Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_SHI cancels tentatively scheduled Celebration 2021

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Trustees to meet later to weigh options for Celebration 2022

Jan. 20, 2021

Sealaska Heritage Institute’s (SHI) board of trustees has opted to cancel Celebration 2021, which was tentatively scheduled for June this year after the coronavirus sidelined the in-person event in 2020.

The decision came today after the board assessed the latest scientific evidence on the state of the pandemic. One of the primary reasons for the cancellation is that the vaccine is not yet available for kids under age 16.

“We can’t have Celebration without our children,” said trustee Albert Kookesh.

The board will revisit the issue at a later date to decide whether it’s safe to sanction a Celebration in 2022, which in normal times would occur in June.

Celebration is one of the largest gatherings of Southeast Alaska Native peoples, drawing about 5,000 people, including more than 2,000 dancers. The event is held every even year, but with the pandemic, the board decided last April to postpone it until 2021, with the caveat that they would meet in January to weigh whether to go through with the event or hold it in 2022.

In lieu of the in-person event last June, SHI for the first time held a virtual Celebration that featured dance performances from 2018 and new content submitted by more than 540 people. Nearly 4,000 people watched the event on SHI’s YouTube.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research 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.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116,

Caption: Celebration 2006 by Bill Hess, courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute. Note: News outlets are welcome to use this image for coverage of this story.