November is Native American/Alaska Native Heritage Month, and a number of events are held in Alaska. I have gone to a few events and spoke at a local school to share stories about growing up in fish camp and about Athabascan life. On November 18, the University of Alaska-Anchorage (UAA) Native Student Council held their 3rd annual Giving Thanks Dance Festival & Potluck.
UAA Native Student Council member, Kyle Worl, says, “Three years ago we were trying to think of an event to celebrate Alaska Native Heritage Month on campus and also provide a Thanksgiving gathering/feast for students that couldn’t go home for the holiday.”
They started out the event with a potluck. People from the community attended. Dance groups performed, including Yurapik, Tlingit & Haide Dancers of Anchorage, Anchorage Unangax Dancers, Anchorage Inupiaq Northern Lights Dancers, Piiyuuk Shields and Byron Nicholai and Yukon Knik Athabaskan Fiddlers. Ariel “Bisco” Taylor painted during the event. I caught the last half of the event.
The event was crowded with an estimated 550 people who attended throughout the event. Organizers say it looks like they have outgrown the UAA Cuddy Hall, and will likely have to find a larger venue next year.
I love hearing the drum beat and people enjoying and celebrating Alaska Native culture. I also enjoy seeing friends and relatives. The Native Student Council awarded Sheila Randazzo with the Student Advocacy & Support Award. Kudos to the motivated students, faculty and sponsors who helped to make the event a success!