Indigenous Peoples Day Celebrates Alaska Native Culture

    Juneau, AK (KINY) - The second annual Indigenous Peoples Day was celebrated with song, dance, food, sharing of language, and wisdom at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall in Juneau.

    There were several speakers who taught those gathered some simple words in phrases in the various Alaska Native languages. Most of the speakers spoke on the strength associated with embracing culture, learning the language, and uplifting others.

    Stephanie Masterman an Emerging Leader with Tlingit & Haida and a Youth Representative of their Seattle Chapter, offered these words of encouragement.

    "I feel stronger the more and more Tlingit I learn. We really have to think about colonialism and settlers and how they inflicted genocide on our people. We have to say that because we have to acknowledge that we're survivors. We stand here with our feet planted strong because we know who we are because we're taking on the most difficult challenges that there are in life. We are healing ourselves and our communities from within and that's reviving our culture."

    "To me, that's more powerful than anything out there."

    She also had additional words of strength that are often found online.

    "You are your ancestors' wildest dreams."

    "They tried to bury us but they didn't know we were seeds."

    Masterman also explained how they can move forward.

    "For me, it's holding my family together on an individual and familial level. Heal. Hold each other accountable. Lift each other up and take the rest of your community with you. Wherever you fall, either at as an individual, a family, to taking on the institutions or the government, wherever you fall in that continuum, we will meet you there."

    Lyle James, a teacher of language spoke on the importance of passing down those words and stories.

    "Our languages, we have found, are our roots of healing. It grounds who we are."

    James also spoke about the solidarity of being Native can bring in the face of sexual assault.

    "Far too often in our state we see sexual assault just slip by us. That needs to end."

    "How can we fix this? How can we make our future better when we let things like this or our system lets things like this slip by? The way we do this is to share our history, our languages, let them know that being who they are and where they come from is what is going to ground them."

    James also spoke on not shying away from the darker moments of the past and instead seeing those moments as challenges that were defeated.

    "They were taken out of their home and taken to a missionary school. This is the type of history that isn't shared in our classrooms because we are afraid. These are things that our children need to know. Why? Because we need to know what true strength is. We need to know how to stand up for ourselves, how to make our youths' future better than what we grew up knowing."


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