Films, lectures celebrate Native American Heritage Month

November is Alaska Native and Native American Heritage Month, and in Juneau there will be plenty of opportunity to learn more about indigenous cultures in Southeast and elsewhere. Here’s a look at some of the happenings.



Sealaska Heritage Institute will once again host a lecture series in recognition of Alaska Native & Native American Heritage Month. Lectures will be held on Tuesdays at noon in the fourth floor Boardroom of the Sealaska Building, Sealaska Plaza. Attendees are invited to bring their own lunch.

The schedule is as follows:

Nov. 13: “On the Origins and Diversity of Northern Northwest Coast Headgear,” with Steve Henrikson, Curator of Collections, Alaska State Museum. With a focus on art history, this presentation will review what is known or surmised about many types and styles of Northwest Coast headgear, with an emphasis on some of the earliest hats, the more unusual forms, and those imported from neighboring Native groups.

Nov. 20: “Basketry and Alaska Native Art Revival,” with Delores Churchill. Haida master weaver and artist. Churchill will discuss the revival of Native art during the late 20th century in communities like Ketchikan and the impact these activities have had for Southeast Alaska Native arts today. The discussion will also focus on Churchill’s own artistic experience as a master weaver

Nov. 27: “Three Hundred Years of Tlingit Art,” with Aldona Jonaitis, Emeritus Director, Museum of the North. This presentation will overview the history of Tlingit artworks made in the 18th century to those created in the 21st century. Special attention will be devoted to artist elements that have been consistent over these centuries, and those that have changed.

Film series

At UAS, an Alaska Native Film Series is underway, a joint project of the Alaska Native Languages & Studies department, the Native & Rural Student Center, and Wooch.een and Waqaa student groups. The free series began Tuesday with “Reel Injun,” and continues every Tuesday through the month of November. Start time is 7 p.m. at the Egan Lecture Hall, with a short discussions to follow the films.

This coming Tuesday the film will be “On the Ice,” the recent debut feature from Andrew Okpeaha MacLean. Here is a look at the other offereings.

Nov. 6: “On the Ice.” In this feature film debut by filmmaker Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, two teenage boys who have grown up like brothers go about their lives in the comfortable claustrophobia of an isolated Alaskan town. Early one morning, teenagers Qalli and Aivaaq find their bond tested when a seal-hunting trip goes tragically wrong. With their future in the balance, they are forced to explore the limits of friendship and honor. Featuring breakout performances by Josiah Patkotak and Frank Qutuq Irelan.

Nov. 13: “The Yup’ik Way.” A portrait of a Yup’ik village in southwestern Alaska trying to hold on to its traditional way of life, while also being a part of the western world. Hooper Bay, or Naparyarmiut, is the largest native Yup’ik village in southwestern Alaska. Of the 1,023 village inhabitants, 62 percent are under 18 years of age. With the majority of the village being so young, traditional ways of life are diminishing by the lure of western culture, technology, and language. Filmmaker Beth Edwards captures elders and youth navigating their way through two worlds.

Nov. 20: “Smoke Signals.” Directed and co-produced by Chris Eyre with a screenplay by Sherman Alexie, this film is based on the short story “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” from the book Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. The story centers on Victor Joseph and Thomas Builds-the-Fire who live on the Coeur D’Alene Indian Reservation in Plummer, Idaho. Thomas is an eccentric storyteller and Victor is an angry, brooding local basketball star, and they are linked by Victor’s father, Arnold Joseph, who takes them on an epic journey off the reservation.

Nov. 27: “History of the Iñupiat: Project Chariot.” In 1958, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission planned to detonate thermonuclear bombs near North America’s oldest continually inhabited settlement. This documentary by Iñupiaq filmmaker Rachel Naninaaq Edwardson tells the dramatic story of an Iñupiaq village that stopped the most powerful agency of its time.


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