Annual Native Arts Festival brings traditional dance, music and art to UAF

Logan Rahlfs / Sun Star Reporter
March 6, 2012

Workshops, a film celebration, live performing Alaska Native artists, and countless amounts of authentic Alaska Native crafts, clothing, and jewelry flooded the Davis Concert Hall last weekend for the 39th annual UAF Festival of Native Arts.

“The moose hooves take about a year and a half to cure,” Ribz DeWilde said while describing one of her hand-crafted necklaces.

DeWilde is a Koyokon Athabaskan woman. Her tribe is located “on the edge of the Athabaskan side of the state, in central Alaska.” DeWilde also works with lynx, martin, wolverine and Dall sheep. DeWilde’s family hunts and traps year-round, so she also beads throughout the year and has a vast collection of jewelry to show for it.

The Festival of Native Arts was free of admission and open to all the people of Fairbanks from March 1 to 3. There were about 40 different vendors in addition to DeWilde in the Great Hall with cultural merchandise for sale.

In the evenings of the event, there were performances in the auditorium. Artists performed traditional dances, in some cases the dances have been passed down for more than five  generations. One group, the Miracle Drummers and Dancers, had the stage packed with members of the crowd, encouraging everyone to join in the dance.

Beading is one of the most recognizable forms of Alaska Native art. A number of vendors offered beaded items for sale.

Shaylene Dublin, from Arctic Village, has been beading with her best friend for about a year now, she said. Dublin and her friend make headbands, gloves and coin purses. This was their second time selling their bead work at the festival.

Although the Festival of Native Arts is an Alaska event,  one of the vendors in the Great Hall represented a tribe from Brazil.

“This is one of the rare years I get to do this event, my family and I are usually in Brazil this time of year, but it’s good. It’s kind of like a big reunion, where all people and families can get together,” Cindy Reichnuth said. “Where we go in Brazil we have the Pataxo Indians, and they were there when Brazil was ‘discovered’ by the Portuguese.”

The Pataxo Indians make necklaces, bracelets, baskets, spoons and dream catchers using vines, twine, dye and gems only found in the jungles of Brazil, Reichnuth said.  In the summer, Reichnuth sets up the booth ‘The Brazil Nuts” at the Midnight Sun Festival in downtown Fairbanks, the Anderson Bluegrass Festival and the Midnight Sun Intertribal Powwow in mid-July.

Native UAF students plan the majority of the event. UAF has hosted the festival since 1973, according to the event’s website. Students and faculty organized the first Festival of Native Arts to celebrate the “artistic expressions of each Alaska Native culture,” according to the website.

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1 Response

  1. Angela Gonzalez says:

    Thanks for the update! I wish I could have made it this teat. By the way, I think you meant Riba (not Ribz) DeWilde.

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