Monday, June 8, 2015

The Alutiiq Dancers

You'd think after working for the Sun'aq Tribe during my first year here in Kodiak I would have seen the Alutiiq Dancers perform at some point.  Yeah.  Nope!  The dancers are organized and coordinated through the Sun'aq Tribe, but for some reason I'd only seen videos.  So, I made it a point to get down to Crabfest this year for their performance.  I wasn't disappointed!

Kodiak's Crabfest was a few weeks ago, and it's the unofficial kick-off to summer around here.  There are all sorts of events, food, crafts, and art to check out at Crabfest, but my goal this year was to watch the dancers do their thing.

The Alutiiq Dancers are unique to Alaska, and their traditional dance regalia, beaded headdresses, hats, masks, face paint and songs are a one of a kind experience to see in person.

The dance troupe performed a half a dozen or so songs, with short introductions before each number to explain the subject and history of the song, and where the song was learned. They sang both traditional and contemporary Alutiiq songs with subjects ranging from cooking, to kayaking, to thanking the audience for listening.

As the dancers swayed and chanted, the rhythmic drum beat of a traditional bentwood skin drum maintained their uniform tempo with a repetitive, deep thrum. The combination of the rhythmic drum beat, chanting, and in-sync dancing adds up to a unique show.  You can see the back side of the drum here:

The dancers are a diverse group of all ages, both men and boys and women and girls.  Sometimes Tribal elders perform with the group, but I didn't have the privilege of seeing that this time.  I bet it takes on an even more special and spiritual feel when Tribal Elders participate. 

I really enjoyed watching their show, and seeing some of my former co-workers so passionate about sharing their culture in such a fun way.  So, I should say Quyanaa to them...which means thank you in Alutiiq!

Ta-ta for now.


  1. Cama'i thank you so much for this sweet description of one of our performances! I am a Kodiak Alutiiq Dancer and I'd like to politely correct your spelling of Quyanaa meaning thank you! :) Quyannasinaq (thank you very much) for this cute blog!

    1. Aw, thanks for stopping by, Natalia! And thank you for spotting my error and letting me know!