Festival of Native Arts celebrates 50th

Cheri Alstrom of St. Mary's dances with the Acilquq Dance Group during the 50th annual Festival of Native Arts on Feb. 23, 2024.

By Lou Yur’acung’ Frenzl and UAF Festival of Native Arts club

Photos provided by UAF photo, Fairbanks Daily News Miner and UAF Festival of Native Arts

The 50th Festival of Native Arts was held at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Troth Yeddha’ Campus on Feb. 22-24, 2024.

The annual gathering to salute Alaska Native cultures has been held on campus since 1974.

The 50th festival’s theme was Troth Yeddha’ Forever: Our Ways of Life. UAF’s Fairbanks campus sits on Troth Yeddha’, or “wild potato ridge,” in the ancestral lands of the Lower Tanana Dena people. But Indigenous people from across Alaska and beyond bring their cultures to the festival each year.

A timeline and photos below reflect some of the festival’s five-decade history.


The inception and early years of the Festival of Native Arts

In December 1973, students and faculty developed the idea for the Festival of Native Arts. The first festival took place in early April 1974 as a five-day event held in the Wood Center. That same year, James G. Schrock-Grant designed the iconic Festival of Native Arts emblem, and, with the completion of the Davis Concert Hall in the Fine Arts Complex, the festival found its new home there.


The 10th annual Festival of Native Arts: A tribute to Emily Ivanoff Brown

The 1983 festival marked the 10th annual celebration and was dedicated to Emily Ivanoff Brown, an Iñupiaq/Siberian Yupik scholar and author of “The Roots of Ticasuk.”


Powwow finale and 25th anniversary celebration

In 1998, the festival concluded with a powwow that lasted until the early hours of the morning, featuring several intertribal drum groups. That year, the festival celebrated its 25th anniversary with the theme A Celebration of Generations.


30th Anniversary of the Festival of Native Arts: Celebrating with the theme Where It All Began

In 2003, the student committee dedicated the 30th anniversary of the Festival of Native Arts to Rural Student Services at UAF, the birthplace of the festival, with the theme Where It All Began.


Highlighting the Dena Film Celebration

In 2013, the Festival of Native Arts featured a Dena Film Celebration in the Salisbury Theatre.


Resilience and celebration

In 2020, Resilient We Stand was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After two years of remote celebrations, the festival returned to in-person gatherings in 2023 with the theme Revitalize and Rise. The festival marked its 50th year in 2024, celebrating with Troth Yeddha’ Forever: Our Ways of Life.


2024 Festival of Native Arts: Celebrating 50 Years with the theme Troth Yeddha’ Forever

The vibrant logo for the 2024 Festival of Native Arts, themed Troth Yeddha’ Forever: Our Ways of Life, depicts two individuals dressed in traditional attire, highlighting the festival’s dedication to cultural heritage and resilience. The aurora borealis in the background symbolizes the northern roots of the festival, while the floral and drum motifs represent the rich traditions and unity of Native communities.