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Festival to celebrate Dena'ina

Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Dena'ina Un. Although it sounds like Greek to many peninsula residents, it's actually an Athabascan phrase which translates to, "Come here Dena'ina."

That is precisely what the Kenaitze Indian Tribe IRA is hoping will happen this weekend that the Dena'ina will come.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Kenaitze will sponsor their first Dena'ina festival called Dena'ina Un in celebration of their lingual heritage.

"Joining us in this celebration are numerous distinguished speakers, who will give presentations relating to our ancestral heritage," said tribe member Amber Glenzel. "There will also be language sessions for individuals to learn about the Dena'ina language."

For those unfamiliar with the language, Dena'ina is part of the Athabascan or Na'Dene language family. There are five dialects for the Dena'ina language: Upper Inlet, Iliamna, Inland, Outer Inlet and Seldovia.

The dialects are mutually intelligible between two or more groups of speakers but have differences in sounds and words.

There are believed to be about 70 to 100 speakers of the Upper Inlet, Iliamna and Inland dialects, most of whom are elderly. Many of the younger Dena'ina in these regions understand the language but do not speak it fluently.

The dialect spoken in the Kenai region is on the verge of extinction, and the Seldovia dialect is believed to have gone extinct.

This is exactly what prompted the Kenaitze to organize Dena'ina Un.

"We decided to do this after interviewing elders for a language assessment project," said tribe member Laura Kroto.

"Several of the elders said they were forgetting the language because they had no one to talk to (in Dena'ina). So we decided to try and get all the people who speak the language together," she said.

Another highlight of the festival will be a potlatch and cloth ceremony at the K'Beq site in Cooper Landing on Saturday.

Kroto said the potlatch, like all the festival events, is open to Alaska Native people and non-natives alike. She only asks that those attending bring a favorite dish.

"The potlatch ceremony will be accompanied by many drum and dance groups for entertainment," said Kroto.

Performers include the Anchor-age Tebughna Singers and Dancers, Tebughna Drummers from Tyonek, Mount Susitna Intertribal Drum, Chuda Cuya Drum, Jabali'ina Dancers, Heartbeat of Mother Earth Drum and the Delta Mae Drum.

Anyone interested in more information should call 283-3633.

Dena'ina festival tentative schedule

Friday

Noon-1 p.m. Lunch at Fort Kenay

1-2 p.m. Elders meeting at Fort Kenay

3-4 p.m. Pauline Hobson from Nondalton

at Kenai Peninsula College

4:15-5:15 p.m. Gary Holton and Shawn

from University of Alaska Fairbanks at KPC

Also, Dr. Alan Boraas from KPC, at KPC

5:15-7 p.m. Break for dinner

7-10 p.m. Storytelling and entertainment

at the waterfront property.

Saturday

All sessions at KPC

10-11 a.m. Pauline Hobson from Nondalton

10-11 a.m. Donita Peter from Tyonek

11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Dr. Jim Kari from UAF

12:15-1:15 p.m. Transport people

to K'beq for potlatch

1:15 p.m. Arrive at K'beq

Food

3 p.m. Dance groups performances

4 p.m. Alaska-style grand entry

cloth ceremony

Sunday

10-11 a.m. Pauline Hobson from Nondalton

10-11 a.m. Kalifornsky Village

slide show with Amber Glenzel

11:15 a.m.-noon Dr. Jim Kari from UAF

11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Donita Peter

from Tyonek

Noon-1 p.m. Archaeology tour

with Dr. Boraas

Noon-1 p.m. Executive committee meeting

2-7 p.m. Waterfront barbecue and closing



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