Southeast Alaska’s premier Native culture, art and dance event returns to Juneau as the Sealaska Heritage Institute hosts its biennial Celebration, Juried Art Show and Native Artists Gathering this week.
Celebration’s motto this year is "Strengthen Yourself" — Ayanaltseenáa (Tlingit), Án hl is daguyáa (Haida) and Lip sha gotgyednshm (Tsimshian).
This motto ties into a more general theme of every Celebration, the strengthening of Native culture and arts across Southeast Alaska.
Celebration hosts around 2,000 dancers making up nearly 50 dance groups. The Xudzidaa Kwáan Dancers of Angoon will lead Celebration this year.
“Celebration is a time when we come together as Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people to celebrate the survival of our culture,” Rosita Worl (Yeidiklats'okw), president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute said. “We come together to celebrate the vibrancy of our culture and to show to ourselves that our culture is thriving.“
Celebration is for the non-Native community as well.
“We want people to have the opportunity to come and learn and celebrate our culture and to feel welcome in coming to Celebration,” Worl said.
Celebration runs June 7-9.
A Native artists gathering and SHI’s Juried Art Show and awards ceremony is scheduled for June 6. For those looking to peruse or purchase Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian art, the Institute plans to host a Native Artists’ Market in the parking lot of the Sealaska Plaza. It’s a new venue, picked due to an expanding group of interested Native artists.
“We've had more people request to come to sell at the Native Artist Market and we want to be able to accommodate as many Native artists as we can,” Worl said. One of the Institute’s long-term goals is to make Juneau a center of Native art, she said.
The parking lot is also more accessible to travelers visiting Juneau, Worl said. Visitors to Southeast Alaska are “really important to us,” Worl said. “We want them to not only learn about our art, but we're hopeful that they're also going to be purchasing art from our artists.”
The biennial Celebration event was first held in 1982, according to SHI’s website.
The 2012 Celebration features dance performances, black seaweed and soapberry contests, workshops, lectures and a parade through downtown Juneau.
This is the third black seaweed competition and the first ever competition for the best soapberries. Winners of each competition can take home up to $500.
Young Sealaska shareholders and shareholder descendants, 2 to 4 years old, will get a chance to show off their traditional regalia to Celebration revelers at the Toddler Regalia.
For all those who like a good oyster shuck, Haa Aani, a Sealaska subsidiary, is hosting Oyster Fest in the Institute’s landscaped lot across from from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m on June 7 at Sealaska Plaza.
Sealaska Corp., formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, established the Sealaska Heritage Institute in 1980. Clan leaders, traditional scholars and elders first thought up the idea of a Celebration at the first Sealaska Elders Conference, that same year. Shortly after, SHI sponsored the first United Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Traditional Celebration.
“Celebration '82 was so popular that our Board of Trustees decided the festival should become a biennial event,” according to the SHI website. It has grown to include representatives from most Southeast Alaska communities, Anchorage, the Seattle area, Hawaii and Canada.
• For more information visit www.sealaskaheritage.org/celebration.