On October 17, 2016, Reed Bobroff, Associate Director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program (YIPAP), presented at the First Alaskans Institute’s annual Elders & Youth Conference under the theme of “Ancestral Imperative: Adapt. Unite. Achieve.” Held in concert with the Alaska Federation of Native (AFN) gathering in Fairbanks, the conference has been a platform for intergenerational collaboration and sharing for over thirty years and has focused on encouraging lifelong connections to indigenous people and cultures of Alaska. This year’s gathering worked to celebrate the indigenous ancestors carried by individuals and communities and to acknowledge that it is through the wellbeing of Alaskan language and culture that those communities thrive. The Institute recognized that “being strong, healthy, culturally-connected Native peoples does not happen in a vacuum; it must be grown, nurtured, and loved. Through the conference we strive to operationalize these values and ignite this responsibility.”
As a part of the conference, Bobroff offered a poetry workshop entitled, “Spoken Roots: Writing Our Histories, Our Culture, and Our Communities.” The workshop divided the elders and youth and had them write poems about who they are and about their home communities. After reading the poems to each other, the two groups were brought together to share their observations about their communities from two distinct generational perspectives.
The roughly thirty participants represented a diverse set of communities and came together to share their poems about hunting, fishing, poverty, seasonal changes, ecological exploitation, loss of culture and the drive to revitalize it. The workshop echoed the mission of the conference in its work to unite generations through intergenerational sharing for a fast-evolving world. Despite the discrepancies in age, elders and youth are coming together, listening to each other, sharing knowledge and stories, and working towards the communities they imagine for the next generation.
A record of the conference and workshops can be found at http://livestream.com/accounts/187087/events/6417395/videos/139134529.