Passing Music on to Alaska's Youth

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Welcome to Dancing with the Spirit!

Tanana Camp

Dancing with the Spirit is a project to connect youth and elders through music. The Rev. Trimble Gilbert from Arctic Village says "in the old days, we fought tribal wars with arrowheads. It's a different type of war now - against drugs and alcohol. I believe we can win with music."   Music can bring joy, hope, and love to villages struggling with alcoholism, drugs, and suicide. Music builds confidence, self-esteem, and the closeness of family.  Students can spend hours and hours playing guitars and fiddles, singing and dancing.   Alaska's first visitors - explorers, the Hudson Bay Company, missionaries, and whalers - brought fiddles, guitars, banjos, and mandolins.  Indians and Eskimos have taken this music and developed their own style. In almost every community, elders play and sing and would like to pass on through music--their culture, their respect for the land and its animals, and their values.

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This project is modeled on a 4H Bluegrass and Old-time Music and Dance Camp that has been held in Cordova, Alaska for the past 19 summers. Over the past seven years, we've traveled to 25 villages, man of them numerous times - averaging 21 weeks/year for the past two years. Program funding comes from schools, tribal councils, individuals, grants, and the Episcopal Diocese of Alaska. Youth have a chance to take classes in fiddle, guitar, banjo, mandolin, and bass - plus be in bands. It has been great success - and youth and elders are hoping that a year-round program can begin and spread to other villages with the energy of young Native bands. One village can teach another, building strong communities and helping to prevent alcoholism, drugs, and suicide. The Dancing with the Spirit staff are documenting the program and packaging it so that it can be easily duplicated nationally and internationally. With your help and prayers

                                                         Dancing with the Spirit can spread worldwide!

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