Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Elders and Youth Conference Celebrates, Honors Past and Prepares for Future
The 28th annual conference features youth and elders from around the state and this year looks to have record turnout.
The Alaska Federation of Natives Convention starts in Anchorage on Thursday, but already there are plenty of visitors in town from around the state. They are here for the annual Elders and Youth Conference, a three-day event that precedes the AFN Convention; both are taking place at the Dena’ina Center downtown.
The Elders and Youth Conference is in its 28th year. The theme this year is “Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Present, Preparing for the Future.”
The conference features youth and elders from around the state and this year looks to have record turnout. There are workshops, breakout sessions and fun events planned throughout the conference.
Illiodor Philemonof is attending for his fourth year in a row. He says he is looking forward to the chance to listen and learn from elders.
“They have strong words for the youth and I think that's one thing that we are actually listening this time. Instead of having them speak when we don’t want to hear, now we really want to listen to them,” says Philemonof.
The conference will also tackle serious subjects like suicide prevention and substance abuse, and giving young people tools to take back to their communities. Organizers say a key part is sharing traditions in a way that seems relevant to young people.
“It's really important to be able to take the traditional culture and blend it with the unique aspect of the new generation,” says First Alaskans President Denise Morris. “We have individuals who rap in Yup’ik and we do the ‘lawnmower’ when we dance but we have our traditional music in the background.”
Honoring the wisdom that comes with age is an important reason to bring elders and youth together and this year the two seem to be listening and learning from each other.