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Alaska's Byron Nicholai gets a presidential audience

  • Author: Alaska Dispatch News
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published September 26, 2016

Byron Nicholai, a teenager from Toksook Bay who has gained a major following for his traditional Yup'ik singing and drumming and original songs, performed on Monday for perhaps his most memorable audience yet — President Barack Obama.

Nicholai performed just before Obama spoke at the eighth annual White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., a gathering of tribal leaders from around the U.S. Obama was presented with a ceremonial blanket and briefly donned a tribal hat given to him by the president of the National Congress of American Indians at the ceremony.

It wasn't the first time Nicholai had performed for a high-profile audience — he previously appeared in Washington, D.C., at an event marking the U.S. assumption of the Arctic Council chairmanship, with Secretary of State John Kerry in attendance.

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Correction: This article originally stated that the hat was given to Obama by a leader of the Crow Nation; it was actually given to him by Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians and chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in Washington State.

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