Passing Music on to Alaska's Youth

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11 February 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

December 12th, we watched the full moon rise over the snow-covered mountains around Arctic Village.  Some of the smaller kids didn't come to school at the beginning of the week because it was 50 degrees below zero!  But we had a huge potlatch, student concert, and dance on Friday.  The kids sang and played Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Away in the Manger, Silent Night, the Little Drummer Boy--and We Wish You a Merry Christmas in Gwich'in. Two elders, the Rev. Trimble Gilbert and Gideon James, taught with us all week and told stories of Christmas in the old days--playing in the snow--and eating frozen fish with their Eskimo neighbors to the north.  They also helped us learn some of the Athabascan fiddle dances--jigs, the broom dance (a two step), and the rabbit dance.

The following week my son, Mike, and I were in Tanana--while Pete Peter and Jim Mitchell were in Stevens Village and Beaver.  The kids were so excited!  Their smiles get bigger and bigger as they get to know us--and the teachers and communities are really happy to see us!  It's been an amazing year and a half--thanks to all your prayers and contributions.   We've stepped out in faith and this week, we're celebrating 15 weeks of school programs and six Alaskan summer camps--plus travel to Hawaii, New York, Texas (the Episcopal Youth Event), Navajo Land, and the Northwest Territories.  My favorite kid smile is this picture of Reese taken by Thomas Dunklin.

Another great story comes from Hana in Hawaii...  We did a little Hawaiian and bluegrass concert for the kids and then divided into groups.  Only one 8 year old boy picked the fiddle.  I handed him one to try.  The bow sang across the strings.  He looked at me with big eyes and said, "This is the best day of my life!"  

Pete Peter has been adding Native drumming and songs to our visits.   Here's a letter Pete wrote after our November trip. To all the kids of Beaver, Stevens Village and Tanana. 

You have really touched my heart with your thank you letters and hosting your village to us. Remember you are the future leaders for your villages in the places of your ancestors. They still depend on you to preserve your subsistence way of living (a federal law) and same time finish your high school and then college. With these wisdoms you will someday make great differences in your villages. Respect your
 elders for they are your foundation. Respect everyone else's property because they may help you in times of need in the future. Always say "I love you" to your guardians, parents and relatives. Respect your wildlife because it is your future food storage. Keep your land clean because it is like your table. Many of you got attached to us but again we have families too (I too must go home to my three year old daughter-Cheyenne). She is learning to be a musician like her dad. Like anything else practice makes better, so rehearse your instruments.

Remember each one of you are special!  Until next time we will see you!
God bless you.
Pete J. Peter
Dancing with the Spirit Assistant Director

Tax deductible contributions can be sent to Dancing with the Spirit, Episcopal Diocese of Alaska, 1205 Denali Way, Fairbanks, Alaska 99701. 

Please continue to keep us in your prayers. We had Christmas in Allakaket and Beaver.  What amazing experiences...

Love and blessings,  Belle
The Rev. Belle Mickelson, Box 1362, Cordova, Alaska 99574
907-424-5143 home   510-637-8401 cell

View previous news letters:
November 25, 2008
August 14, 2008
May 25, 2008

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