Greg Nothstine, his mother Sophie Egalena Nothstine, and their cousin Richard Iyoqunga Atuk, are the founders of the Kingikmiut dance group.
Kingikmiut means people of the high bluff, from the original name of the village of Wales in northwest Alaska.The late Paul Tiulana of King Island, which is 45 miles from Wales, encouraged Greg Nothstine to become involved in traditional dancing. He told him about when he was just two or three years old and his family would travel to Wales and watch dance performances. "The women were graceful," Tiulana told Nothstine. "And the men were real powerful singers and drummers.... if you go ask those elders who are still alive in your Mom's village maybe they still remember some songs."
Dr. Maria Williams, musicologist and Director of Native Studies at University of Alaska Anchorage, says the group is part of a renaissance of traditional dance groups that began in the 1970s and '80s.Nothstine laughs as he remembers the group's first performance, at the World Eskimo Indian Olympics in Fairbanks. He says he miscued, and was singing the wrong stanza. His aunt loudly told him, "Not. Like. That!" That's the price of admission," says Nothstine, "for reclaiming your songs. You just have to wade through some of these unknown areas and pitfalls and just keep going." Kingikmiut now performs regularly, and Nothstine hopes traditional dancing will become even a bigger part of community life.Professional violinist, and PhD candidate in ethnomusicology Heidi Senungetuk says dance group members enjoy the music, the dancing, and sense of community, and, she says, they're making a statement."People are trying to say, 'We are here. We're still here. And it's okay to be who we are, rather than what so many people have experienced in Alaska, which is, 'you're not good enough as a Native person.' Or the colonial thought, 'ge
t out of the way, we need your land.'At a recent dance group practice, Nothstine told the group it was last practice his daughter was attending before leaving for college. He, his mother, and his two children, danced the seal hunting dance together, a family favorite.