Passing Music on to Alaska's Youth

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November 2015 NEWSLETTER by Belle Mickelson

It’s early in the morning here in Anvik, a small village here along the lower Yukon River. It’s quiet. Snow is on the ground and I’m hoping my son Mike will make it in today to help with teaching music to the kids. He’s been weathered in at Holycross, a village just south of here, for several days. Josephine Malemute who was teaching with Mike--managed to travel back to her home in Fairbanks after several cancelled flights and harrowing and scary times on small planes.

A young local musician, former student Clayton Tichnor, has been filling in for Mike here in Anvik—and will teach with us all week—so he can help carry on the program after we leave. The kids have been so enjoying playing guitar and fiddle—and we’ve had fun singing in their language Deg Xinag and square dancing with the help of elder Donna MacAlpine.

Today is Veterans Day and we’ll be learning “Johnny Come Marching Home” to sing for veterans at the community potluck and celebration at the Tribal Hall. Tomorrow is the big student concert, potluck, and community dance at the school.

We’re very thankful for the support of the Tanana Chiefs Conference who have provided $20,000 this year to cover plane tickets to their villages as part of their suicide prevention program.. We also received funding from Doyon, the Fairbanks Native Association, Young Native Fiddlers, the Fairbanks Folk Festival, and parents that enabled 17 Native students to attend last summer’s Fairbanks Bluegrass Camp for Kids.

This fall our staff did a camp in Anchorage as an outreach to the Native community there—plus have traveled or are traveling to Pt. Hope, Holycross, Anvik, Tanana, Chalkyitsik, Hughes, and probably a couple more villages between now and Christmas. We’re continuing to average 20 weeks a year in villages. And over the past 9 years have reached 29 different villages, most of them many times--plus camps in Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau..

This year, the Rev. Trimble Gilbert and his wife Mary celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary and 80th birthdays—and they are still traveling to villages for Dancing with the Spirit and helping pass on music, culture, language, and tradition! Trimble also serves as the 2nd Traditional Chief for the Tanana Chiefs Region.

Last spring, Nokosee Fields, a Native fiddler from Oklahoma joined us teaching music in Cordova and seven villages..

We also released a two CD set “Rev. Trimble Gilbert Sings Takudh

Hymns--plus for the 2nd year an all Gwich’in CD recorded by Beaver. students

And we ventured out internationally with Josephine Malemute and Belle Mickelson traveling to help with a music camp on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, Canada for the 2nd year in a row. Plus we helped arrange for an International Music and Culture Camp at Fort Yukon School with four Gwich’in instructors from Canada who combined with four of our staff for music, dance, culture, and suicide prevention talks..

Young Native Fiddlers just released a new CD with 20 tunes including Red River Jig--thanks to their mentor and teacher Bill Stevens and to a lot of parent and community support. We’re very proud of these young people who are carrying on the Athabascan fiddling tradition.

It’s been a great year so far—and as we often say, “the best is yet to come.” We love seeing all the smiles and happiness of the kids and the communities! Thanks for all your support and prayers.

PHOTO: Fort Yukon Summer Music Camp kids with Josephine Malemute, Belle Mickelson, Bobbie Gilbert, the Rev. Trimble Gilbert, Bobby Gilbert, and Kelly May.

PHOTO: The Rev. Trimble Gilbert teaching a Chalkyitsik student.

Love and blessings,
Rev. Belle Mickelson
Dancing with the Spirit Director

View previous newsletters:

October 15, 2014
January 12, 2012
November 1, 2011 
February 11, 2009
November 25, 2008
August 14, 2008
May 25, 2008

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