Starting Wednesday, songs, art and regalia from Alaska Native people from Southeast Alaska and beyond will fill the streets of Juneau as the biennial festival celebrating Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures, Celebration, begins.
While the event officially starts Wednesday, the unofficial beginning will occur when Alaska Natives from Ketchikan, Sitka, Kake, Angoon, Hoonah, Yakutat and Canada arrive in canoes at Douglas Harbor between 2-3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Celebration, sponsored by Sealaska Heritage Institute, officially starts on Wednesday. SHI is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.
Goldbelt Heritage Foundation and the Douglas Indians Association will host T’aakú Kwáan Yanyeidí Healing Kooteeyaa totem pole gifting ceremony between 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday at Savikko Park in Douglas. The Gooch (Wolf) Totem Pole will be raised in honor of the T’aakú Kwáan and the residents of T’aakú Kwáan/Akáx Yaa Andagán (Douglas Indian Village) who lost their homes when the government evicted them and burned their houses to the ground.
Also on Wednesday, there will be a Ravenstail and Chilkat weavers presentation from 11:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. at the Shuká Hít (the clan house) inside the Walter Soboleff Building. The presentation will be followed at 4 p.m. by the awards ceremony for the Juried Art Show and Competition and Juried Youth Art Exhibit.
Wednesday’s final event will be the Grand Entrance and Processional starting at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall at 6 p.m. and ending in Centennial Hall at 8 p.m. with the Welcoming Ceremony.
There will be several new events this year. One new feature will take place during the annual food contest. In addition to seaweed and whipped soapberry recipes, there will also be a best seal oil competition held this year. The contest will be held at Centennial Hall between noon-1 p.m. Thursday.
“Northwest Coast people have long depended on seals for their meat, fur and oil, and seal oil to this day is an integral part of our diet,” SHI President Rosita Worl said in a release. “The oil is poured on salmon, halibut, rice and other dishes to enhance flavor.”
Three documentary films will also be featured this year. “Keep Talking,” which focuses on Alaska Native language revitalization will be screened at 7 p.m. Wednesday and 9 p.m. Friday at Gold Town Theater. “Journeys to Adäka,” a documentary that follows seven indigenous artists as they prepare for the Adäka Cultural Festival in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada will be screened at 6 p.m. Thursday, 4:30 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. Saturday all at Gold Town Theater. The final screening, “Magnetic North: Nathan Jackson” will also be followed by a question and answer session with Tlingit master artist Nathan Jackson at 2:30 p.m. at Shuká Hít.
Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian dance performances will also be held from 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 11:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday at Centennial Hall and Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.
There will also be a model workshop for anyone interested in modeling for SHI’s Native Fashion Show at Celebration or for future shows at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Walter Soboleff Building. A designer workshop for anyone interested in designing for future SHI fashion shows from 6-8 p.m. Thursday also at the Walter Soboleff Building.
The Native Art Show will be held from 6-7 p.m. at Centennial Hall. This runway show will feature fashion created by Native artists, directed by Amber-Dawn Bear Robe.
SHI will also sponsor a poetry gathering, Singing Praises to You: Alaska Native Poetry from 7-9 p.m. Friday at Shuká Hít at WSB.
The event will include poetry and performance and feature a special tribute to the late poet Nora Marks Dauenhauer. Featured poets include Robert Davis Hoffmann, Ishmael Hope, X’unei Lance Twitchell, Vivian Mork and host Donna Beaver.
Families with children ages 5 and under are encouraged to come to the Baby Raven Celebration as a part of its Baby Raven Reads program from 12:45-1:45 p.m. Friday at WSB.
Baby Raven Reads is a program that promotes early-literacy, language development and school readiness for Alaska Native families with children up to age 5.
Celebration, with this year’s theme of “Respect: Weigh Your Words,” will conclude Saturday with a parade through downtown featuring various dance groups. The parade starts at 9 a.m. at Ferry Way and South Franklin and will weave through downtown concluding at Centennial Hall. The Grand Exit will also take place at Centennial Hall beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday.
According to the Sealaska Heritage Institute website the event draws 5,000 people including 2,000 dancers from 43 dance groups. In 2012, the McDowell Group estimated Celebration has a total economic impact on Juneau of $2 million.
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at email@example.com or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.