Strength and Resilience From Cultural Traditions
by Jacqueline Dailey
Regardless of where one lives in Alaska, there is an unparalleled beauty, a rich history, and some kind of good fish tale. And with visitors, no matter who they are, we have an opportunity to showcase what life has been and still is in Alaska. In this issue, we highlight Alaska Native traditions and ways of life in the Chugach Region and Southeast Alaska. Alaska’s ways of life are about our successes and resiliency rooted in culture and tradition.
In May, Tatitlek hosted the 22nd annual Peksulineq (Pook-sue-lin-ooq) Festival, a cultural preservation gathering of people from surrounding communities that provides an opportunity for students, Elders, and instructors to share and learn Native arts, traditions, and the language of the Alutiiq people.
This month from June 8-10 in Juneau, Celebration 2016, a biennial event, brought thousands of people together to continue their dances in regalia, traditions and customs. Celebration is one of the largest gatherings for Southeast Alaska Native peoples and is the second-largest event sponsored by Alaska Natives in the State of Alaska (the AFN Convention attended by over 5,000 people from throughout the state and beyond is the largest). Celebration draws upwards of 5,000 people, including more than 2,000 dancers. Thousands more watch the event online.
We also want to acknowledge a key partner that allows RurAL CAP to work with tribes and other community organizations to select local AmeriCorps members who will focus on working with youth for well-being and resiliency in the coming years. On her first trip to Alaska, Wendy Spencer, Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), visited AmeriCorps sites around Alaska. CNCS is the federal agency charged with empowering more than 5 million Americans through volunteer service to improve the lives of their fellow citizens. Working hand in hand with local partners, the goal of CNCS is to tap the ingenuity and can-do spirit of the American people by tackling some of the most pressing challenges facing our nation. CNCS’ Spencer journeyed to Hooper Bay to engage with RurAL CAP’s Resilient Alaska Youth AmeriCorps program participants.
Spencer, with community members, honored AmeriCorps and VISTA members in Hooper Bay and the youth group in a recognition ceremony and with small gifts. She engaged with residents about what life is like in Hooper Bay. By the end of the trip, Ms. Spencer was another fortunate visitor who was able to experience Yup’ik traditions, song, and dance from its roots. Far away in DC, Hooper Bay will be much more than just a dot on a map; it will now be a place where cultural traditions and living off the land is the lifestyle that has sustained indigenous peoples here and throughout Alaska for 10,000 years.
We have also highlighted AmeriCorps activities in Haines in this issue. Whether you are from Southeast/Haines, Tatiklek, or Hooper Bay, traditional ways of life are what keep communities and families strong.
National Service in Alaska
This year, AmeriCorps will provide more than 150 individuals the opportunity to provide intensive, results-driven service to meet education, environmental, health, economic, and other pressing needs in communities across Alaska.
Most AmeriCorps grant funding in Alaska goes to Serve Alaska, which in turn awards grants to nonprofit groups to respond to local needs. Additional grant funding is distributed by CNCS directly to multi-state and national organizations through a competitive grants process. Other individuals serve through AmeriCorps VISTA, whose members help bring individuals and communities out of poverty by serving full-time to promote literacy, improve health services, create businesses, and increase housing opportunities, and AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), a 10-month, full time residential program for men and women between the ages of 18 and 24.
In exchange for their service, AmeriCorps members earn an education award of $5,775 that can be used to pay for college or to pay back qualified student loans. Since 1994, more than 4,000 Alaska residents have served more than 5.3 million hours and have qualified for Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards totaling more than $10,930,000.