Celebrate: Song, Dance, and Story!

Cultural Values

     There are many different types of values. Some values are personal, while others are based on the family. Every culture teaches shared values that indicate what is important or meaningful to that group of people. Prominent cultural values of the groups represented in the Performing Arts Festival include: sharing, spirituality, family, honor, and knowledge of language.

     Values are usually passed from one generation to the next. Values are often represented in cultural stories, such as the Yup'ik values found in this video. Listen, watch, and read, in the following section, as culture bearers sing, dance, and tell stories meant to teach important cultural values around the world.



     The Choctaw have many values, but one in particular is connected to the drum and chant sticks. Both the drum and the chant sticks communicate a sense of coming together for teams and communities. The value of community is evident and strong and holds the tribe together. This is clearly observed at Choctaw celebrations, where community members gather to drum, sing, and dance.


     Other Choctaw cultural values include humility and respect.


Compliments of the Cultural Affairs Program P.O. BOX 6010 Choctaw MS. 39350 



     Maintaining family and community connections is very important to the Portuguese.  One way to do this is through music, especially traditional folk music, the music of the people.  Participation did not require formal instruments.  Sometimes two spoons, a water pot and a fan, cooking pots and covers or hitting two rocks together would be the accompaniment to the singing.


     However, many individuals played the traditional instruments.  Mandolin, 4-string mini guitar called the cavaquinho (the basis for the Hawaiian ukulele), button cord concertina, tambor (drum) and the reco-reco were used in all settings. 


     Once the music got started it was common for friends and other family members to drop by with their instruments and start playing.  These gatherings could go for several hours and sometimes into the middle of the night, if the neighbors didn’t mind.


Compliments of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, MA 



     Among all the camaraderie seen throughout the Pilgrimage travels of the Puritans at Plymouth, they say the brotherhood of the Wampanoag is above the rest.  Hunting together, traveling for trade together, gathering resources together, the Wampanoag people dedicate a large portion of their lives to helping one another on a daily basis.  Whenever a passer by comes into a Wampanoag home, it has always been custom to feed first, before engaging in business or relations. This custom continues today due to the many resources still abundant from the land and waters of Southeastern Massachusetts.   Therefore, the custom of camaraderie is not strictly among the Wampanoag people but a relationship shared with other cultures.  This explains their willingness to work with the Puritan pilgrims who arrived in 1620 and feasted together (Thanksgiving) in the fall of 1621. 


     Children are considered precious gifts and are treated accordingly. Hitting children was not done unless raising the child to be a pniese. A pniese was the highest level of warrior a community would ever have. They were at times considered to be invulnerable due to the punishment endured during their training from adolescence. The colonists thought Wampanoag children were spoiled due to the reverse psychology used while raising the youth. If a child is encouraged to play, even when they wish to help, it would result in the child's eagerness to embrace adulthood. The tasks, such as weaving, carving, hunting, gardening and more, were all introduced at young ages but not mandatory for a child to perform, unlike the Puritan children who were expected to work at a very young age to increase material wealth for their family. This also prevented the children of both cultures from interacting with one another. It was said that a Wampanoag boy could have 100 yards worth of accuracy with his bow by the tender age of 14.


     The young man would still need to prove his ability to provide housing, clothing and food for a family prior to approaching the family of his wife to be. If the family approved of him, the decision was up to the woman to accept him or not. When a girl reached her first moon cycle, she would cut her hair shoulder length. When it grew out, she would then be eligible for marriage. The females would perform a "Blanket Dance" to show their selection before the entire community. As the dance begins, the woman dances almost entirely wrapped in the blanket. As the song continues, she begins to reveal a little more as the dance goes on. If she decided on her mate, she would end the dance by dropping her blanket in front of the groom to be.


Compliments of Annawon Weeden and the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA  

Hawaiian Values

Aloha, Mālama, and Kuleana

     These values are a part of everyday Hawaiian life. Aloha is a word that can be used to communicate love, affection, compassion, and sympathy. When aloha is used with children, parents, grandparents, siblings, lovers, and best friends it represents unconditional love. The concept of aloha can also be extended to places such as the land and the sea. Aloha ‘āina, love of the land, is a well respected value by the indigenous people of Hawai‘i.


     Hawaiians practiced good stewardship of the land and sea. Today, this important value carries on in modern Hawaiian culture. Mālama means to care for, to protect, to maintain, and to attend to. It means to care for one another. Examples of mālama can be seen in relationships such as elder brother of younger brother, aunt to niece, teacher to student, and nurse to patient. Mālama is extended to inanimate objects such as the land and ocean. Mālama ‘āina means to care for the land, while mālama kai is to care for the ocean.


     Kuleana is another value that refers to a person’s responsibilities at home, school, work, and in the community.  Kuleana conveys privilege, responsibility, and area of responsibility.  Kuleana is the work of fishermen, farmers, gardeners, weavers, and can even mean the government’s responsibility.


Compliments of the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii



Afuniallaniq – Hunting Traditions

     Reverence for the land, sea and animals is the foundation of our hunting traditions. The Iñupiaq people have survived in this harsh climate for centuries. We have lived off the animals that the land, sea and air bring to us. The hunting traditions are passed on from generation to generation to ensure that the survival of our Iñupiaq people remains.


Qiksiksrautiqabniq – Respect for Nature

     Our creator gave us the gift of our surroundings. Those before us placed ultimate importance on respecting this magnificent gift for their future generations. It is said when one catches a polar bear, you must cut across its windpipe to release its spirit to be free to become something else.


Aviktauqatigiigeiq – Sharing

     It is amazing how sharing works: your acts of giving will always come back. When sharing your catch, it’s known that your next hunt will also be successful. And it’s always better to give than receive. Also, in our tradition, the first catch of any animal by a hunter must all be given away to the elders in the community.  


     To explore even more Iñupiaq values, click here.  


Compliments of the North Slope Borough, Barrow, Alaska



Hunter Success/Learn Hunting and Outdoor Survival Skills 

     The Yup’ik depend heavily upon subsistence, even today. Subsistence refers to hunting and gathering of food that is found naturally in one’s environment. The Yup’ik culture teaches that subsistence is a source of great wealth. The Yup’ik culture traditionally was defined by subsistence resources. Today, many of these same resources continue to define Yup’ik cultural practices. Subsistence patterns were centered on both the coastal and inland regions stretching from Bristol Bay along the Bering Sea coast to Norton Sound. Inland, life was closely tied to the major rivers of Bristol Bay, the Yukon River, and the Kuskokwim River.


     The availability of fish, game, and plants determine the location of seasonal camps and villages. Yup’ik people living along the coast are hunters of beluga whales, seals, sea lions, and walrus. They also harvest salmon, herring, halibut, flounder, trout, burbot, whitefish, blackfish and crabs. Yupiit (plural for Yup’ik) living inland are more heavily dependent upon  salmon and freshwater fish. They often hunt moose, caribou, muskrats, mink, and other fur-bearing animals. Migratory waterfowl, bird eggs, and a variety of seasonal berries, greens, and roots help sustain people throughout the region. Spring, summer, and fall activities are centered upon hunting, fishing and gathering food.

Yup'ik Blackfish Dance

      Fall and winter fishing often utilized wooden fish traps known as taluyat to catch blackfish and other species. These traps varied in size and shape. Many traps were made from split spruce which was bound with spruce root. The taluyaq (singular) is still made and used today in subsistence fishing; however, sometimes modern materials are used in its construction. Nonetheless, fish traps remain an integral part of fishing along the major rivers of Bristol Bay and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

     The Yup'ik dance found on this video is called the Blackfish Dance. Yup'ik dances often tell stories through hand motions. Watch this video and see how many human and fish actions you can identify. Both the blackfish dance and story (top of this page) teach valuable lessons. How can these lessons be applied to everyday life?

     Click here to discover more Yup'ik values.

Compliments of the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, Alaska