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A Western Alaskan Education

The Teller Dance Group at the Kawerak Regional Conference

The Teller Dance Group at the Kawerak Regional Conference

Last week, Kawerak hosted their annual Regional Conference: three days of presentations, informational booths, vendor tables, music, dance, comedy, and food. 

People from all over the state attended the conference, including elders, student representatives from the villages in the Bering Straits region, and ambassadors for organizations based in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Various KNOM volunteers went to different events to ensure that a summary of most of the presentations could be included in the next day’s Update News broadcast, and I ran over to the Rec Center after my DJ shift to record music from the Diomede, Nome/St. Lawrence Island, Savoonga, Teller, and King Island drum and dance groups.

The Kawerak Regional Conference was amazing on several levels. First and foremost, it was incredible to see continuing dialogue on topics such as language preservation techniques, specific solutions to promote community healing, and generational communication between elders and youth. Second, it was wonderful on a personal level to be able to keep up with these conversations. The Kawerak Regional Conference served as a kind of check-in for me: how much do I know about the history and cultures of the region? how well versed am I in legislation that affects Western Alaska? how much can I contribute to a working group discussion on historical trauma?  The answer to all three of those questions was: more than I thought. Whereas I had sat in the Alaska Federation of Natives convention presentations in October cursing how the lack of Wi-Fi in the Carlson Center prevented me from looking up Katie John, I was actually able to keep up with the Kawerak Regional Conference discussions after just a few short months of attending community meetings, lectures, and cultural events.

I’ve lived in Nome for less than a year, but I’ve learned so much and met so many people in that short time. Thank you to those of you who have spoken so openly with me about regional and Alaska Native culture, history, and goals for the future during my tenure in Nome. I hope to represent these discussions well once I return to the Lower 48.

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