A gift of land, music and food

Pow-wow offers a chance to relax, mingle and enjoy


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A dancer greets a bystander participating in friendship dance during the last day of the 2014 Dena’ina Potlatch Pow-wow at Eklutna Native Village on June 8.

CINTHIA RITCHIE

Drums beat, dancers swayed and children played in the sand as the heady smell of salmon drifted out across the crowds during the second day of the 2014 Dena’ina Potlatch Pow-wow, held June 7-8 at Eklutna Native Village.

While it rained in Anchorage, the weather was perfect in Eklutna, sunny with a slight breeze (This, one speaker said with a laugh, was a sign of the gods blessings the event).

And the Pow-wow did feel blessed. The mood was languid and dreamy, with people mulling around at an unhurried pace, stopping to chat one moment and sitting down on the grass to listen to music the next. And while most Pow-wow goers probably carried cell phones, there were very few in view. It was a time to put electronic devices away, to appreciate the here and now, to gather with family and catch up with friends from far-off villages.

It was also a time of celebration, of dressing in traditional costumes and swaying back and forth to drums that thumped in the background like a heartbeat.

And of course there was food, and the crowds lined two person deep to enjoy everything from salmon, fry bread, Pilot Crackers, goulash, macaroni and potato salads and the ever-popular “Akutaq” (Eskimo ice cream), which had many children, and grownups, heading back for seconds.

The event also featured Native speakers, who urged people to be true to themselves, to not lose their heritage, to be aware of their rights and use them to keep the rivers and lakes clean.

It also included a great gift, a gift of land, 143 acres to be exact.

Joe Everheart, Alaska president of Wells Fargo, presented the land to Eklutna Sunday afternoon. The land had been in Wells Fargo’s hands for the past 90 years.

Everheart said that as a community partner, Wells Fargo was doing the right thing “putting the land back to where it belongs, to the Dena’ina people.”

But it was more than food, a land donation or even music and dance that made the event special. It was the cohesiveness, the way everyone bonded together and how even an outsider was made to feel welcome. It was the look on people’s face as they gathered together during the friendship dance, shaking hands and hugging one another.

It was a look of acceptance, and pride, and pure and unfiltered beauty.

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