Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 2, November 2011

Elders and Youth conference sets stage for Alaska Federation of Natives
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Photos by Stephen Nowers
Condensed by Native Village


Last month, over 1,300 Alaska Natives gathered in Anchorage for the three-day Elders and Youth Conference (EYC). The yearly event seeks to ground Native youth in traditional culture as they look toward the future.

Hosted by First Alaskans Institute, his year's theme was "Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Present, Preparing for the Future."  The EYC focused on messages that promoted good health along with workshops on topics such as  culture, language and Native law.

The three keynote speakers at the event all focused on one part of that theme.

Elder Elaine Abraham, Tlingit, chairs the Alaska Native Science Commission. She spoke to the future by imploring youth to revive the use of Native names.  Native names connect us to landmarks and loved ones, unite all Native cultures and are spiritual links to past name bearers. Taking pride in one's name leads to pride in culture and family, and help ground us for the future. 
Inupiaq John Baker of Kotzebue spoke on the present and encouraged kids to stay true to their dreams. This value helped him become the first Native to win the Iditarod in 35 years. When Baker was asked to name his roll model, he said "his mother."
Adele Argaitchiaq Solski, the youngest keynote speaker, spoke about honoring the past. The Inuapiaq senior at Lathrop High School said strong connections to her culture strengthened her emotionally.

After each keynote speech, discussions were based on the qasgiq, the traditional sod house where young boys were educated by their male elders. Following the qasgiq model, young men and women separated into different rooms to talk with their elders.

Tony Kaleak performs with the Nuvukmiut Dance Group from Barrow

Members of the Acilqaq Dance Group

The Mount St. Elias Dancers

Thomas Friemering with the Anchorage Tlingit and Haida Dancers

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