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Longtime musician to play her first Circumpolar World Music Festival

Jan 24, 2019

A longtime musician will take the stage at Circumpolar World Music Festival for her first time since moving to Alaska five years ago.

Whitney Youngman is King Island Iñupiaq and a member of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana.

Raised on Gila River land in Arizona, music is a large part of her life.

“I was heavily influenced by my grandmother, she did choir for our church, she taught piano. I would always be her little shadow,” Youngman said. “I started on flute, in about third-grade, fourth-grade, and then found guitar probably when I was 13 or 14. My uncle bought me my first guitar and I just really took it up, really, really leaned into it, especially when I was done with high school.”

The musician honed her performing chops during open mic nights while attending Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

She now performs regularly, including twice for the summer concert series at Alaska Native Heritage Center, the host for the Circumpolar World Music Festival.

“(My) influences are probably old soul, old country, that was a big part of my household,” she said. “My mom was really into females that could play guitar, so that made an impression on me for sure. I try to cover them at least once a show.”

Youngman originally came to Alaska for work, studying polar bear and human interactions in the Bering Strait as part of a grant project with Alaska Nanuuq Commission. That work allowed her to travel around Alaska, and even to Nunavut, Canada, before returning to Alaska to live and work.

Frank Waln performs at the 2018 Circumpolar World Music Festival at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. (Photo by Angela Gonzalez)

The Circumpolar World Music Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, January 26, 2019, and will feature Alaska Native guitarist Owen Parduhn, Khu.éex’ and other artists and dancers.

The festival also celebrates the opening of the exhibit, “Muybridge in Alaska: 1868,” a collection of photos taken by Eadweard Muybridge in Southeast Alaska in August 1868. The photos are believed to be the first photographs taken of the Tlingit people.

“It's showing some of the first photographs taken of indigenous people in Alaska specifically,” said Lauren Hughes, director of cultural tourism for the Heritage Center. “We've got some really amazing, historical information that’s going to be shared as well as the photographs themselves, and so we're so excited that we get to host this.”

The exhibit will remain at the Alaska Native Heritage Center until March 27, 2019, when it will be moved to Haines and later to Sitka.