2 modern Athapaskan males with violins

The Athapaskan people of Alaska call themselves Den'a ("the people") and speak eleven different languages. The Den'a see a unity in the human, natural and spiritual worlds; in both the seen and unseen worlds, all things have a spirit, and everything is connected.

Transition from oral to written communication has brought vast changes in the way Den'a stories and histories are told. By itself, the literature offers a limited scope, perception and understanding of Den'a belief. Repeated visits, stories, and inclusion in celebrations and healing ceremonies are needed to open the soul to a real view of the Athapaskan world. It is through participation that the significance of a "give-away" ceremony is appreciated. Like other native peoples in the Northwest, exchange brings into connection the modern, natural world and the mythic world of the ancestors.

This connection supports the life cycle of the Den'a who have in place an indigenous method to maintain the social order. By accepting one another for who they are and accepting ourselves for where we are, the Den'a exhibit a healing force that returns you to normal growth, development, and function.

- Melinda Chase, Miranda Wright and Bernice Joseph
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