‘I am proud to be Iñupiat’: Alaskans celebrate first official Indigenous Peoples Day

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Arts and culture

This story was originally written for Alaska Public Media.


The second floor of the Atwood Center at Alaska Pacific University was packed shoulder to shoulder with dozens of Alaskans who gathered to celebrate the first official Indigenous People’s Day in Alaska.

The celebration at APU featured an opening blessing, buffet lunch and music and dance performances. “BYOD,” or “bring your own drum,” was a commonly quoted term at the event.

In June of this year, Gov. Bill Walker signed legislation recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Alaska, replacing Columbus Day. Alaska is the second state in the nation to make the official change.

Elizabeth Rexford was a First Alaskans Institute Fellow who worked with Representative Dean Westlake of Kotzebue. Westlake was one of the representatives who sponsored the legislation that created Indigenous Peoples Day within the state. Rexford mirrored the excitement of the day’s gathering.

“You know, it warms my heart to see everyone coming together and to be proud of our histories, our cultures, the diversity here in the state,” Rexford said. “And today, a lot of people are wearing their atikluks, their kuspuks, their regalias, their native bling earrings and berets and things like that. And I think that every year its only going to grow from here on out,” Rexford said.

Indigenous Peoples Day will be celebrated each year in Alaska on the second Monday of October.

The Author

Hi! My name is Sam Davenport. I am a freelance writer and lifelong Alaskan who loves reporting on the state’s history, food and culture. I am a graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage, where I received bachelors degrees in journalism and political science. I was the executive editor of The Northern Light — UAA’s student-run newspaper — for 2.5 years During my time at UAA, I completed internships at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. I am the managing editor of The Spenardian, an award-winning hyper-local news blog and magazine for the neighborhood of Spenard. I have been published in Vice, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch News, The Rasmuson Foundation, Alaska Magazine, Alaska Business, The Northern Light, The Anchorage Press, The Frontiersman, Alaska’s Energy Desk, KSKA, KTOO, Last Frontier Magazine, Crude Magazine, Mountain View Post, The Spenardian, Alaska Contractor Magazine, Wildheart Magazine and True North Magazine. For freelancing rates or a copy of my resume, please email me at samanthabdavenport@gmail.com.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for an informative posting. Living in the far North of Alaska for 20 years I developed many native friends and over the years learned of their culture and history. I truly do believe that there should be a national Holiday honoring the Indigenous Peoples, but I have to ask why try an obliterate another persons holiday by doing that. Yours is a rightfully proud culture and can no doubt see that Columbus was an explorer just as John Glen was and being human had his faults but does that diminish his accomplishments? I celebrate with you on this day but wish that you like your forebears did you could look out across the tundra and see there is room enough for all.


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