Spirit of Denali Celebration returns after 8-year absence
For the past several days now, Anchorage has been a hub of activities for thousands of Native Alaskan visitors for both conferences and traditional celebrations.
Wednesday afternoon, the First Alaskans Institute's Elders and Youth Conference came to a close.
Organizers of the event say if you want to know what's happening in the community, all you have to do is talk to the elders and talk to the youth. First Alaskans Institute's Jorie Paoli tells KTVA this year over 2,000 people traveled from all over the state to Anchorage for the four-day event.
"We're really excited that it was so well attended and you know, we heard a lot of incredible feedback, a lot of ideas that people are bringing back to their communities around the things we want to do," said Paoli.
Across town, at the Brother Francis Shelter, the Spirit of Denali celebration returned to its former home for the first time since 2009. The event centered on Alaska Native Cultures.
Hundreds of people came out of the cold late Wednesday morning for traditional Native Alaskan foods and even some rare delicacies.
"Anything with Native food, I got to be there," said Nina John who attended the celebration for the first time.
"Everyday is a struggle," said Annie Larsen after taking part in a traditional dance. "But when you hear the music, you feel the music it makes your heart better."
Brother Francis Shelter program director Lisa Calderia says after an 8-year absence, it's good to see the Shelter host the event.
"It's a wonderful opportunity right now, to bring back this very important event to the shelter," she said. "It's such a rich history."
A history that also includes a population of 46 percent Alaska Native and American Indians that come through their doors for assistance. It's an issue that's hoping to be reversed through social services.
Steven Alvarez served as the Master of Ceremony. KTVA asked him about the homelessness situation to which he replied, "We all need to recognize the fact that there are tremendous amount of people and resources you know working towards this issue."
Alvarez went on to say, most importantly, the day was for Anchorage's Native community, to connect with their culture and be strengthened by it.
"You know, seeing their dances performed, even maybe coming up, and joining the dance group is a real connection to who they are, to where they come from, and their traditions," said Alvarez
The Brother Francis Shelter will host the Spirit of Denali every two years from this point forward.
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