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Celebrating Alaska’s Native Cultures – and John Baker – in Song

text and photos by David Dodman

On Tuesday morning, Nome’s Front Street seemed to be overflowing, joyfully, with Alaskan traditions.

Not only did Tuesday see the finish of Iditarod’s first Inupiaq champion – musher John Baker, from the northwestern city of Kotzebue – but it also saw a new record time for the race, a competition that has roots in Alaskan history from long before its statehood.

And, the event was, literally, set to the most traditional music in the Great Land: that of Alaska Native peoples.

Below, you’ll find pictures from the two ensembles that, together, offered a double serenade for John Baker as he pulled to a finish in Nome.

One group, Pamyua (pronounced BUM-you-uh), is a world music ensemble that specializes in putting a modern spin on the traditional songs of Western Alaska’s Native peoples. The other, the King Island Drummers and Dancers, is an ensemble headquartered in Nome that performs and keeps alive many of these same traditional songs.

Together, the two groups were quite a sight to see.

Pamyua members

A few members of Pamyua, performing next to the Iditarod finish line (the Burled Arch) on Tuesday.

Pamyua's rap

Pamyua's performance included a Western Alaskan "rap," sung in an Alaska Native language, which the gathered Iditarod fans throughly enjoyed.

The King Island Drummers and Dancers

A few of the King Island Drummers and Dancers, performing traditional Alaska Native music at John Baker's championship finish.

King Island elder

One of the members of the King Island Drummers and Dancers.

1 Comment

  1. Language Learning with Rosetta Stone on March 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    […] wish we could’ve been in Nome with the Native singers, drummers, and dancers to cheer John across the finish line. Aarigaa akimagaviñ, John […]