Yuraq dancers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks - Kuskokwim Campus honored their late director, Mary Ciuniq Pete, at the Cama-i Festival this year.
Benjamin Agimuk teaches Yuraq at KuC. He chose the song and dance to honor the late Mary Pete at Cama-i. It was her first dance. Pete came from Stebbins, but the song appeared to have come from Chefornak, Agimuk said.
"The story I was told, that people from Chefornak area, they migrated up north to look for food. And when they got up to the area, on Upper Yukon where Stebbins was located, they just settled and created their own settlement," Agimuk said.
So he got permission from Chefornak to use the song.
"I just said, 'I’m going to do this song of Mary Pete’s dance,' and asked them to come up on stage with me," Agimuk said.
Agimuk also drums for Chefornak’s dance group, which performed at Cama-i. Joseph Steve is one of Pete’s first cousins from Stebbins. He remembered her love of yuraq.
"She was a very kind person, helpful and respectful," Steve said.
Pete dedicated her life to advocating for Yup’ik values and lifestyle; that includes subsistence, yuraq, and language. To honor Pete’s legacy, the Bethel Community Services Foundation set up a scholarship fund for Kuskokwim Campus students. The fund is only for returning students, and will prioritize Alaska Native women.