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Wainwright dancers to perform at Obama's inauguration

Hannah HeimbuchThe Arctic Sounder
Carey Restino photo

The Utuqqagmiut dancers from Wainwright left their northern Alaska village several days ago, making the long trip from the Arctic coast to the nation's capital. The respected dance group will perform in Monday's inauguration parade celebrating President Barrack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's swearing in.

The Utuqqagmiut dancers, descendants of the people of the Utukok River, revived the dance tradition in 1990, using dance and song to tell the stories of their lives and the ones who came before them. They represent many generations of community tradition.

"Our dances are not of just songs," said Utuqqagmiut dancer Mary Ellen Ahmaogak, "but are stories of our lives, (lives) we still live today as were lived by our ancestors and those before theirs."

Their voices and movement will join dozens of other groups from around the country - representing all 50 states - also making the 1.5-mile journey along Washington D.C.'s Pennsylvania Avenue. The inaugural theme is Our People, Our Future - a theme that focuses on the American people. The event includes a procession of citizen groups, like the Utuqqagmiut dancers, as well as military regiments, marching bands, and floats.

They received the invitation just a few weeks ago, and are now on their way to take part in the celebration. The group will spend nearly a week in the capital.

The parade takes place at 10:30 a.m. Alaska standard time Monday and will be televised.

This article first appeared in The Arctic Sounder. Hannah Heimbuch can be reached at hheimbuch@reportalaska.com.