Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_SHI to transfer cultural values panels to Juneau school

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Transfer ceremony planned for Nov. 22

Nov. 17, 2017

(Core Cultural Values) (Panels)

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will donate eight, large panels depicting ancient Southeast Alaska Native core cultural values to Floyd Dryden Middle School in a ceremony planned for next week.

The panels, which stand five feet wide and nearly seven feet tall, were a main feature of SHI’s first exhibit at the opening of its Walter Soboleff Building in 2015. The panels are in the shape of a tináa or copper shield, a symbol of wealth and commerce signifying the riches that came from the ancient interrelationship and trade among the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshians and neighboring tribes. They were originally affixed to double-sided structures so there are two panels per value.

The panels tell of traditional values that have helped to sustain the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures for thousands of years. The values are so important they are instilled in young Native people to this day, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“Our ancient values are as relevant now as they were more than 10,000 years ago. We created the panels to highlight the wisdom of our ancestors, and we are offering them to the school to share these values with all children,” said Worl, noting the donation underscores SHI’s goal to promote cross-cultural understanding.

It took nearly eight months to curate content and to manufacture the panels, which are made of a heavy composite material. The panels were on display in the Nathan Jackson Gallery, which will feature a new exhibit in 2018.

The transfer ceremony is scheduled at 2:00 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 22, at Floyd Dryden Middle School. Principal Jim Thompson will be on hand to accept the gift. Speakers will include Vice Principal Haifa Sadighi, Indian Studies Director Barbara Cadiente-Nelson, Paul Marks (Raven, Lukaax.ádi), David Katzeek (Eagle, Shangukeidí) and SHI President Rosita Worl. Goldbelt Heritage Foundation is assisting with the ceremony.

Core Cultural Values

  • Haa Aaní: Our Land: Honoring & Utilizing our Land (Haida: Íitl’ Tlagáa; Tsimshian: Na Yuubm)
    • Our ancestors, who have lived in this land for more than 10,000 years, taught us that everything has a Spirit. When we utilize our resources, we must acknowledge the Spirits of the Land, Sea and Air and tell them the benefits that their use will bring to our People. Our ancestors protected the ownership of our land for their children and grandchildren just as we must do for future generations.  
  • Haa Latseen: Our Strength: Strength of Body, Mind, and Spirit  (Haida: Íitl’ Dagwiigáay; Tsimshian: Na Yugyetga’nm)
    • The “Way of the Warriors’” path is to achieve physical and inner strength.  Above all, young men and women are taught to protect and to care for their families and clans.  They are taught to seek truth and knowledge and to adapt to changing times while maintaining the integrity of our ancient values. 
  • Haa Shuká: Past, Present, and Future Generations: Honoring our Ancestors and Future Generations (Haida: Íitl’ Kuníisii; Tsimshian: Na Hlagigyadm)
    • We maintain strong bonds with our ancestors whom we honor through our lives and in our ceremonies. We also have responsibilities to our future generations, and we must ensure that we protect our land and culture for our children and grandchildren and those who will follow them. 
  • Wooch Yax: Balance: Social and Spiritual Balance  (Haida: Gu dlúu; Tsimshian: Ama Mackshm)
    • Wooch Yax must be maintained to ensure social and spiritual harmony lest ill will goes wandering and causes harm. Wooch Yaxgoverns
      • Interrelationships between Eagle and Raven clans
      • Interrelationships between the Tlingit and others, including tribes, nations and institutions
    • Wooch Yax  includes Kaa yaa awuné or Respect for Others and Át yaa awuné or Respect for All Things. Wooch Yax requires that our People and our organizations conduct business with Yán gaa doonéekw or “Dignity,” realizing that everything has its rightful place and that all action and business must be done with integrity.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research and advocacy that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116

Captions, from top: Haa Shuká panel as originally displayed in the Nathan Jackson Gallery. Visiting students examine the Haa Aani panel during a visit to Sealaska Heritage. Photos by Brian Wallace.