Promotional flyer for the Indigenous Language Film Festival (Image courtesy KPBSD Title VI)

Promotional flyer for the Indigenous Language Film Festival (Image courtesy KPBSD Title VI)

Indigenous languages featured in school film festival

The festival was designed to promote and increase the visibility of Indigenous languages

The first annual Indigenous Language Film Festival was held online Tuesday, hosted by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Title VI program.

The festival was designed to promote and increase the visibility of Indigenous languages, Title VI Specialist Rachel Pioch told the Clarion in December, while Title VI was soliciting submissions from local residents.

Two films were ultimately received, one from a Kenai Middle School student, and one from the Tebughna Foundation in Tyonek. The festival was broadcast via YouTube three times on Tuesday, and is archived online at a KPBSD-run “Indigenous Language Film Festival” website.

The first film, “Dena’ina Homeland Names,” was submitted by Julieanna Bismark, a Dena’ina Language Apprentice at the Tebughna Foundation. It features her students reciting the original names of various locations around the Kenai Peninsula and beyond.

The recitation was taken from a traditional song, Bismark explained after the first broadcast of the festival Tuesday. That song is performed in three parts. She explained that the song had to be truncated to fit the time constraints specified in the festival guidelines, but she created the film as a combination of three shorter videos, filmed using TikTok, to evoke that traditional three-part structure.

“We were originally trying to do the old Dena’ina way, and sing it in three rounds,” she said. “For us to do that and then for us to be so modern that we have to use TikTok as an editing app, it just kind of goes full circle.”

Bismark said she planned to participate again in next year’s festival.

The other film was “Mosquito Song,” by Scarlet Charbonneau, a Kenai Middle School student and Kenaitze tribal member, submitted by Chelsea Hendriks of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe.

The film depicts Charbonneau as she sings entirely in Dena’ina, with English subtitles. Information at the end of the film explains that the “Mosquito Song,” called Tx’ix K’elika, is a song from the Cook Inlet Dena’ina, or a Tikhatnu K’elika.

“Plans are already in the works for next year,” Pioch said at the end of the festival. “To highlight the Indigenous languages of the Kenai Peninsula.”

Reach reporter Jake Dye at

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