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Celebration 2010 to Kick Off Next Week

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will kick off its biennial Celebration next week, marking the 28th year since the inception of the popular dance-and-culture festival.

The institute anticipates up to roughly 5,000 people, including 51 dance groups and more than 2,000 dancers from Alaska, Canada and the Lower 48, will attend Celebration 2010, held in Juneau at Centennial Hall, the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall, and the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

Celebration is held to celebrate Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures, but it is open to the public, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“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,” Worl said.

For the first time, SHI will sponsor a Native Artist Gathering at 2:30 pm, Wednesday, June 2, at the Juneau Art and Culture Center (JACC). The gathering will be an informal meeting for Native artists.

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. The theme is “Our Land”—spelled Haa Aaní in Tlingit, Íitl’ Tlagáa in Haida and Na Yuubm in Shm’algyack (Tsimshian). The theme was chosen in light of Sealaska Corporation’s struggle to secure its land entitlement.

“We just really wanted to emphasize to our own people and remind others that this is our land, we’ve lived here for ten thousand years, and we intend to live here for another ten thousand years,” Worl said.

Celebration will also include contests for best soapberries and seaweed, a parade through Juneau, a Native Artist Market at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, a Toddler Regalia Review and lectures—including one from Molecular Anthropologist Dr. Brian Kemp of Washington State University, who will summarize the results of a DNA study conducted at Celebration 2008. 

The first phase of the study attempted to identify living 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. DNA tests proved he was Native, but subsequent DNA research conducted on more than 230 people who gave saliva samples at Celebration 2008 did not identify living descendants of  Shuká Kaa. This finding, which was released in December 2008, was not unexpected because DNA markers can disappear from small populations very quickly, and  Shuká Kaa died so long ago. In his talk at Celebration, 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.

Celebration was conceived in 1980 at the first Sealaska Elders conference. At that meeting, Elders asked Sealaska to help preserve and perpetuate the culture of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people. In response, Sealaska founded the Sealaska Heritage Institute, and in 1982, the Institute organized the first Celebration. That first festival drew 12 dance groups and 150 people. Today, Celebration is one of the largest gatherings in the state.

Three-day passes are available now through Sealaska Heritage Institute in Sealaska Plaza. Tickets also may be purchased at Centennial Hall at 9 am, Wednesday. Three-day passes are $15 for youths (12 years and under) and Elders and $30 for adults. One-day tickets are $10 for youths and Elders and $15 for adults.

The 2010 festival was sponsored by the following businesses, organizations and individuals: Sealaska Corporation, Carolyn Kleefeld, City and Borough of Juneau, Sealaska Environmental Services, Boyer Towing, Inc., Chris McNeil, ConocoPhillips, Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, Mary McNeil, Wells Fargo, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, Amanda Mallott, Anthony Mallott, Chugach Alaska Corporation, Dawn Dinwoodie, Douglas Morris, Elgee Rehfeld Mertz, LLC, Eyak Corporation, GCI, Greenridge Consulting, LLC,  Johnson & Son, LLC, Lee Kadinger, Louise Kadinger, Managed Business Solutions, Phoenix Logging Company, Prochot Enterprises / Plan Bravo Partners, Rod Worl, Rosita Worl and family, Tlingit and Haida Central Council, Van Ness Feldman, Arctic IT, Columbia Helicopters, Delta Western, Inc., Driftwood Lodge, Jaeleen Araujo, Jensen Yorba Lott, Inc., Malia Hayward—State Farm , McDonalds of Juneau, McKinley Capital Management, Nicole Hallingstad, Pat Tynan, Rick Harris, Samuel Landol, Todd Araujo, Alaska Permanent Capital Management Co., Chris Pata, Jacqueline Pata, Jason Fujioka, Kathy Dye, Linda Belarde, Marlene Johnson, McDowell Group, Inc., Michael G. Obert, Mt. Roberts Tramway, Ron Wolfe, Russell Dick, Sarah Dybdahl, Advanced Janitorial Services, Alaska Laundry and Cleaners, Albert Kookesh, Andrew Engstrom, Anna Voltura, Antoinette Mallott, Barbara Thurston, Consulting Actuary, Belen Cook , Blueberry Productions, Inc., Brendan Sullivan, Byron Mallott, Callen Richert, Clandine Duncan, Clarence Jackson, Sr., Debi London, Deena Larue, Dori Lynn, Dr. Walter Soboleff, Government Computer Sales, Inc., Greens Creek Mine, Haida Heritage Foundation, Jacob Dutton, Janice Sheufelt, Jeane Breinig, Jim MacDiarmid , Joe Cook, Joe Nelson, John Dexter, Jon Duncan, Juneau Electric, Kauffman and Associates, Inc., KPMG, LJ Alarm, Lola Foss, Mark Poplis, Megan Gregory, Mike Miller, Nancy Barnes, Sidney Edenshaw, Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Stanley Eberhard, Steve Langdon, Sunrise Aviation, Inc., Tate London, Todd Antioquia, Vicki Soboleff.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit 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.

Radio Actualities
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  1. Rosita Worl, SHI President, TRT: :17 “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.”

  1. Rosita Worl, SHI President, TRT: :12 “We just really wanted to emphasize to our own people and remind others that this is our land, we’ve lived here for ten thousand years, and we intend to live here for another ten thousand years.”

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