Igiugig group travels to New Mexico and Arizona for cultural exchange

May 12, 2017

In April a group from Igiugig travelled to New Mexico and Arizona to share native dances, foods, and traditions with Zuni and Apache communities.

At the Dishchii'bikoh Community School in Arizona, Fewnia Zharoff, 16, demonstrated traditional games that are a part of Native Youth Olympics.
Credit Tate Gooden

At the end of April, about 30 students and adults from Igiugig returned from a trip to Arizona and New Mexico where they participated in a cultural exchange with native communities in the area.

Audio Transcript:

The group visited the Pueblo of Zuni in New Mexico and an Apache community in Cibecue, Arizona. Students from Igiugig performed Yupik dances and demonstrated traditional Alaska Native games. In return, they ate the Southwestern tribes’ native foods and watched their dances.

“Exchanging cultural knowledge is important to us because it revives our language and makes me feel happy,” says 16-year-old Fewnia Zharoff.

When Igiugig sang and performed their yuraq, their traditional Yupik dance, the Apache and Zuni communities were their largest audiences yet.

“It’s always good to go and see how another community is living in this globalized world and maintaining their own culture and the ways they’re doing that,” says AlexaAnna Salmon, president of the Igiugig Village Council. She went along in part to observe how other native communities are incorporating language instruction in their schools.

Igiugig students planned this trip, from making initial contact with the schools they visited to researching hotel rooms and car rentals. This is the second cultural exchange the village has initiated. More than half the village traveled to New Zealand in 2015 for an exchange with Maori communities. Salmon says she hopes that the students come away from trips like these with an appreciation for their own town in addition to a an appreciation for other native cultures.

“Hopefully they come home from the big cities and think, ‘I’m so glad I live in Igiugig.’ Because that’s how all of us adults feel. You can go anywhere in the world and get a city, but you cannot get an Igiugig anywhere else.”

Students raised funds for the 11 day trip by writing letters to area lodges and hosting bake sales, dinners, and movie nights in Igiugig.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

Credit Tate Gooden