History of Pavva

Pavva Iñupiaq Dancers

The Pavva Iñupiaq Dancers has 501(c)(3) non-profit status. Members of the group hold a variety of positions including educators, administrators, students, and other positions in and around Fairbanks. Since we are a community group, the age of the members range from infants to Elders. We perform to insure that the general public is educated about the culture, traditions and heritage of our Iñupiaq people. Sharing is a one of our Iñupiaq values when we teach dancing as part of our culture. We try to incorporate all the Native values in our practices and performances.

The Pavva Iñupiaq Dancers are residents of the Fairbanks area, and was formed to preserve the culture and traditions of the Iñupiaq peoples through song and dance. Sharing our culture through performances to both Alaska Native and non-Native peoples help us keep strong in our heritage. Fairbanks is in the interior of Alaska and the name "Pavva," in Iñupiaq means 'away from shore, landwards, toward the mountain' was chosen. The group chose this name because they live away from the Northern region where their parents and grandparents originally lived. Although most of the Iñupiaq people in Fairbanks may have danced with family or other dance groups, they formed the Iñupiaq dance group in 1999 to be able to share dances, to learn from one another, and to perform for others. The group practices on a regular basis, twice a month through the school year, and still perform throughout the year. As members perform for groups, other Iñupiaq and others who have a high interest in Iñupiaq culture and beliefs have come to join the group. 

The group is growing to meet the desire to learn and preserve the Iñupiaq values and traditions. Sharing of songs and dances reflect the culture, traditions and heritage the Iñupiaq people passed down from generation to generation. Asiqluq, our group leader has created songs and dances for us to perform, and we have performed shared dances from Yup’ik and Iñupiaq groups. Performances include many Alaska Native cultural and non-Native events throughout Alaska including locations such as Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, North Pole, Nenana, Bethel and St. Mary’s. Members of the group have also performed in many U.S. states such as California, Hawai’i, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Florida, Washington, Oklahoma, Utah, Maryland, and Washington DC. International locations also include Calgary, Malaysia, Iqaluit in Nunavut, Canada, and most recently in New Zealand. We have been filmed by many international film and TV companies such as BBC for the children's program Blue Peter, Japanese TV about Northern Lights and Indigenous people, CBS Morning News/ Today Show and others.

We have many members ranging from infants to Elders. At one point, we have four generations of one family actively involved with our group. We have school-aged members learning and sharing their cultural heritage. One of our teenage members taught other youth dances at a cultural center; and another teenage youth was invited to be the keynote speaker at the First Alaskans Elders and Youth conference associated before the Alaska Federation of Natives Annual Convention. Many of our members are active in our community. For example, we have a longtime parent volunteer for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District (FNSBSD) Alaska Native Education Parent Advisory Committee, a member named the “Alaska Education Support Professional of the year”, a 2014 National Indian Education Association "Parent of the Year" Awardee, and a professor teaching at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Many of our members contribute to positive activities in our community.

We perform and teach dance at various events. We go into classrooms, as well into the local university museum. We get invited to perform at conferences and meetings; some are televised statewide and streamed online. We have performed for audiences ranging from just a few to over two thousand people. We are always happy to share since it is vital to our Iñupiaq survival!

Photo: Ahnaughuq and Asiqluq performing at the 2016 World Indigenous Nations of Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC) held in Otaki, New Zealand, October 1, 2016.

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Sean Topkok,
Jul 20, 2009, 3:36 PM