TELLER CULTURAL FESTIVAL— Shishmaref dancers Kenny Iyatunguk, left, and Gavin Nayokpuk entertain the crowd at last weekend’s Teller Cultural Festival. See story and photos on pages 8/9.

Teller celebrates 14th annual Cultural Festival

Teller’s population swelled Friday and Saturday as dancers, culture bearers, and related enthusiasts travelled to the village for music and dance, crafts, and a lot of food.
The Teller Cultural Festival, this year being the 14th, got its start when the new school was built. The school principal asked Cora Ablowaluk and Charlene Isbell to organize a big event. The two of them have been in charge ever since. Cora is from the Mary’s Igloo Traditional Council, Charlene from the Teller Traditional Council. They got a grant from the Beringia Project with the idea that they’d bring over a group from Russia.
“That was the first year,” said Isbell. “We had it all planned and ready and then the weather went down in Russia.” The Russian group, from Uelen in Chukotka, was unable to travel. “So we went ahead and did our festival anyway.” But the Russians decided to come as soon as the weather cleared. “And then two weeks later we had another one. So the first year we ended up with two back to back.”
“We invite all groups to come, whoever wants to,” said Ablowaluk. “This is the first year that we had only youth groups staying at the school, though. King Island came and they’re not staying at the school this year. Nome St. Lawrence Island will be here tonight and they’re not staying at the school.” The groups go back home to Nome or stay with family or friends.
The dance groups attending were Shishmaref, Nome St. Lawrence Island, White Mountain, King Island, and the home team from Teller.
The two coordinators decided to focus on young people this year, according to Jenny Lee, who was also involved in the planning. “The two coordinators like it with the younger people being here,” she said, adding that the young people learn their culture and that pleases the adults. “They get started and learn and mingle with other young people from different villages and make new friends.”
The tables set up in the gym groaned under the weight of traditional and not-so-traditional foods. The musicians and dancers performed late into the night Saturday and the Nugget reporter regrets not being able to stay until the end. But that road to Nome can be scary in the dark and so by 10:30 p.m. it was time to head home.  

 

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