Tribe seeks funds for cultural, educational, tourism center

Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2010

JUNEAU - In January, Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska President William Martin, accompanied by managers and legal counselors, met with the Alaska Delegation in Washington D.C. to promote a project aimed at creating jobs in smaller communities and preserving Native cultures.

Central Council is seeking federal seed funds for the new Southeast Alaska Native Cultural, Educational and Tourism Center to be located in Juneau. The Culture Center will offer a cultural experience for Juneau visitors where they will learn about Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures and traditions. The Culture Center will also feature interactive exhibits, storytelling, traditional-style all natural foods, a theater, a shopping mall and several distance learning labs as part of the Council's Tribal College program.

"We were very excited and proud to present this project to our Alaska Delegation. It has been a group effort and we are thankful for everyone's hard work. We have been working on this project for quite some time," said President Martin. "Our meetings with the Alaska Delegation have been a success, the time is right to move forward, it's time to make it happen."

In addition to creating jobs, the Culture Center will offer:

• Expanded opportunities for tourism-based businesses in Juneau: Once constructed, the Culture Center will enrich the cultural content in Juneau to justify longer stays for cruise ships, giving more opportunities for businesses in Juneau and the region to achieve higher revenues.

• More tourism for Southeast Alaska: Having a visitors bureau at the Culture Center with a focus on village-based guides and lodge operators will encourage tourists to come back as independent travelers to explore rural Southeast, and support rural economies.

• Protection of Native cultures: The project will sustain hundreds of artists, businesses, craftspeople, and performers from throughout Southeast Alaska; will provide resources to rural communities with which they can engage in cultural activities; and will provide internships and scholarships for younger tribal members to promote cultural knowledge and college education.

The operation of the facility will create and maintain new direct jobs in Juneau and indirect jobs in rural communities throughout the region. The construction phase will create an estimated 160 local jobs. Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority is an avid supporter and an active advocate of the project.

"I believe in partnerships," said THRHA President Dr. Blake Kazama. "Together, we are afforded an opportunity to build upon a synergistic effect. This exciting project would become a monument not only to the tribes of Southeast, but to all who visit the capital city of Alaska. As a housing authority, we have the expertise to put the project together, and we have a core crew that would hire locally. We [will] support the project with grants. We are proud to be a partner."

If the request is successful, Central Council will acquire a presently vacant site in the heart of downtown Juneau for the Culture Center. When completed, the center will function like a business enterprise and will not require government subsidies. Central Council examined two potential models when considering this project - the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii and the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks - which were deemed highly relevant. Representatives of each of these facilities have been identified as prospective mentors. Both facilities are financially solid and gaining market share.

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