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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 23, 2003 - Issue 94


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Alaska Native Heritage Center To Dedicate Totem Pole

by Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC) Press Release

Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC) logo(Anchorage, AK) – The Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC) invites all to partake in a totem pole dedication ceremony on Saturday, August 23, 2003. The 30-foot totem pole designed by Master Carver Nathan Jackson will be blessed, following Tlingit tradition, on the ANHC campus with ceremonies beginning at 10am. This anticipated event commemorates a new phase for the Alaska Native Heritage Center in "reopening the box of knowledge" for Alaska's Native people.

"The Alaska Native Heritage Center is extremely honored to see this project completed," stated Jon Ross, President/CEO. "The totem pole, created by Mr. Nathan Jackson, is a monumental addition to the Heritage Center campus. This project was made possible thanks to the generous support received from the Kreielsheimer and Kresge Foundations, the Cape Fox Corporation and Lynden Transport Incorporated. The pole represents the past, present and future of Alaska Native people. We are thankful to Paul Marks for his assistance during the planning of the dedication. His guidance was instrumental in fulfilling Tlingit protocol requirements. I am proud to invite the community of Anchorage and Alaska to join us during this memorable occasion. I look forward to this new phase in which the Center will "reopen the box of knowledge" not only for Native people, but for all of Alaska."

In 2002 the Alaska Native Heritage Center commissioned Tlingit Master Carver Nathan Jackson to design and carve a 30-foot totem pole with the goal of having the project completed in the traditional fashion. Jackson's design depicts a man who represents the Alaska Native Heritage Center opening the box of knowledge to be shared with the community. At the base of the cedar pole are a boy and girl representing the children and grandchildren of Alaska Native peoples; the child figures also represent the Eagle and Raven moieties of the Tlingit people. Toward the center of the pole is a young man standing over a bent wood box, he is opening the container of wisdom to share with the people. The figure at the top of the pole represents an elder or tradition bearer who instructs and teaches traditional values.

The totem pole blessing and dedication will follow Tlingit protocol in accordance with directed guidelines from Tlingit tradition bearers. The ceremony will include steps to ensure correct protocol, specifically receiving and granting acknowledgement of participating parties. The pole will be given the ceremonial name, Yaakoosege Daakeit kootee.aa, (Container of Wisdom) in the traditional Tlingit manner. However the pole will be known as "The Alaska Native Heritage Center Totem Pole."

Among the Eyak, Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska, totem poles are used to record family crests, document stories and legends, and to mark special events. Traditional totem poles signify great meaning and symbolism. For the educated eye, a totem pole can tell the story of a great battle, of personal accomplishments and transformation, or of a beloved or revered ancestor.

Internationally renowned carver Nathan Jackson will be in attendance of the Totem Pole Dedication. Nathan Jackson is a member of the Salmon Clan of the Chilkoot Tlingit from southeast Alaska, and is of Raven moiety. Jackson, a Master Carver, is among the best-known and highly regarded Tlingit artists. Jackson is a known leader in the revival of Tlingit art items such as totem poles, bentwood boxes, masks and house fronts. Jackson attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico studying graphics, fabric design, and silkscreen making. Since 1967 Jackson has created numerous totem poles, screens, panels, woodcarvings, and jewelry. Jackson has also taught at numerous institutions, including the Alaska State Museum, Sheldon Jackson College, the Totem Heritage Center and the University of Alaska. Jackson's artwork is on display in every major museum in the State of Alaska. His work can also be found in museums and private collections throughout North America and in museums throughout Europe and Japan.

Numerous Alaska Native leaders and artists will be in attendance of the ANHC Totem Pole Dedication ceremony. Serving as Naakaanee or Master of Ceremonies for the Totem Pole Dedication are: Paul Jackson of Sitka, Naakaanee, Raven Moiety for Eagle Clan; Richard Jackson of Juneau, Naakaanee, Eagle Moiety for Raven Clan; David Katzeek of Juneau, Naakaanee, Eagle Moiety for Raven Clan-accompanying Thunderbird Chilkat Blanket and Eagle Hat. Also attending is Raymond Dennis of Haines accompanying Chilkat Blanket and Tunic, Raven Hat & Klukwan Killer Whale Headdress.

Performing at the Totem Dedication are: Tlingit & Haida Dancers of Anchorage, Naa Luudisk Gwaii Yaxt'i, Dena' Ina Dancers, and the Alaska Native Heritage Center Dance group.

The Tlingit and Haida Dancers of Anchorage have been dancing since 1986. This Anchorage based group was formed to pass along the traditional dances of Southeast Alaska. Songs are considered clan property and those who sing and dance these songs must obtain permission.

Naa Luudisk Gwaii Yaxt'i meaning "Children of The Islands who learn" is an Anchorage based group comprised of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian heritage. Their name is comprised of languages for several Northwest coast cultures.

The Dena'ina Dancers are an Athabascan dance group based in Anchorage. Formed in 1991 by James Wilson, Athabascan, this family group is from the village of Nondalton.

The Alaska Native Heritage Center Dance Group is comprised of young Native adults trained at the Center, who work to encourage other youth to participate in Native Cultures. The ANHC High School Dance Group began in the fall of 2001 as part of ANHC's After-School Program for Alaska Native high school students. Members of the dance program include extremely dedicated and enthusiastic Alaska Native high school students comprising many of Alaska's Native cultures.

Because of the sacred nature of the event, attendees to the ceremony may be asked to refrain from videotaping, audio recording or shooting photos during some parts of the ceremony.


The Alaska Native Heritage Center is an independent, nonprofit that is open year-round as a gathering place to celebrate, perpetuate and share Alaska Native cultures; it is a place for all people. It is located at 8800 Heritage Center Drive in northeast Anchorage, just off Muldoon Road North near Bartlett High School. For more information about other events and programs, visit

Hear the songs and stories passed down through generations. See the dancers move to the echo of an ancient drum. Touch the work of Native artisans carrying on tradition. Walk the path of yesterday while touring five authentic village sites.

Sage M. Yardley
Public Relations Specialist
Alaska Native Heritage Center
[email protected]

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