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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 1, 2003 - Issue 99


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Honoring Elders

credits: Alaska Native Heritage Center. Photo #1 Anna Anvil, Photos #2 Alberta Stephan, Photo #3 Shirley Jimerson

Anna Anvil(Anchorage, AK) - The Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC) will be presenting special programming to honor Elders on Saturday, November 1, 2003 from 10am to 5pm at the ANHC. This is one of the continuing series of Celebrating Culture Saturdays sponsored by BP, which presents a unique cultural program each week. Complimentary refreshments will be provided starting at 11:30am.

The Alaska Native Heritage Center recognizes the importance of honoring Elders for the contributions they have made to our families and communities. Within Native culture, children were taught to give their "first" bird or animal kill, a bucket of berries or something that they made to an Elder. Today in many villages, the first salmon or animal killed is still given to the Elders of the community. For Alaska Native people living in Anchorage and being so far away from their families in rural villages, the practice of sharing a "first" with an Elder is often difficult. The Alaska Native Heritage Center's Honoring Elders Day is an event that reaches into the Native Cultural tradition of sharing with Elders. Elders have shared their values, traditional knowledge and cared for us. This is an opportunity to say "thank you".

There will be special performances by the Mount Susitna Sleeping Lady Singers and Drummers, ANHC Dance Troupe and the Artie Joseph Fiddlers. The Mount Susitna Singers Sleeping Lady Singers and Drummers were founded in 1990 and are devoted to a sober lifestyle. Their songs are primarily in the traditional style of the Northern Plains and also include some from the Southern Plains. The group embraces contemporary innovations to augment their traditional background. The Alaska Native Heritage Center's Dance Troupe began in the fall of 2001 as part of ANHC's After-School Program for Alaska Native high school students. The initial vision was to offer a performance component to the students, teaching them traditional Native dance (Yup'ik Eskimo dancing). The group has studied with master dance instructors from throughout the state, expanding its performance repertoire to include Tsimshian, Inupiaq, and Aleut singing and dancing. The dancers, dressed in traditional regalia, perform dances that tell stories of traditional Native legends and lifestyles. The Artie Joseph Fiddlers are from Anchorage and their members include Artie Joseph, Louise Britton and David Chanar. The Athabascans of Interior Alaska learned fiddle music and step dancing from early traders and quickly made it their own. Distinctive styles developed along the great waterways that cut through the vast Interior landscape. Fiddle dances have become popular with other Alaska Native cultures and are an endearing tradition that Athabascan fiddlers continue to share.

Margaret Andrews, Inupiat and Yup'ik, will be giving the welcome. Andrews lived in the Inupiaq village of Pt. Hope, the Yup'ik village of St. Marys and the Athabascan village of Kaltag. She has worked and served in many Native organizations including four years at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Her grandfather, Pete Nakak, was from Big Diomede Island and her grandmother, Nora, was from Stebbins and St. Michael. Andrews is skilled in making parkas, Yup'ik dancer dolls and ivory and bead jewelry.

Alberta StephanAlberta Stephan, Athabascan, will be giving a blessing to the younger generation. Stephan is an Elder and Tradition Bearer from the village of Eklutna. She has served on various advisory committees since the inception of the Alaska Native Heritage Center in 1987 and currently serves on the Center's Program and Policy Committee. Stephan also serves on the Southcentral Foundation Elders Committee and has published several books on the Athabascan people of Cook Inlet.

Shirley JimersonShirley Jimerson, Upper Tanana Athabascan and of the Naltslln Clan, will be the guest storyteller. Jimerson currently lives in Anchorage but grew up in Tetlin. She has been fluent in her language since early childhood. This was the first language in their household. Her grandmother, Ada David, made sure the children of the family learned the ways and stories of old times and how she came over the mountain by Tetlin Lake as a child. She remembers the quiet winter nights listening to her grandmother's stories. Although she can't remember the voice of her grandmother, she does acknowledge the great impact she made which helped mold who she is today.

Native Arts and Crafts sessions will be available throughout the day for all ages. Instructions include how to make: Athabascan Chokers, Yup'ik/Cup'ik Women's Tool Bags, Inupiaq/St. Lawrence Island Yupik Hunting Slings, Aleut Visors and Southeast Stone Necklaces. Several videos will be shown such as Stories Given, Stories Shared, Siulipta Paitaat: Our Ancestors' Heritage, The Way We Live, Haida Elders Interviews and Agayuliyararput: Our Way of Making Prayer. There will be Native storytelling and demonstrations of Native games.

Visitors can experience the five recreated village sites that illustrate the traditional structures in a typical village before or shortly after contact with non-Native cultures. Knowledgeable tour guides will share the history, culture and traditions of each site.


The Alaska Native Heritage Center is an independent, nonprofit that is open year-round as a gathering place to celebrate, perpetuate and share Alaska Native cultures; it is a place for all people. It is located at 8800 Heritage Center Drive in northeast Anchorage, just off Muldoon Road North near Bartlett High School. For more information about other events and programs, visit

Anchorage, AK Map

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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