Dancing to the rhythm of Alaska Native drumming

Wooch.een hosts the fifth annual Gathering of the Drums Friday, Oct. 13 with traditional Alaska Native dances and frybread tacos

By IZZY CHRISTENSON
for the UAS Whalesong
A dozen people gather in the center of the Noyes Pavilion, late Friday, Oct. 13. Local Rep. Justin Parish helps gather firewood, more students trickle in, while Wooch.een members prepare Indian tacos.
After the fire gets started, the fifth annual Gathering Of The Drums officially begins.
The Gathering Of The Drums is an annual event hosted by Wooch.een held in the Noyes Pavilion on the UAS Juneau Campus.
Wooch.een is a leadership club that works closely with UAS and community organizations to foster a better understanding of Alaska’s wonderful tribes and promotes an awareness of cultural and social issues.
The event started off with a tutorial of a dance routine led by local native dance group, Woosh.ji.een, leader Lyle James.
The dance was comprised of dances from different Alaska native tribes.
Attendees were encouraged to get involved, and those who did were given a drum.
The dancing carries a lot of symbolic weight.
“When the girls dance with their palms facing up, they’re lifting up the spirits of the people watching over them. Since the men are conditioned to be the strong hunters of their respective tribes, they get down low to show the strength in their legs,” an attendee said.

Following the demonstration attendees shared stories of their culture and enjoyed fresh frybread with the option for savory taco fixings or sweet jam and Nutella toppings.
Some students simply came at the recommendation of their friends; while others were sorely missing the feeling of community.
Bella Posey a UAS student said, “I have been missing this kind of community interaction and I used to get it all the time where I grew up in Ketchikan, especially when I was in elementary school.”
Some students initially felt intimidated by the intensity of the drum routines, but once they actually participated, it became empowering and even cathartic.
“It’s kind of like an open mic,” Kolene James Wooch.een advisor said.
“Students from around Alaska can share their culture, and then students from around the United States, and around the world can join in and share their cultures.”
People dance not only for anybody who happens to be watching at the gathering, but for each other. In this way, the spirit of the Alaska Native people continues for generations to come.
For more information on Wooch.een and NRSC events go to http://www.uas.alaska.edu/juneau/nrsc/index.html or by email at nrsc@uas.alaska.edu.
To watch the live video of the Gathering of the Drums dance head to the UAS Whalesong Facebook page.

 

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