Alaska Native dance groups perform for packed crowd at Quyana Night

A group of native dancers perform in front of a crowd.
Dancers of The Lower Yukon Drummers and Dancers group perform at Quyana Night in Anchorage on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media.)

Hundreds of people gathered at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage Thursday night to experience the moving sounds and colors of the first of two Quyana Nights at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention. 

Alaska Native dance groups traveled from all over the state to dance and sing pieces that have been passed down from their cultures.   

“We’re always happy to share the songs of our ancestors,” said Jolene John, after she got off stage with her group from Toksook Bay. “It’s a rich feeling to share the emotions with the community.”

Quyana Night was first introduced in 1982, as a way to preserve these performances and to ensure they’re remembered for years to come. 

The annual tradition is still going strong 41 years later, with families packed together in the audience — chanting, cheering and singing along. Some of the dance groups even invited elders and old friends to join them on stage. 

“We’re literally representing the entire state here,” John said. “Everyone’s welcoming old friends, new friends and family members, and appreciating this time together.” 

A group of elders singing along to a show.
Elders sing along to the performances. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)
a man with a bandana on his head dances on stage with a group of Alaska Native Dancers.
Some members from the audience join the performers on stage. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)
A child dances along with the Kuukpikmiut Dancers. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)
A woman in a kuskpuk waves a native fan in dance.
A dancer the Lower Yukon Drummers and Dancers group. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media.)
A group of boys sitting with native drums
Drummers from the Kuukpikmiut Dancers. (Matt Faubion/Alaska public Media)
A group of tlingit dancers on stage.
Performers of the Anchich’x Kwaan Dancers. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)
A woman in Alaska Native clothing holds a drum while dancing with her newborn.
A woman from the Anchich’x Kwaan group dances on stage with her child. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)
A group of Alaska Native Dancers invite the audience to join.
Audience members join The Qaluyaarmiut Dancers on stage. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Matt Faubion is a multimedia journalist at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at Read more about Matt here.

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