A number of events were held throughout Alaska in honor of Native American/Alaska Native Heritage Month in November. The University of Alaska-Anchorage (UAA) Native Student Council held their 3rd annual Giving Thanks Dance Festival and Potluck this past November.
“Three years ago we discussed ideas for what type of an event to have to celebrate Alaska Native Heritage Month on campus and also provide a Thanksgiving gathering/feast for students who couldn’t go home for the holiday,” says Kyle Worl, a UAA Native Student Council member.
The event began with a potluck and an estimated 550 people attended that event and the dances that followed. Dance groups including Yurapik, Tlingit & Haida Dancers of Anchorage, Anchorage Unangax Dancers, Anchorage Inupiaq Northern Lights Dancers performed, as did Piiyuuk Shields and Byron Nicholai and Yukon Knik Athabaskan Fiddlers. During the event, Ariel “Bisco” Taylor painted his impressions into a mural. Bisco is known for his sketching cartoons and street art, a contemporary art form related to graffiti.
The large turnout during the event has caused organizers to recognize they may have outgrown the UAA Cuddy Hall, and will likely have to find a larger venue next year.
The drum beat was strong and attendees enjoyed and celebrated Alaska Native culture while meeting and visiting new and old friends. The UAA Native Student Council awarded Sheila Randazzo with the Student Advocacy & Support Award for her dedication to helping students succeed. Kudos to the motivated students, faculty and sponsors who helped to make the event a success!