Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

November 4, 2000 - Issue 22

Traditions Live Through the Arts
by Kristan Hutchison Anchorage Daily News

JUNEAU, ALASKA -- When Anna Brown Ehlers apprenticed to one of the last traditional Chilkat weavers, her teacher was 92 years old. Now, 17 years later, Ehlers is being recognized nationally for continuing the art.

Ehlers is one of five Native Americans to receive this year's Community Spirit Award from the First People's Fund. The artists will be honored Nov. 2 at the Denver Art Museum.

Ehlers knew at a young age that she wanted to become a weaver after watching her uncle march in Juneau's Fourth of July parade wearing a Chilkat blanket. "But my dad had told me I had to wait until I could be invited to learn," she said. That invitation came in 1983, when 92-year-old Jennie Thlunaut, one of the last traditional weavers, offered to teach Ehlers the art of preparing and weaving the wood and wool masterpieces. Ehlers has woven nine full-sized blankets, as well as numerous aprons, bibs, bags and vests. Her works hang in museums and private collections worldwide. She has demonstrated and taught for 16 years at places like the Smithsonian Museum, cruise ships, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan and here in Juneau.

Founded in 1995, the First People's Fund is a national nonprofit organization based in Rapid City, S.D. The organization is dedicated to supporting creative work of American Indian artists through the Community Spirit awards and a program for emerging artists.

The other winners this year are Muriel Antoine, a Lakota Indian sculptor; Diane Schenandoah, an Oneida Indian sculptor; Lillian Pitt, a Warm Springs/Yakima Indian mixed-media artist who works in clay, bronze, aluminum and steel; and Nora Naranjo-Morse, a Santa Clara Pueblo Indian who works with mixed-media installation art pieces.

First People's Fund



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