Luau and potlatch to be held Friday at Centennial Hall

Posted: Thursday, September 09, 2010

A combination luau and potlatch will be held this Friday, celebrating both Polynesian and Alaska Native cultures through music, dance and storytelling. Live performances will include dancing by Sitka Native dancers and storytelling by Walter Porter.

Mele Maake, one of the luau's organizers, described the event as a way to "rekindle the bond" and highlight similarities between Alaska Native culture and Polynesian Native culture. The idea for such a gathering has been talked about for a long time, she said, but is only now coming to fruition.

Friday's attendees will include Tlingit and Tongan dignitaries as well as the general public. Everyone is invited.

"We want people in Juneau to come and witness this amazing event," Maake said. "It's very exiting to see these Native cultures coming together."

Maake said the two cultures have a long history of interaction, and that certain similarities can be seen in their art forms. The dance group from Sitka, for example, was chosen in part because the style of their dancing is reminiscent of Hawaiian movements, she said.

"The way the women move their hips is similar to the Hawaiians."

The event also honors other Polynesian cultures such as Tongan, Samoan and Mori.

In addition to the performances, the event will feature a wide array of food, including all-you-can-eat Alaskan crab and seafood and roast pigs from Washington and California. A Native chef from Portland is coming up to oversee the preparation of the food, Maake said.

The event begins at 6 p.m. at Centennial Hall. Dancing will begin at 9 p.m. and go until midnight. Admission is $45 for adults. Proceeds will go to help raise funds for a new Alaska Cultural Center at Eaglecrest.

For more information, contact Mele Maake at 209-3952.

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