FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Yesterday the University of Alaska Fairbanks celebrated its first annual Indigenous Peoples Day with music, dancing, panel discussions and food. David Spindler was there and files this report.
Though the weather was still bitterly cold with wind and rain, that didn't stop several of the faculty, staff, and students of U-A-F from coming together to help celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day. Respected elder Anna Frank opened the event with a blessing over the Troth Yeddha Park. UAF's vice chancellor of rural, community, and native education Evon Peter along with the Dena Inter-Tribal Dance group sang a few native dancing songs. The event continued at the Wood Center. Chancellor of U-A-F, Dan White, gave an official welcome to celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day. Anna Frank spoke about what she told her grandson about the day honoring and respecting their ancestors.
Anna Frank; Fairbanks Alaska>>"He asked what it's all about and I said well we used to celebrate Columbus Day because they said he discovered us but he never did we were always here. And so were beginning to recognize our own people and that the indigenous people has always been here."
A student and faculty panel discussed the meaning of Indigenous Peoples Day and what message they would like to send to their descendants. Student Christina Edwin talked about how she hopes Indigenous Peoples Day will become a more recognizable holiday not just in Alaska but also the nation.
Christina Edwin; UAF Student>>"Indigenous people's day, recognized by the state of Alaska is a huge win for natives across the state, Alaska Natives. It's a point for us to come together and talk about our history and it's also a win for the state to recognize the history of colonization in the state of Alaska."
Edwin explains how a time for healing was also a part of the discussion.
Christina Edwin; UAF Student>>"It's not just my healing journey, it's the community across the globe. And we have also the potential to continue this moving forward and we all have to be at the table to talk about it, to acknowledge it, to feel it, to dance it, to sing it, all these things are part of healing."
David Spindler reporting.