Aachix̂Qağaduug - Elise Beers
Aachix̂Qağaduug - Elise Beers currently has a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Choreography from Brigham Young University. While achieving her degree, she was given multiple “Most Promising Choreographer” scholarships and her work was featured in multiple semesters of dance company shows, ACDAGala, film shorts, music videos, and her own screen dance films. She has danced in professional shows in Utah and is currently dancing for Forthun + Rome Dance Theatre in Seattle. Aachix̂Qağaduug is part Aleut and incorporates native-inspired movements and concepts into her choreographic structures. Her passion is to share her native movement with contemporary through curious professional dancers focused on investigating kinetic patterns. As an indigenous filmmaker, choreographer, and dancer, Aachix̂Qağaduug is currently living in Seattle and hopes to share her passion for the ancestral arts through dance.
More of Aachix̂Qağaduug's story in her own words:
As a Unangan Native, I found that I am not only amongst a national minority- I am also amongst the minority within the Indigenous Alaskan Peoples. Before major outside contact, there were estimated to be twenty-five thousand Aleuts/Unangans. Yet, after the nineteenth-century diseases, Russian intermarriage, religious colonialization, and population control efforts by Russia and America- the Unangan population decreased by about eighty percent. Events like these can cause identity dissonance leading to chronic depression. Even today, Native suicide rates are more than twice the rate of non-natives.
At a young age, I wondered where my people’s stories fit in this colonial world and how do I fit in as native-born from a lighter-skinned ancestry. Aleuts were so intermixed with Russian- creating mixed skin colors. Later, when the US occupied the Aleutian Islands, they sent many of the “non-white passing” natives to concentration camps where disease demolished the population and sent the remaining natives to brutal boarding schools. With very poor conditions and no safety, they were forced to be “civilized” and forsake their beliefs, language, songs, and dance.
Today, few Aleuts remain and we must remember our ancestors and reverse the cultural genocide. Being part Aleut is something that my family is proud of today because my Kukax̂ (grandmother) bravely strived to dismantle her societal embarrassment of being indigenous. Pondering the meaning of our peoples' name “Aleut” - where the ocean breaks it’s back - I deliberate my social standing and identity. Additionally, hearing my Kukax̂ stories grew a sense of identity for me and an eagerness to keep the culture alive within my art. I am Native and an Artist and I will honor my ancestors through my work. Aachix̂Qaĝ̂aduug asax̂takuqing.