“The Gathering Place” is a special area of the fairgrounds dedicated to celebrating Native culture. There’s an Alaska Native arts market and a stage where many Native groups told stories and performed traditional songs and dances for fairgoers Sunday.

Alaska Native songs tell stories, explained Steven Alvarez, who directs the show “Spirit – The 7th Fire of Alaska.” The performance combines modern dance with Alaska Native dance styles to create an experience one woman said, “Made her spirit rumble.”

The Alaska Native Heritage Center, Alaska Dance Theatre, Theatre Artists United and several other groups performed.

“You know, the Alaska Natives, we’ve been here since time in memorial as we say, for 10,000 years we’ve been living and thriving and surviving in this environment, and we plan on being here for another 10,000 years. And so every time we can find a way to celebrate the fact that we are here, we’re still here, we’re still alive and we’re still thriving, I think that’s an important thing to communicate to everyone,” Alvarez said.

“It’s really honorable to be able to be sharing that with the people that never see Native dances like that from the rural villages,” said drummer and Alaskan Native James Afcan.

Off stage, he’s an artist, practicing the craft passed on to him by his father. Even his ivory art tells stories of Alaska Native life.

“It’s good to keep that alive because it’s a gift, a beautiful gift from the man upstairs,” he said.

Whether passed on through ivory or song and dance, their culture is a gift Alaska Natives like Afcan and Alvarez seem happy to share.

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