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Huna Tlingit artists contribute to Whale Project in Juneau


Ten giant, resin whale tails have been popping up in a trail across Juneau as local artists and companies, such as Huna Totem Corporation, show their support for the Whale Project.
Tlingit artists Clarissa Rizal and Lily Hope, who designed one of the 6.5-foot tails, took the symbolization of this community effort to heart. Sponsored by Huna Totem Corporation, the artists chose a design inspired by a Tlingit ceremonial robe edged with mother of pearl buttons and named their work “Yáay Xooní” or “Whale Friend.” Rizal documented the creation of “Whale Friend” and posted photos of the work in various stages on her blog at http://clarissarizal.com/blog/?p=2435.
“A Tlingit world view recognizes animals of land and sea as if they are people,” Hope said. “We often catch only the smallest glimpse of these magnificent creatures. May this Whale Friend, wearing his robe, remind us of how closely related we really are.”
The “Whale Friend” will sit atop the Alaska Airlines baggage claim in the Juneau International Airport until it is auctioned off, along with the other tails on display across Juneau, on Sept. 14.
“We’re proud of Clarissa’s and Lily’s efforts to share and promote the Tlingit culture through their artwork,” said Larry Gaffaney, CEO and president of Huna Totem Corporation. “While the corporation’s shareholders all share ancestral ties to Hoonah and Glacier Bay, many now reside outside of Hoonah. We believe that it is important for shareholders to be active within their community, wherever it may be.”
Rizal and her daughter, Hope, were born and raised in Juneau, and honor their spiritual and ancestral roots in Hoonah through their artwork. Rizal specializes in the design of Tlingit regalia, including Chilkat robes, Ravenstail weavings and button blanket robes. Hope is an Alaska Native actress, storyteller and weaver, who has been apprenticing on Rizal’s large-scale pieces since the 1990s.
The Whale Project is a non-profit organization working with the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council to bring a life-sized bronze sculpture of a breaching whale by R.T. “Skip” Wallen to the Juneau waterfront. The Whale Tail Trail is the group’s latest effort to raise money for the sculpture.
More information about the Whale Tail Trail and the Whale Project can be found on the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council website, http://jahc.org/follow-the-whale-tail-trail/.
Huna Totem Corporation is a Native village corporation formed in 1973 under the terms of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Huna Totem Corporation is owned by approximately 1,350 Native Alaskans with aboriginal ties to Sít’ Eeti Gheeyi (now called Glacier Bay) and Hoonah, the village where the Huna Tlingit resettled after being driven out of Glacier Bay by rapid glacial advance. The mission of Huna Totem Corporation is to provide economic benefits to current and future generations of shareholders through profitable business growth, and to encourage and perpetuate the cultural values of the Huna Tlingit people. For more information, visit www.hunatotem.com.

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