49 Voices: Clintonette Gregg of Anchorage

Clintonette Gregg of Anchorage. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

This week we’re hearing from Clintonette Gregg of Anchorage. Gregg grew up in Kotzebue and is the leader of the Anchorage Northern Lights dancers. The Inupiaq dance group opened the first day of the AFN convention on Thursday.

Listen now

GREGG: I have been Inupiaq dancing since I was about 14 years old. The beauty of it, watching my girlfriend — who’s no longer with us anymore, she had passed on — watching her dance and just watching the fluent graceful movements of the song and the dance, and watching how it enlightened the audience, and how it drew them into the dancing… I felt that was such a beautiful thing. And the songs are so beautiful to listen to.

I have too many favorites. Growing up, I would have to say, when I first started out, it would have to be the boat paddling song. The tone of the song itself and how it relates to being out in the water and just being one with the water, and being able to do your subsistence with just a small boat and your two hands just amazes me.

We also have a seagull dance. In Inupiaq we call the seagull nauyak. And in this song, it depicts the seagull soaring over the ocean looking for fish. And it depicts not only the Inupiaq people going out and subsisting, but it also tells stories of how the animals did the same.

So it makes me very proud to know that my teaching is actually being instilled in the youth, and it makes me feel good to know that it’s going to be carried on in the future when they’re adults.

To know where they come from. There’s always that question in everyone’s mind: Who am I? Where do I come from? What is my background? And when you don’t have that information, and you have to go and search for it, you’re spending more time trying to find out who you are than knowing who you are, and being able to share that with others.