Elders, State legislators, and musicians speak at Elders and Youth Conference

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Tuesday was third day of the 36th Annual Elders and Youth Conference. There were many speakers, including Elder keynote speaker and language teacher Sally Tugidam Ayagaa Swetzof from Atka. She spoke on how the process of teaching her native language has changed.

"Our language does not need to be translated to English in order to teach in order to teach it or learn it," began Swetzof. “When we used to teach using English translations, our students would only be memorizing words or phrases, not really learning how to speak in our language. About six years ago we started using a newer way of teaching and learning that does not use English. We have had intensive twelve week long language workshops called 'Summer Language Intensive.' At the end of the summer intensive they are able to have actual conversations and speak in complete sentences. This does not mean they are fluent after one summer, but they are definitely on their way and are able to track their own progress. Most importantly, all the learners also learn how to teach others what they have learned."

Representative Tiffany Zulkosky and Senator Elvi Gray-Jackson also addressed the conference today. They spoke about the bill that was recently signed into law.

"It was signed into law I think about a week ago," said Rep. Zulkosky. "November, from here on out, will permanently acknowledge 'Alaska Native Heritage Month’."

"I said to myself, (inaudible), if I ever got to be a member of the legislature;" started Sen. Gray-Jackson. "I’m not going to do a resolution, I’m going to do a bill so that it’s permanently in state statutes, and never going to go away, going to be there forever."

Members of "Portugal. The Man," the Alaskan grown band who spoke about the youth of Alaska villages during their acceptance speech for a Grammy Award, were also invited to this year's conference.

"It's not really about us, it's about all of you and your culture," said Zach Carothers from Portugal. The Man. "We just want everyone here, especially the youth, to know that everybody has a story. That's what we do, we're story tellers. We travel around and we tell, we share our story. We share everything that we learn and I just want you to know that your stories inspire our stories."

Wednesday is the final day of the Elders and Youth Conference.

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