Laura Olsen sings with the Jabila'ina ('rainbow people') Dancers during the Kenaitze- Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center Community Night Tuesday. Olsen, a Polish-Norwegian is a longtime participant in the Tribe's multi-ethnic youth programs.
Photo By Brett Encelewski
“We were invited by the Arctic Winter Games,” said Wanda Reams, explaining simply the Jabilaina Dancers’ presence at the Games.
Their dances and regalia are Kahtnu’tana in origin. Translated in English as “Kenai River village people,” the Kahtnu’tana was named “Kenaitze” by the Russians that came to this area in the 1700s.
The group was named “Jabilaina”people of the rainbowby the late Peter Kalifornsky because of the many races of people interested in the Kahtnu’tana culture.
“Most recently, there has been Kahtnu’tana wanting to have their children be part of the dance group. That makes me really happy,” said Reams, the group’s language developer, referring to years of shame associated with being Native. “That’s a sign that people are healing.”
The dancers’ regalia are authentic in design, ornamentation and beadwork. Charlene Glenzel made the dresses while Maggie Jones did the beadwork, using a geometric pattern found on a dress from the 1900s.
“I used to be ashamed to be Native when I was a girl and if anyone found out that I was Native, I would be embarrassed,” said Reams. Wanting to share the healing she has experienced, Reams added, “I want to encourage other people to no longer be ashamed to be Native because being Native is a good thing, it is our identity. We need to learn to be proud of who we are.”
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