The youth keynote address on day two of the Elders and Youth Conference, Tuesday, at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, drew a spirited reaction from the audience.
Tristan Yaadoh Jovan Madros, 20, focused on his traditional upbringing in Kaltag, hunting, building birch sleds, sewing skins and speaking the Koyukon Athabascan language. Madros told the crowd that practices like those need to be at the center of young people’s formal education in Alaska.
“We should be incorporating our traditions, our oral histories, and dancing into our curriculum,” he said. “We should be teaching these things to the children, in the schools. You have to start somewhere.”
At just 19, Madros was chosen to be second chief on the Kaltag Village Council, and he works with several different entities in the Interior region, including Tanana Chiefs Conference and the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
A brief but powerful speech
Madros’s speech was brief, about nine minutes long. His message was clear and direct, asking for elders to serve a more direct role as a bridge for young people to move forward, and telling the current generation to take pride in their heritage.
“We are here today because of our ancestors. The things they went through so we could be here are unimaginable. And we have to respect that by respecting the land they walked on. We must continue to move their footprints around. We shouldn’t cover them up with oil rigs, mines, and logging companies,” Madros said to applause. “It’s time that we realize what we leave behind is what our future generations will have to deal with.”
The speech received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Day two of the conference also heard a dialogue on well-being, hip-hop performances by indigenous artists and breakout sessions on a range of topics from language revitalization to indigenous tattooing.
Elders and Youth concludes Wednesday, with the Alaska Federation of Natives convention beginning Thursday and lasting through Saturday.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Inuit elders tell their experience of Arctic climate change, Radio Canada International
Finland: Sámi school preserves reindeer herders’ heritage with help of internet, Cryopolitics Blog
United States: ‘Our ancestors are our fire’: Elders and Youth conference hosted in southern Alaska, Alaska Public Media