The annual Louis Bunyan Memorial Dance Festival happens this weekend in Hooper Bay. People will be snowmachining in from surrounding communities such as Chevak and Marshall to watch and experience the spring dancing. And this year, they're seeing something more: talking circles on sobriety.
Agatha Napoleon is tired of hearing stories of all the terrible things alcohol and drugs are doing to her community. When she looks at Hooper Bay she sees resiliency, hope, and the progress that elder Louis Bunyan wished for. She wants other people to see this too, so she organized the village’s first Sobriety Celebration.
“We want to begin celebrating the goodness of Hooper Bay," Napoleon said, "and just the positivity of life out here other than the negative things that everyone hears on the media.”
Napoleon coordinates the Wellness Program for Hooper Bay’s Sea Lion Corporation. The Sobriety Celebration is going on Friday through Saturday. Napoleon had to work hard to convince 10 people in Hooper Bay to share their success stories about managing sobriety, but over time they have agreed to do it.
“Because they’re very modest and humble people, and they didn’t want to boast to the community about their sobriety," Napoleon said. "But once I explained that they would be good examples to the youth, young parents, and everyone in Hooper Bay, they decided, yes, I want to show and be an example for the community that sobriety and healthy living is possible.”
Along with the presentations, there are talking circles, and the Alaska Tribal Native Health Consortium will be there to share techniques for dealing with stress and tension.
The Louis Bunyan Memorial Dance Festival is held in honor of a well-remembered Hooper Bay elder who advocated for wellness.
“He always spoke out publicly and promoted the health and wellbeing of Hooper Bay for many, many years until he died of cancer,” Napoleon said.
Both the Sobriety Celebration and the Dance Festival will culminate in a potlatch on Saturday night.