Youth Yuraq in Cultural Exchange

The KLAraq Dancers of the Kuskokwim Learning Academy and the BRHS Piniq Dancers traveled to Texas to perform and to share songs and dance at the Fiesta De San Lorenzo and at the Tigua Cultural Center earlier this month. Photo courtesy of Danielle Craven

by Danielle Craven

Recently, 17 young men and women from the KLAraq and Piniq Yup’ik dance groups traveled from Bethel to Clint, Texas, to dance at the Fiesta De San Lorenzo and the Tigua Cultural Center on August 10th-14th.

The young people of different Yup’ik, Cup’ik, and Athabascan backgrounds exchanged stories and songs with the Matachine and Tigua dancers, enjoying a taste of the Spanish language, different cultural foods and the ninety degree desert climate.

The trip came to fruition through Drew’s Foundation, a suicide prevention non-profit, and collaboration with the Pavo Real dance group in Texas.

“Invited by Danza Matachine Pavo Real, a dance group that Drew’s Foundation has twice brought to Bethel’s Cama-i Dance Festival, it was a five year dream in the making,” said Paul O’Brien, founder of Drew’s Foundation. “Not a school sponsored trip, we took 7 kids that attend BRHS and 10 that attend KLA. None of the KLA dancers had ever been outside Alaska.”

The trip served not only to give young people outside exposure but to spread a message of hope and strong identities.

KLAraq dancers included high school students who attend Kuskokwim Learning Academy.

Max Angaiak – Tununak

Carl Shavings – Mekoryuk

Devin Tunutmoak – St. Mary’s

Bryson Menegak – Bethel

Scott Carl – Toksook Bay

Adu Wassille – Bethel

Jason Tikiun – Atmautluak

Madrona Sergie – Kwethluk

Ashley Wassille – Bethel

Charlene Evan – Napaskiak

Piniq dancers are made up of young men who attend Bethel Regional High School: Avery Hoffman, Mianaq Alexie, Matthew Ferguson, Matthew Hunter, Hayden Lieb, Sven Williams, and Thomas Dyment.

Special thanks to Drew’s Foundation, community organizations and people who contributed funds and supported the cultural exchange: BNC, BCS, BVESA, Elizabeth Roll, Eric Whitney, and Lori Safford.

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