Sunday in Anchorage, a crowd gathered to listen to music, dance, eat and donate money for the Fairbanks Four.
That’s the music of Gary Farmer and Marc Brown and the Troublemakers, who, along with six other groups, including the Unity Drummers and the Tlingit and Haida Dancers of Anchorage, performed at a fundraiser in Anchorage on Sunday for the Fairbanks Four, whose convictions in the 1997 murder of John Hartman were tossed out on Friday.
Hundreds of people gathered at Cook Inlet Tribal Council, and contributed more than $7,000 for George Frese, Kevin Pease, Marvin Roberts and Eugene Vent.
Isaac Bartley was one of about 20 volunteers who prepared and served about 300 Indian tacos – those are tacos made with fry bread – which sold for $10 each.
“People were lining up like crazy, out the door,” Bartley said.
Agatha Ericson says the donated items sold in a silent auction brought in more than $2,000.
“We had jars of fish and jam that went for $300. We had blackberries. We also had some beautiful birch bark baskets, and some seal skin slippers. We also had some wood carvings, a beautiful cribbage board too that went for quite a bit of money as well, carved cribbage board.”
Demaris Hudson heads a dance group.
“My dance group Ida’ina K’eljeshna Dancers, we performed earlier,” she says.
She says pulling together to support each other is an important part of her Dena’ina Athabascan heritage, and she wants to set an example for young people on how to face and overcome issues.
“Cause when it comes to our Native people, not only here in Alaska but across the whole Indian Country, issues arise. And we are stronger as a people with more than one voice, when we stand united and support each other.”
The event started at noon and wrapped up at about 6 p.m., after two of the Fairbanks Four spoke to the crowd by telephone from Fairbanks. Here’s a few words from George Freese:
“Just know I love you all. I’m so grateful for everything you’ve ever done.”
Eugene Vent also expressed gratitude.
“I just want you guys to know from the bottom of my heart, man, it means the world to me because when we were down, y’kno, we watched you guys, talked to you. You gave us strength,” he said.
Organizer Rodney McCord says with Christmas in mind, he and Samuel Johns took just a little over a week to set up the event, and he’s pleased with the turnout.
“Tons and tons of people gathering for a good cause, for the Fairbanks Four to raise them some money so they could have a merry Christmas. It was such a blessing. I can’t even explain how happy this made me feel.”
The $7,000 raised at the fundraiser will be deposited in a bank account for the Fairbanks Four.