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Yukon-Koyukuk School District holds 14th Annual Virtual Holiday Program

Published: Dec. 16, 2020 at 4:04 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Yukon-Koyukuk School District (YKSD) held its 14th Annual Virtual Holiday Program on December 16th.

Livestreamed on YouTube starting at 12:30pm, the event saw participants from all nine schools in the district, as well as from Maudrey J. Sommer School in Tanana City.

Classrooms served as the settings for students to sing renditions of “Jingle Bells,” “Silent Night,” and “The Little Drummer Boy” among other Christmas Classics. Many of these songs had been translated into Denaakk’e or Benhi Kokht’ana Kenaga, Athabaskan languages from the Koyukan and Lower Tanana regions.

Susan Paskvan, Native Language Coordinator for the YKSD, said the students performed very well. “Students were all ready for the holidays. They had their classrooms decorated. They’d been practicing their songs,” she said.

According to Paskvan, practice for the concert begins when students return to school from the Thanksgiving vacation. “We start practicing the songs in Denaak’e, which has three dialects, the central, upper and lower, and then we have Benhi Kokht’ana Kenaga, the language of Minto.”

She explained that the event was held virtually prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our school district is 70,000 square miles, so our villages are about the size of the state of Washington - and so we’ve always held it virtually.”

Paskvan said students are “so happy to be learning the songs. I think Jingle Bells, we have 8 different versions.”

While Elders were not able to watch the show from the school district office as they normally would, Paskvan was happy that they were able to join virtually. “It’s good to see the connection between our students learning our languages and the elders who helped teach them.”

During the program, a Grinch could be found lurking around the school district office in Fairbanks; but by the end of the show, this Grinch had surrendered to the holiday spirit.

The full video of the program can be found on the Yukon-Koyukuk School District’s website.

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