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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Barrow dance group will perform for Obama
by Amanda Coyne - Alaska Dispatch
credits: Photo courtsey of Rex Okakok Sr.
Photo courtsey of Rex Okakok Sr.About 10 days ago, Barrow resident Rex Okakok Sr. got the news that a dance group he belongs to, the Suurimmanitchuat Eskimo Dance Group, led today by elder Warren Matumeak, would be heading to Washington, D.C., to perform in the Jan. 20 Inaugural Parade following President-elect Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony. Palmer’s Colony High School marching band is also invited to perform.

“We are all so excited,” Okakok said about the trip when contacted at his home in Barrow. “We couldn’t believe that this was actually going to happen.” He thinks the group is talented, but he suspects that something else was afoot to get them chosen. “They probably got really excited when they saw that Eskimos had applied,” he said.

The Inupiaq word suurimmanitchuat roughly translates to, “I don’t give a damn,” which was a word used in one of the first songs they danced to around 1990. The group, which now has about 25 members, didn’t initially have a name when they formed, and so the community began to call them the Suurimmanitchuats, which eventually stuck.

“It’s Eskimo humor,” Okakok said.

When asked what the group would look like and how they would dress, he said, “Not like Sarah Palin,” and then he laughed.

The Suurimmanitchuats are going to have to do some quick fund-raising to get from Barrow to Washington. They have a place to stay when they get there, but a search on Alaska Airline’s website shows tickets during that time running nearly $2,000.

The Suurimmaanitchuats are no strangers to travel. They’ve been as far away as China and were one of three Alaskan Native dance groups invited to perform at the grand opening ceremony of the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C.

The dancers will join roughly a thousand other Alaskans who will head to D.C. to be part of the ceremony. That’s as many tickets as were allotted Alaska’s congressional delegation.

Tickets to the celebration were in such demand that Senator-elect Mark Begich’s office received about 400 requests for them the day that Begich won the election. Both Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen.-Elect Mark Begich have held a lottery to decide who gets the tickets, which doesn’t get you a seat but a closer view of the ceremony.

Rep. Don Young’s office didn’t immediately return a phone call asking how he was going to divvy up the roughly 200 tickets given to him.

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