Past meets present at Celebration 2000

Posted: Sunday, June 04, 2000

From the fry bread for sale to the performances of dozens of dance groups, Celebration 2000 mixed the traditions of the past with the modern world of the present.

``The concept of uniting people - from our ancestors to the current generation and future generations - is really important to the survival of our culture. The interrelationship is crucial,'' said Rosita Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Foundation, the sponsors of Celebration.

Created in 1982, Celebration was designed to revive and preserve the endangered culture of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people. Almost two decades later, Celebration 2000, which ends today with a canoe race at Twin Lakes, has grown to be one of the largest cultural events for Alaska Natives.

``This whole experience is amazing,'' said Jayne Dangeli, coordinator of the event. ``It hits people right here - in your heart. It's just taken on a life of its own.''

Along with a parade, dance performances and an arts and crafts fair, Celebration 2000 paid tribute to more than 1,000 deceased leaders from the various tribes and clans of the Pacific Northwest.

``We all have tears, let today be the beginning of our healing,'' said Clarence Jackson after sharing a traditional story of healing and forgiveness from the podium at Centennial Hall.

``Families are the strength of our people,'' said Dr. Walter Soboloff, who shared the stage with Jackson during the tribute.

``You may say all these names may not be distinguished leaders but every mother and father has made their contribution to our people,'' Soboloff told the crowd, many of whom were dressed in regalia.


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After the ceremony on Friday, several people stood in line outside the National Guard Armory to buy Mary Sackett's Famous Fry Bread.

``It's my mother's secret recipe,'' said Sackett, as she kneaded the dough under a tarp that sheltered her, her brother and daughter from the sun.

``It's a great feeling to feed our elders and the shareholders,'' said the recent graduate of University of Alaska Southeast who commutes between Juneau and Sitka.

Sackett, who won't reveal her recipe, has been making traditional Native fry bread for the past 15 years. Now, that she has a degree in business administration she may expand her bread-making to a larger enterprise, she said.

Inside the Armory, there was more evidence of traditional and modern values merging at the Arts and Crafts Fair.

Along with the regalia, jewelry and bead work for sale, there was a modern element to many of the artist's work.

``Haida art has very strict guidelines - we follow them but change the medium,'' said Julie Sicotte from Vancouver. ``Instead of prints and screens, we put them on cloth to make wearable art.''

Sicotte traveled to Juneau with Dorothy Grant, the designer of the clothes, along with another employee. Grant, with her modern take on button blankets, uses silk scarves and robes along with dresses, skirts and tops to showcase her work, said Sicotte.

Grant was not alone in her approach to mixing traditional Native art with today's fashions. Many regalia-wearing Celebration participants wore their clan crest with pride - along with jeans and sneakers.

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