Celebration 2010 begin Wednesday

Posted: Monday, May 31, 2010

It's time to Celebrate.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

Celebration, Southeast Alaska's largest cultural event, is expected to draw 5,000 people when registration starts here Wednesday.

The biennial gathering, held June 2-5, will include 51 dance groups and more than 2,000 dancers from Alaska, Canada and the Lower 48 states, according to Sealaska.

The Sealaska Heritage Institute started the popular dance-and-culture festival in 1982 to celebrate Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures.

"It's a time to really see our culture in action, and I think for people who are not part of our culture, it's an opportune time for them to learn about the vibrancy of this culture that is still very active in a contemporary period," said Rosita Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute.

SHI will sponsor an informal meeting for Native artists at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Juneau Art and Culture Center. The gathering will be immediately followed by an awards ceremony for the institute's biennial Juried Art Show and Competition.

Dance performances and other events are scheduled June 3-5. The lead dance groups will be the Tuul Gundlass Xyaal Xaadee (Rainbow Creek) Dancers and the Haida Descendants of Kaigani from Hydaburg.

This year's theme is "Our Land" - spelled Haa Aaní in Tlingit, Íitl' Tlagáa in Haida and Na Yuubm in Shm'algyack (Tsimshian). The theme reflects Sealaska's struggle to secure land entitlements promised by the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Worl said.

"We just really wanted to emphasize to our own people and remind others that this is our land, we've lived here for 10,000 years, and we intend to live here for another 10,000 years," she said.

Celebration will also include contests for best soapberries and seaweed, the Toddler Regalia Review, a parade and Native artist market. Events will be held at Centennial Hall, the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall and the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

Molecular Anthropologist Dr. Brian Kemp of Washington State University will lecture on results of a DNA study conducted during Celebration 2008. Testing was to identify descendants of Shuká Kaa (Man Before Us), whose 10,300-year-old remains were found in a cave on Prince of Wales Island in 1986. None of the 230 people who offered DNA samples matched.

In his lecture, Kemp will highlight the second phase of the study, which focused on genetic variation among Alaska's Natives and other indigenous populations, genetic continuity of populations in Alaska and their relationships to other indigenous populations and reconstruction of population history.

Three-day passes are available through Sealaska Heritage Institute in Sealaska Plaza. Tickets also may be purchased at Centennial Hall on Wednesday at 9 a.m. Three-day passes are $15 for elders and those 12 and under and $30 for adults. One-day tickets are $10 for youth and elders and $15 for adults.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1980 to administer cultural and educational programs for Sealaska Corporation. The institute is governed by an all-Native Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

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