Online format brings new accessibility to annual Elders and Youth Conference

Elders and youth are able to call into the 2020 conference from anywhere in the world.
Elders and youth are able to call into the 2020 conference from anywhere in the world.(First Alaskans Institute)
Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 1:09 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Sunday marked the start of the 37th Annual Elders and Youth Conference for the First Alaskans Institute, and for the first time, the event is being held entirely online.

Before every conference, organizers hold a pre-conference called the Warming of Hands. This year, that event was available both publicly and virtually.

“The beauty of the gathering that we just hosted was more accessible by people, not only across the state and nation but also across the world,” said Ayyu Qassataq, Vice President and Indigenous Operations Director for the FAI.

The event Sunday featured healing stories and lessons from elders around the state, and because the participants were so spread out, the land acknowledgments recognized traditional Alaska Native lands from Metlakatla to Unalakleet and beyond.

“Places in Southeast, the Interior, North Slope, Northwest Arctic, our people were tuning in from all over the place, and really uplifting and honoring the traditional lands that they were on, and that was beautiful,” Qassataq said.

The theme of this year’s conference in English is, “We are making a good path,” but the phrase comes from Sugt’stun, and is presented in that as well as Alutiiq.

“So in Sugt’stun, it’s ‘asirqamek apruciluta,’” said Karla Booth, FAI’s Indigenous Leadership Continuum Director. “And in Alutiiq it’s ‘asisqamek aprut’liluta.’”

Later in the week, native speakers of those languages will be talking about the theme, which Booth and Qassataq said represent the spiritual and physical path they’re taking through the pandemic and in life.

“Once this pandemic hit, really it was our people, our tribal leaders, our community leaders in our villages who acted very quickly to protect our people and communities,” Qassataq said.

The event will continue through Wednesday, streamed on the FAI’s website, Facebook, Youtube, and directly on Zoom. Then on Thursday, the Alaska Federation of Natives' annual convention begins digitally as well.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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