UAF hosts 43rd annual Festival of Native Arts

Erin McGroarty / Sun Star

The University of Alaska Fairbanks hosted the three-day Festival of Native Arts for the 43rd time last weekend. Continuing what began as a student- and faculty-led event in 1973, FNA brings people from all over the state of Alaska together to celebrate Native dance, music and traditional arts.

While the festival was originally planned by faculty and students, in recent years the brunt of the planning and coordinating has been done by UAF students.

The organization starts planning for the festival in September to make sure everything is ready by March, Adrienne Titus, faculty coordinator for the program, said.

Tradition and culture are central values of the Festival of Native Arts. Saturday evening featured a special performance called “The Heartbeat of the Drum.” This performance is only held every few years, because members of the festival feel that the performance might lose its impact if it was performed each year.

During this performance drummers from many different groups all joined together on stage, playing their drums while the audience clapped in unison to represent the central heartbeat of Native culture and tradition in Alaska and the connection of different Alaskan tribes.

“The Heartbeat of the Drum” is a powerful part of the festival that brings everyone together, said Anguyaluk Pavilla-Anderson, 21.

“The festival is really special to me because I grew up in a family that wasn’t native and this was a way to keep in touch with my heritage,” Anderson said. “I also grew up away from my biological family and this was the one time a year I could reconnect with them.”

This was Anderson’s first year working for the festival.

“I’ve been coming here every year since I can remember,” she said.

Anderson is working for the festival for the “Practicum of Alaska Dance and Culture” class this year but said she definitely plans to volunteer for the festival again next year.

“This festival is really special because we live in a really vast state with a lot of different native cultures and this brings them together in a really positive and uplifting way,” Anderson said.

The festival held evenings of musical and dance performances in Davis Concert Hall while FNA hosted workshops and games during the day across campus. These workshops included a multitude of native language classes, Yup’ik yoyo games and Agutak (Eskimo ice-cream) making, among many others.  

Members of non-profit organization We Are the Arctic held a discussion on Thursday and Friday afternoon from 1 – 2 p.m on the preservation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the Wood Center conference rooms.

Members of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, Carolyn Lennie and Bernadette Demientieff, led the discussion. Their hope was to bring this issue of preservation to the public’s attention and make sure people know what is at risk with the potential oil drilling in ANWR.

“We just want to make sure our children are able to have the same lifestyle we had,” Demientieff said during the discussion on Friday.

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