanket that we continue to weave for years to come.”