Native Village Youth and Education News

April 1, 2009 Issue 196 Volume 2

Oratory Contest helps keep Native languages alive

Juneau, Alaska: Last month the University of Alaska Southeast held its seventh annual Native Oratory Contest.  UAS students from Juneau, Ketchikan and Yakutat competed along with two high school students from Juneau Douglas and Thunder Mountain. One home-schooled student also participated.

First place winners will travel to Anchorage for the Alaska Native Oratory Society Statewide Competition on April 4.

UAS contestants gave 5-15 minute speeches in the following categories:

Oratory category
  Students were to support a Native American viewpoint using reasoning, elocution and evidence.   Gloria Anderstrom of Yakutat took first place. She spoke about pollution's effect on traditional subsistence living among SE Alaskan Natives.
  Dramatic Declamations
 Students recited historic Native American speeches.  Amanda Bremner of Yakutat took first place. She retold a speech given by Tlingit elder,  A.P. Johnson. Johnson had spoken about the speeches and emphasized the importance of oral tradition.  "My generation is at risk of being the first generation to not pass down our oral history, to not practice our tradition, and to not speak our language," Bremner retold.
Storytelling category
  Ishmael Hope of Juneau took first place for dramatically narrating the Alaska Native tale about the birth of the mosquito.
Native Language category
 Students presented a piece in a Southeast Alaska Native language, then translated it into English.  Seven students -- a record number -- participated.  Amanda Bremner took first place followed by Joseph Yates in second. Yates performed a song he composed in honor of his grandparents.

Event coordinators Lyle and Kolene James said it was a magical, emotional and triumphant day for Native culture. Lyle addressed the students, saying: "You were all amazing. I didn't see just you standing there today. I saw the ancestors standing next to you. It was as if the grandparents within you came to talk to us. Every single one of you tugged the strings to our hearts."

UAS Chancellor John Pugh was present and expressed the university's support for the program. He also thanked the volunteer judges, time keepers and video recorders who made the event possible.  "It gives an indication of the number of people who care and who really want to be a part of Native language and culture," Pugh said.

Poets and judges Richard and Nora Marks Dauenhauer are passionate about Native languages and encouraged students to carry these languages for another generation.  Richard spoke of the survival of Native languages which he called victims of "linguistic genocide."

Nora was a victim of that genocide. As a child, she was spanked with a ruler in school for speaking Tlingit instead of English. "Tlingit is worth fighting for. It is worth every ounce of our strength, every ounce of our being to have this (language) taught at this university," Nora said. "This is Tlingit country. I love the language very much. It's my whole being. It means, for me, to be alive. We have to keep this going so that we can keep living."

For more information on the statewide competition visit


Volume 1Volume 3
Native Village Home Page

NATIVE VILLAGE website was created for youth, educators, families, and friends who wish to celebrate the rich, diverse cultures of The Americas' First Peoples. We offer readers two monthly publications: NATIVE VILLAGE Youth and Education News and NATIVE VILLAGE Opportunities and Websites.  Each issue shares today's happenings in Indian country.
Unless otherwise noted, articles are written in full by the credited author.
Native Village is responsible for format changes. Articles may also include additional photos, art, and graphics which enhance the visual appeal and and adds new dimensions to the articles. Each is free or credited by right-clicking the picture, a page posting, or appears with the original article.  Our hopes are to make the news as informative, educational, enjoyable as possible.
NATIVE VILLAGE also houses website libraries and learning circles  to enrich all lives on Turtle Island.
Please visit, and sign up for our update reminders. We are always glad to make new friends!

Native Village is a supporter of the Link Center Foundation: