Project: 35th Annual Elders & Youth Conference – Survival Kit Tool Making
Grantee: First Alaskans Institute
Story by: Denbigh Perry

Volunteering for the 2018 Youth and Elders Conference in Anchorage, Alaska, which is hosted by the First Alaskans Institute; was a terrific opportunity. This event was held in the Dena’ina Convention Center in downtown Anchorage. The event was open to youths and elders from diverse Indigenous, and local communities.

During my section, I was invited to share a diverse Indigenous learning interaction which tied into survival kits. This event was well attended by youth and elders attending the conference. There was a great confident spirit of volunteering in the air, spirituality, and competent human interaction as these are critical values of the Alaska Native People.

We were given about an hour for the activity, so in the best interest of having an item to complete, we made fishing hooks that we tied ourselves. As fishing hooks and items necessary for ice fishing or winter salmon fishing are a necessary item for coastal and inland Alaska Native groups.

There were people of all abilities present, diverse tribal groups present. During this session I felt it best to communicate as though the people in attendance are competent and capable of tying and creating terrific, usable fishing set ups. This methodology was well received.

Respectfully elders were happy to see a humble voice used in the interactions and my intention was to empower continued teaching and job creation of Indigenous teachers in education, as with my experience growing up in the Bering Strait Region of Alaska. In my education and training, I was able to attend the Elders & Youth Conference in high school, and found it very healing and trauma reducing in building my identity and ability to work with Native peoples and diverse community members in such interactions.

Thankfully the quality for this event is still strongly present, and the youths are desiring cultural interactions and requesting that the negative stigmas impacting Natives be reversed. I feel First Alaskans Institute is competent at holding such events and recruiting Indigenous presenters that fulfill this expectation. I commend them and The CIRI Foundation for standing in a place to provide this support to the people, and providing opportunities for people working to serve Alaska Native peoples.

Thank you all for this wonderful experience.