On November 9-11, over 200 Native American college students from across the United States gathered in Anchorage for the annual “Would Jesus Eat Frybread?” (WJEF?) conference, a ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. ABC graduate Cynthia Pete (BA 2016) was instrumental in bringing the conference to Anchorage this year, making it possible for many Alaska Native students to join this national conversation exploring the intersection of the Christian faith and Indigenous culture. Pete attended a previous WJEF? conference in Minnesota, at the encouragement of instructor Robin Harris, who teaches Ethnodoxology at ABC each spring.
A major focus of Cynthia’s studies at ABC was the question of whether Eskimo Dancing can be used as a legitimate expression of Christian worship. At the conference, Cynthia had the opportunity to apply her studies and explore her ideas further, and she developed a desire to encourage this conversation among more Alaska Native people. The Anchorage conference was the result of over two years of dreaming and planning between Cynthia and the WJEF? team. The Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska was instrumental in coming alongside Cynthia and sponsoring her vision.
In addition to Cynthia’s involvement, several other ABC individuals participated in the conference, including former students Katie Daniels, Brandon Lupie, and Harriette Slwooko, current student Eugene Stevens, and staff members Justin Archuletta & John Ferch.
A highlight of the conference was Mary Huntington of Koyuk, who taught the group how to drum, sing, and dance her own traditional-style Inupiaq song with a Christian message entitled “My Savior.” Their performance, including several individuals from ABC, can be seen at the following YouTube link: https://youtu.be/HjFlh05omBI?t=30m9s