asked to explain the red T-shirt she was wearing while addressing
the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, the cultural heritage
and youth director for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe IRA translated
the word printed on the shirt and described its importance among
Native youth athletes.
means raven. The Dena'ina are raven clan," said Amber Glenzel,
who also serves the Kenai Peninsula tribe as its resident anthropologist.
significantly, though, she said the shirt with its Native word and
raven illustration printed in black is an inspiration to tribal
young people participating in this year's Native Youth Olympics.
new uniforms gave them a sense of pride and were part of the reason
our team received the Team Sportsmanship Award for 2003," Glenzel
shirt is one component of the Kenaitze team's uniform, which also
includes red, white and blue jackets and blue pants.
described the Kenaitze tribe's youth program to the Soldotna business
people, telling them of the program's history, its accomplishments
and future endeavors.
tribe has had a Native Youth Olympic team since 1991, she said,
but until recently only a handful of young people participated.
athletes now number 17 on the varsity team and 14 on the junior
team, plus many others under age 14 the minimum for traveling
to competitions with the team.
addition to the athletes, the tribe boasts a drum and dance group
that includes 25 drummers and 35 dancers, eight of whom have been
selected as Alaska cultural performers for the Arctic Winter Games
in northern Alberta, Canada next year.
train the kids all winter long," Glenzel said.
not just about winning. We train them to excel. It's about being
the best you can be," she said.
said she and her staff, which includes Laura Kroto, Hildur Feakes
and Amber Gardner, teach cultural traditions to the young people
and as a result, the tribe has many youth who are proud to be part
of the Native group.
Native Youth Olympics competition, team members compete in 10 different
Eskimo games, each having a significant link to Native traditional
the games are the one-foot high kick and the two-foot high kick.
hunters were returning from a hunt, they needed a way to communicate
to the village whether they had been successful," Glenzel said.
traditional Eskimo hunter would use the one-foot high kick to indicate
the hunt was successful. The two-foot high kick meant he was not."
event, the seal hop, recalls a Native seal hunting practice during
which Eskimos would dress in seal furs and hop like seals along
doing this, the disguised hunters could sneak up close to seals,"
kneel jump hails back to the practice of Eskimos who would jump
up from ice floes from a kneeling position while seal hunting.
the various competitions, Glenzel teaches youth about traditional
Native practices, such as fishing in Kenai Peninsula waters.
Kenaitze fished on the Kenai Peninsula thousands of years ago,"
she said. "It's nothing new."
said she conducted a traditional fish camp for youth, and twice
last year, the group placed Native fish traps in the Swanson River.
didn't catch anything, though. I don't know what I'm doing wrong,"
somewhat humorous, the tale does point to a problem Glenzel fears
among her tribe.
don't have many elders left who know traditional ways. Many have
only heard stories about them and passed them along," she said.
year we did a language assessment and found there are only three
speakers left who speak the Kenai dialect of the Dena'ina language,"
an attempt to help remedy the problem some see as a disappearing
heritage, Glenzel said her staff goes into Kenai Peninsula schools
as often as they can to teach children about Native traditions.
also informed the business people of an opportunity to help the
Native youth team members pay for expenses when traveling to competitions.
will have an auction dinner Feb. 6. We would like to see you there,"