To learn more about the true history of Thanksgiving and how that relates to Native people in Alaska, we interview Dr. E.J. Ramos David, Ayyu Qassataq, and Jacqui Igluguq Lambert in front of a live audience on November 30, 2019 at the Writer's Block in Anchorage, Alaska.
"Having these conversations is difficult and talking with our kids is difficult and even as adults encountering these truths is difficult, and I don't want to take away from that because it's true. It's hard. It's complicated. It's complex and it brings up a lot of feelings, but also difficult is to labor under this collective lie. To be an Indigenous person or a person of color and to be living with the collateral damage that's associated with the truth not being told. That is difficult. It's difficult to not understand what has happened to our people. It's difficult to not understand the true history of this place and how it continues to show up." - Ayyu Qassataq
Allison Akootchook Warden is an Iñupiaq installation artist born in Fairbanks, Alaska with close ties to Kaktovik, Alaska. Her most recent work, "siku/siku" debuted at the Arctic Arts Summit in Harstad, Norway in 2017. In 2016, she debuted "Unipkaaġusiksuġuvik (the place of the future/ancient)" at the Anchorage Museum. "Unipkaaġusiksuġuvik (the place of the future/ancient)" is a performative installation of an Iñupiaq ceremonial house that exists in the space between the hyper-future and the super-ancient. Warden was physically present in the installation for almost 390 hours over the course of the two month exhibition. She received both a 2015 Rasmuson Fellowship and an Art Matters grant in 2016 to support this work.
Warden received a 2018 Rasmuson Individual Artist Fellowship in the field of New Genre. She intends to travel to Abu Dhabi to do research for "Everybody Will Be A Millionaire", a collaboration with Iñupiaq photographer Brian Adams, which will debut in 2024. Warden received a 2018 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation National Artist Fellowship in the field of Music. In 2015, Warden received an Alaska Governor's Awards for the Arts and Humanities for her work with youth across the state of Alaska. In 2013, she received a Connie Boochever Fellowship in performance art from the Alaska State Council of the Arts and a Rasmuson Individual Artist Award for performance art in 2012. Her one-woman show, "Calling All Polar Bears" debuted at Pangea Theatre with Intermedia Arts in 2011 as part of a National Performance Network (NPN) residency. The show virtually takes the audience to Kaktovik where they meet characters such as a polar bear, a seal and people in the village who explain the complexities surrounding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It has toured to Berlin, Germany as well as London, England, and the communities of Anchorage and Homer in Alaska. She currently resides in Anchorage and is excited for her upcoming artistic residency for creative writing at the Djerassi Resident Artist program in April of 2017.
What would a polar bear say if he could rap? Or a caribou, or a whale? What about if an Ancestor came back so far from the past that it actually circles around and becomes the future? Warden explores these themes and more in her music, bringing her training in theatre to the stage. AKU-MATU has performed at the STOFF! performance art festival in 2011, at the Lavaklubi (part of the National Theatre of Finland) in 2013, at Columbia University in New York City in both 2010 and 2012. AKU-MATU recently performed for over 1000 people in Paris, France as part of the world climate meetings. AKU-MATU has also performed numerous times for her favorite audience, the high school students of Mount Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, Alaska. AKU-MATU will be performing at the Riddu Riddu Music Festival in 2018 as part of the Inuit Circumpolar Hip-Hop Collaboration.
AKU-MATU is the abbreviation of two of Warden's Iñupiaq names, Akootchook and Matumeak. Akootchook was her Amau (great-Grandfather), and Matumeak was her Attata (great-Uncle) and was known for composing original songs. Warden works in close collaboration with Seattle based artist WD4D, who creates beats sampling Iñupiaq traditional sounds. Warden and WD4D are currently working on an album that is set to debut in 2018.