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Alaska Native Oratory Society's Annual Contest
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"Look Around -- Tomorrow's Leaders Are Here in This Room"

Students from the University of Alaska Anchorage delivered speeches before a coterie of professors, statewide Native leaders, and the chancellor and vice-chancellor of UAA at the first annual Alaska Native Oratory Society Contest, held on March 15, 2002. The Alaska Native Oratory Society works to provide a public forum in which Alaska Native issues can be openly discussed and articulated by speakers who are personally involved with the issues, all while fostering leadership among Alaska Native youth and adults.

Competing for $3,500 in prize money to be used toward education expenses, entrants choose from two categories in which to give their five- to ten-minute speeches: oratory and dramatic declamation.

In the oratory event, students deliver original speeches relating to Alaskan Native issues such as cultural identity, language preservation, and village suicides. Speeches are required to make strong use of supporting materials, such as elders' teachings, cultural lore, and public record.

Participants in the dramatic declamation event present renditions of famous Native American speeches, preceded by introductory remarks of their own. They are encouraged to give impressions of the speech's original author through dress and movement.

Fifteen judges from the university and the community listened and ranked speeches during the all-day event. After two hours of judging, Larry Merculieff of Southcentral Foundation surveyed the group of speakers and pronounced that Native leaders had been wondering for years where the young leaders might be. However, after listening to the competitors, he said, "Look around -- tomorrow's leaders are here in this room."

2002 Results

Quentin Simeon, a junior at UAA, won first place and a $1,000 award in the oratory event for the delivery of his speech entitled, "A Glimpse into a Tannish-Brown Soul." Wearing a calf-high Yup'ik sealskin boot on his right foot and a tennis shoe on his left, Simeon explained that life for him "is like a tug of war between two cultures."

Second in the oratory event, winning a $500 award, was Karla Booth for her speech about family shame over their Native heritage. UAA sophomore Esther Davison placed third in the oratory division, winning $250, with her speech about the demise of the Tlingit language.

UAA freshman Doreen Spear won top honors and a $1,000 award in declamation with her impassioned recitation of a speech advocating the need for Native education originally delivered by her grandfather, the late Eben Hobson, Sr., the first North Slope Borough mayor. Dressed in traditional Inupiaq garb, the diminutive Spear seemed to grow in stature as she assailed the audience in her grandfather's words to "remember the lessons of the past" in order to "search and master the new changes if we are continue to dominate the Arctic."

Winning second place and a $500 award in declamation was UAA junior Patrick Bickford reading a series of Native American speeches tracing indigenous attitudes -- from the enthusiasm of early greetings to the Europeans to the defeated expressed in Chief Joseph's "I Will Fight No More Forever" address in 1877. Third place honors and $250 went to UAA junior Shanette Harper for her performance of the Cherokee Chief Corn Tassel's 1785 indictment of the treaty process.


Dramatic Declamation

First Place: Quentin Simeon, UAA junior
Second Place: Karla Booth
Third Place: Esther Davison, UAA sophomore

First Place: Doreen Spear, UAA freshman
Second Place: Patrick Bickford, UAA junior
Third Place: Shanette Harper, UAA junior

Listen to Audio
IBM Text to Speech

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