Ban on Native dancing in Noorvik
By VICTORIA BARBER
Condensed by Native
Growing up in the Inupiaq village of
Noorvik, 17-year-old Chaylen Jackson had
only seen traditional dancing from
"I'd see them on TV. I would try to copy
them dancing and sing with them,"
That's because there hasn't been
traditional dancing in Noorvik for
almost 100 years. it was forbidden by
missionaries in the early 1900s.
Last September, traditional dancing
returned to Noorvik for the first time.
"It's a long story of how Eskimo dancing
was taken away from our culture," said
Hendy Ballot Sr., tribal administrator
"We're a generation that is pretty much
losing all our Native culture, language,
lifestyle and traditions, like dancing."
The idea to bring dancing back to Noorvik
came from the upcoming U.S. Census. On
Jan. 25, Noorvik will be the first U.S. town
to be counted. Congressmen, the national
media, and the eyes of the nation will
be on the town. Noorvik wanted Native dancing
as part of the celebration.
But no one in the village knew how to
dance, and so Noorvik looked outside for
help. The Northern
Lights and Kotzebue Dance Team visited
the town and held classes for students
and the community.
"They picked it immediately.
wonderful to see that it was welcomed so
warmly," said school principal
Doyle Horton . "This is history --
history in the making."
One dancer, Amil Burns, wanted to instruct in Noorvik so badly that he moved
his home in Noatak. Burns is now teaching
village residents so that they can pass
along the tradition. Even after the
census celebration is over, the school plans to include the
dancing as part of its curriculum.
The dancing has revived other traditions
as well. Elder Clarence Jackson volunteers at
school's shop class. He teaches students how to make sled frames, sea
mammal spears and traditional
Inupiaq tools. When the school started
to prepare for dance classes, Jackson
was asked to build drums
for the dancing.
"I didn't even know how it was supposed
to work, or how it was supposed to look,
so I was kind of puzzled when he asked
me," Jackson said.
Jackson found a drum in town which came from
examining it, Jackson figured out how to
bend the hardwood frame, glue the pieces
together and secure the nylon drum skin.
He has made four drums so far.
"I was surprised that I could make
drums, but right now I think I got it,"
Jackson said. While he doesn't dance,
Jackson says "I love to
High school junior Chaylen Jackson couldn't wait to be a part of
the dancing when it came to town. At first she was shy
but "once you do it two or three times
you eventually get the hang of it," she
When asked why there had never been
dancing in town before Jackson
responded, "I guess nobody thought of it
and thought of how fun it was."
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