Tyonek People in Alaska Set Month of March to Be Friendly: It's Time for the Ida’ina Gathering

A story about the 2013 Ida’ina Gathering in Anchorage, Alaska.

What started two years ago in Anchorage, Alaska as a gathering of friends has become a major yearly event for the Tebughna, the Beach People, and it is drawing popular Native entertainers like Redbone and thousands of guests.

The Tebughna Foundation, the sponsor, has set the Ida’ina Gathering for March 29 to 31, at the Dena’ina Civic & Convention Center (for details, click here). The three-day family affair is packed with activities and serves as the main attraction, with several events leading up to it.

“We started this gathering in March 2011. Ida’ina means friends—friendship,” said Emil McCord, executive director of the foundation, adding that they invite all tribes from Alaska and those who just want to enjoy the festivities. 

The Duncan clan

The Tebughna Foundation is supported by Anchorage-based defense manufacturing company Tyonek Native Corporation. Tebughna is the name given to the Tyonek people, who live in Anchorage and in the Village of Tyonek, 40 air miles away.

The first pow wow was an immediate hit, said McCord. “The first year, we got lots of feedback after the gathering. They love the entertainment and atmosphere.”

“We attract about 6,000 people in three days. People come from South Dakota, Wisconsin, Tennessee, North Carolina and Canada,” he said.

“This year, we expect a little more because we have popular groups coming,” said McCord referring to Rebone and the Barrow Dancers, whose members are Inupiaq. In all, he said, there are 40 group dancers performing.

Among the performers on the list are drums featuring Alaska Nativedancers: Tyonek Traditional Dancers, Ida’Ina Dance Group, Cordova Ikumat Aluttiq Dancers and Ahtna Heritage Dancers.

Drum groups Namawochi Tribe from North Carolina and Braveheart from South Dakota will also perform as well as a hoop dancer still to be determined.

Headlining the Benefit Concert on the second day is Redbone, a Native American rock group that hit the music charts with the single “Come and Get Your Love,” in 1974, and Medicine Dream, an intertribal First Nations group that perform contemporary Native American music.

Chief Lil Wolf, also known as DJ Braun, 17, who set up his own recording studio in his bedroom and writes his own music will also perform live before his home crowd for the first time.

The Duncan clan

The run-up to the pow wow are crowd pleasers on their own. On February 8 a sponsor mixer was held where the entertainers and sponsors meet and greet in a food and dance gathering.

On March 12 to 16 the first annual Ida’ina basketball tournament will be be held at the Wendler Middle School. Some 18 adult teams are competing in the tournament.

For the teens, the competition to be Miss Ida’ina ends on March 15, the deadline for Alaska Natives, ages 16 to 25, to write an essay on how they've helped their communities and why they should be the next Miss Ida’Ina. The winner gets a $500 scholarship.

Returning this year is the Native Style Runway, where talented artists are given a chance at the Gathering to show their individually designed regalias.

McCord said there is an effort to bring the dates closer. “We started the basketball tournament this year, but the city of Anchorage did not have gym space available close in time to the Gathering. Next year, we want to have it leading up to the Gathering so that visiting teams can attend the Gathering if they chose to.”

Here's a video of a grand entry at last year's Gathering:


A video of a Blanket Dance for the late Johnny Goodlataw at last year's Gathering: