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Full Cama-i Dance Festival returns after 3 years

In 2022 the Cama-i Festival was abbreviated and held at the Yupiit Piciraryait Cultural Center with a limited capacity, but the first full three-day-long festival since COVID-19 shut Cama-i down three years ago will start on March 24.

Linda Curda, who has been helping organize the annual dance and arts festival since the 1980s, said that the hardest work was actually having to shut down the Cama-i festival during the pandemic.

“It takes a lot of effort to put Cama-i on every year. It took almost twice as much effort to untangle it and take it apart because we already had the tickets for everyone to come from the lower 48, from Canada, from Point Hope. I mean, it was a lot of undoing,” Curda said.

This year, Cama-i is also finally honoring an Elder who was important in keeping traditional dance alive in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Curda said that Moses Pauken Sr., from St. Mary’s, has been in the front of their list of Elders for five years.

“St. Mary's was supposed to come then, was not able to, then COVID, and then last year, because of COVID, they hadn't been able to practice. And so as much as they wanted to come they just didn't feel that they were ready. So this year I'm so happy they're coming,” Curda said.

John Pingayuk from Chevak is being honored as the festival’s “Living Treasure.”

The Cama-i Dance Festival begins Friday, March 24 at Bethel Regional High School. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. with the ceremonial Lighting of the Cama-i Flame commencing at 5:25 p.m. in the gymnasium.

Francisco Martínezcuello was the KYUK News Reporting Fellow from November 2022 through January 2024. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Journalism. He is also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
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