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KNBA News - Alaska first state to recognize "Indigenous Peoples Day"

Oct 12, 2015

Oct. 13, 2015

Governor, Anchorage Mayor declare second Monday of October Indigenous Peoples Day

Alaska is now the first state to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day. Governor Bill Walker signed the proclamation Monday morning, on the heels of a similar announcement by Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. First Alaskans Institute President Liz Medicine Crow made the announcement at the Elders and Youth Conference.

The move is largely symbolic. Columbus Day is a federal holiday and state and city employees are required to report to work. South Dakota and a few other states have replaced Columbus Day with Native American Day.

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Elders and Youth conference theme “Not in Our Smokehouse!” a call for action

By Anne Hillman, KSKA - Anchorage

A particular scent wafts out of the Dena’ina Convention Center Exhibit Hall these days.

“It smells like smoked fish!” exclaimed Elders and Youth participant Rochelle Adams as she stands outside the full-sized smokehouse that’s set up in the hall, visible from all angles. She says it makes her proud, and hungry.

“It represents so many things about our culture, and especially subsistence. And subsistence is so important because that’s what ties us to our land and our animals.”

Adams says she loves this year’s theme, “Not in Our Smokehouse,” because it melds modern, sassy comments with the sacred space of a smokehouse. She says it makes people laugh, but it also starts conversations.

Dewey Hoffman with First Alaskans says a teenager in Southeast Alaska at a basketball game first started saying it –a local version of “not in my house!” He says it struck the organizers as a good conversation starter.

“It shows a place of ownership. Our smokehouse is a metaphor for our communities. And even us as individuals, our own bodies, we have to maintain and protect what we have so we can stay strong and we have to take out what will weaken us and take us off path.”

In the convention center, people are posting papers to a bulletin board highlighting what shouldn’t be in their smoke houses, things like suicide, abuse, violence, drugs, and forgetting culture.

But for youth keynote speaker Lacayah Engebretson, the focus is on what should be used to build the next generation’s smokehouses: both traditional culture and modern adaptations.

"Take everything you can from the smokehouse you’ve already been in and every smokehouse you enter from here on out,” she told the packed convention hall during her speech. “And preserve it and keep and remember it when you build your own. And when you do build your own, go ahead and add mosquito net and any new adaptations we can make.”

In her own life, Engerbertson is already doing that by dancing and serving as a cultural interpreter. She says to build a strong community, individuals have to become ‘doers’.

They need “to avoid saying what should be done and more just doing it. It shouldn’t be ‘this change needs to be made’ it should be ‘how can I make that change personal in my life’ and do it on a smaller scale and hope to start a ripple effect.”

One young conference participant, Ariana Tumanuval, says she didn’t know what a smokehouse was. She grew up in Anchorage and says her grandma smokes fish in a small box. But her reaction to the house in the exhibit hall was universal.

“It smells good!”

She says doing something in your community can be as small as helping someone get a drink of water. “It means like if someone needs help, just get up and help them with it without being asked to do it.”

The Elders and Youth Conference continues through Wednesday morning.

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Volunteer attorneys offer free legal clinic for Alaska Natives

More than two dozen local volunteer attorneys will staff a legal clinic for Alaska Natives on Friday at the Dena’ina Center during the annual Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, which kicks off Thursday.  Appointments are for one hour for civil legal issues and 1.5 hours for wills.  The clinic is for civil issues, not criminal cases. To secure an appointment time at the Elizabeth Peratovich Legal Clinic, send an email to EPLC@alaskabar.org.