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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 20, 2004 - Issue 109


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Alaska Native Heritage Center Celebrates Traditional Mushing Day

Emmitt Peters and his sled

Emmitt Peters and his sled(Anchorage, AK) - Alaskans can learn about the traditional uses of dog teams by Native peoples and the importance they played in their survival. Programming will also recall the courageous cross-country dog sled trip from Anchorage to Nome to deliver serum to fight a diphtheria epidemic in 1925. The Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC) celebrates Traditional Mushing Day on March 20, 2004 from 10am to 5pm. Traditional Mushing Day is one of the continuing series of Celebrating Culture Saturdays sponsored by BP.

Prior to dog sled racing, dog teams were used by Native people in their daily lives for survival. Alaskan sled dogs of that time were large, capable of pulling heavy weight and were used for hauling food back to the villages. Presentations will focus on different uses for the teams, differences in equipment and in the dogs themselves.

Emmit Peters, famous Athabascan Iditarod musher, will be giving a special presentation on traditional dog mushing, racing and working trap lines. Peters, also known as "The Yukon River Fox", won the Iditarod as a rookie in 1975 by cutting six full days off the previous race time and setting a speed record that stood for five years. Peters grew up with sled dogs in Ruby and brought a lifetime of knowledge to the race. Peters spent five years as a top 10 finisher and even continued to run the race after a training accident shattered his knee in 1986. He came out of retirement to run the race again in 2000 turning in his fastest time ever at age 59.

There will be performances by the Fireweed Dancers, King Island Singers and Dancers of Anchorage and the Alaska Native Heritage Center's Dance Group. The Fireweed Dancers were formed in May 2003 when a student shared a song with others and inspired others to join in. Currently, 10 to 15 dancers are learning and performing songs from all over Alaska. As part of their growth, they create their own songs as well as making their own regalia, drums and dance fans. Fireweed Dancers range in age from 14 to 17 years and represent all regions of Alaska. The King Island Dancers and Singers of Anchorage, Inupiat, will have two performances. Although the Bureau of Indian Affairs relocated the King Island people to Nome they continue to strive to keep their traditions alive. The late Paul Tiulana founded the King Island Dance group in the 1970's to preserve the traditional values and rich heritage of the King Island people. Most of the dance equipment and dance masks the group uses today were hand made by Paul and his son, Eugene. The King Island Dancers and Singers have performed all over Alaska and the world. The Alaska Native Heritage Center Dance Group was created in the fall of 2001 as part of the 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.

There will be hands on classes in Alaska Native dance, language and art as part of an ongoing ANHC Cultural Education Program sponsored by the CIRI Foundation. Art and language classes will be held each Saturday and will run for 4 to 6 weeks. Language classes will be Unangax Aleut with Sally Swetzof from 11am to 1pm, Deg'i tan Athabascan with Louise Winkleman and Martha Wassillie from 1pm to 3pm and Tlingit with Paul Marks from 3pm to 5pm. Art classes will be Alutiiq basket weaving with Natalia Inga from 10am to 12:30pm and sewing a Yup'ik doll parka with Eva Bryant from 2pm to 4:30pm. Dance classes will be Inupiaq dance with Ed Tiulana at 10:30am, Aleut (Unangan) dance with Crystal Swetzof at 2pm and Alutiiq dance with June Pardue at 4pm. Each dance class will last a half an hour. To register for art and language classes, call 330-8002, Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm. There is no registration necessary for the dance classes.

In addition to the art classes there will be arts and crafts sessions for all ages. Several videos will be shown such as The Serum Race to Nome, Winter Patrol, Armchair Mushing and Stories Given, Stories Shared. Weather permitting there will be snowshoeing.

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 at each site.


The Alaska Native Heritage Center is an independent, nonprofit that is committed to sharing, perpetuating and preserving the unique Alaska Native cultures, languages, traditions and values through celebration and education. 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 free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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