FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Late last week, the Festival of Native Arts on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus brought people from around the state together in celebration of Alaska Native dancing, crafts, food, and culture.
This is the 45th year for the annual event, which aims to strengthen bonds between the state's people and showcase the best of Native culture.
Elias Saylor; Troth Yeddha' Dancers>>
"My name is Elias Saylor, I'm from Healy Lake and Tanana, and my clan is Naltsiin."
Caitlin Tozier; Student Coordinator>>"So I grew up in Nome, which - the Inupiaq name for Nome is Sitasuaq, but my family is from Deering, Alaska, or Ipnatchiaq.
Evon Peter; UAF Vice Chancellor>>"I was so inspired, listening to the Troth Yeddha' Dancers come up and introduce themselves through their languages. And for those of us that could understand some of them, understood that there were multiple different languages being spoken by those dancers that really brought together the Dena'a, or Athabascan peoples, from Interior Alaska, and it was such an inspiring thing to hear, and it really is reflective of this time that we're living in."
Caitlin Tozier; Student Coordinator>>"It's an event that's really important to us, because it's an event for us to celebrate who we are and the best versions of ourselves. It brings young students onto campus, it brings elders onto campus, it brings people into this community, which hasn't always been welcoming to Alaska Native people.
We bring people here purely for the purpose of celebration, and that's what we do in some of our smaller communities. Students, when they started it 45 years ago, were homesick, and they were saying, 'I wish we had something to connect us all together.' And so they started this, and it's like, now it's 45 years later, and I'm like, 'Oh man, this is a pretty big responsibility.'
We aren't the biggest group on campus, you know, as Alaska Native people, but we put together stuff like this, and it brings in people from all over the place who don't know anything about Alaska Native culture and it gives them the best introduction, I think, to this type of thing. So I mean, the vendors and the artists get to share their crafts with people who have never seen anything like it, and the dance groups - we have a lot of younger groups this year, students in their schools revitalizing dance in their schools, and now they're bringing it here to this community."