SEALASKA HERITAGE DIGITIZES, POSTS CELEBRATION 2016
Video series shows eighteenth Celebration, all events now available online
June 13, 2023
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has digitized and posted on YouTube the video of Celebration 2016, bringing an end to a three-year project to post all 40 years of the event online.
Celebration is a dance-and-culture festival first held by SHI in 1982 that has grown into the world’s largest gathering of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people. The 2016 event featured nearly 50 dance groups.
That year, SHI sponsored its first Native Fashion Show at Celebration in an effort to showcase and encourage the integration of Alaska Native art into high-fashion pieces.
“We are seeing an evolution in high-fashion Native clothing that draws from our regalia,” said SHI President Rosita Worl, who credited the longtime Haida designer Dorothy Grant as one of the first to incorporate Northwest Coast designs into fashion. “It is not regalia—it’s clothing. However, like regalia, it identifies us. It tells the world who we are, and we want to encourage these designers.”
Nearly 20 designers from across the state representing numerous Alaska Native cultures were featured at the show, which was such a hit that SHI has continued to sponsor the event at subsequent Celebrations and moved it to Centennial Hall to accommodate the large crowds of spectators it attracts.
The theme for Celebration 2016 was “Haa Shuká: Weaving Traditional Knowledge into our Future.”
SHI sought grants to digitize and share past Celebration tapes so the footage could be used as a resource for dance groups wanting to learn from past performances, language learners wanting to hear Elders speaking, people wanting to learn more about their culture and to teach others about Southeast Alaska Native cultures. Another goal was to use the footage to learn about traditional oratory, a skill mastered by Southeast Alaska Natives.
Celebration 2018 was the first Celebration posted on YouTube in its entirety in 2019.
The Celebration: 10,000 Years of Cultural Survival project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
SHI held the first Celebration in 1982 at a time when the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian were in danger of losing knowledge of their ancient songs, dances and stories and the meaning behind the crests depicted on their regalia and clan at.óow (sacred objects). It was held at the urging of Elders, who worried the cultures were dying after a period of severe oppression, during which time Native people did not sing their songs and dance their dances in public. The first Celebration was meant to underscore the fact the cultures had survived for more than 11,000 years.
The event proved to be so profound, SHI’s board of trustees decided to sponsor Celebration every other year in perpetuity. Celebration sparked a movement that spread across the region and into the Lower 48 — a renaissance of Southeast Alaska Native culture that prompted people largely unfamiliar with their own heritage to learn their ancestral songs and dances and to make regalia for future Celebrations. Today, Celebration is one of the largest events in Alaska, drawing thousands of people to the four-day festival, including thousands of children.
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: Kathy Dye, SHI Communications and Publications Deputy Director, 907.321.4636, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caption: Cover art on Celebration program by David R. Boxley. Note: Media outlets are permitted to use this image for coverage of this story. For a higher-res image, contact email@example.com.