Sealaska Heritage


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July 31, 2013

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will break ground on the Walter Soboleff Center in Juneau this week, kicking off construction of the long-anticipated facility.

The groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled at noon, Thursday, Aug. 1 at the building site on Front St. and Seward St. The event will begin with dancing and singing. Sealaska Chair Albert Kookesh will moderate. It will include opening comments by Byron Mallott, Chair of SHI’s Capital Campaign Committee; Sealaska CEO and President Chris E. McNeil; Gov. Sean Parnell; Mayor Merrill Sanford; Juneau Reps. Cathy Muñoz and Beth Kerttula; Sen. Dennis Egan; Tlingit and Haida Central Council President Ed Thomas; ANB Grand Camp President Bill Martin; and ANS Grand Camp former President Selina Everson. The groundbreaking ceremony will be led by David Katzeek, Eagle Clan leader and the first president of Sealaska Heritage Foundation, as it was formerly named. Paul Marks will give the Raven response. Gov. Parnell, Mayor Sanford, Chris McNeil and SHI’s Board of Trustees Chair Marlene Johnson will do the groundbreaking.

SHI President Rosita Worl said she hopes the community will participate.

“We have invited many people to attend, but more importantly I really want this to be a Juneau event, and I’m hoping that the public will come and join us in this great celebration,” Worl said.

The center was conceived more than ten years ago, and fundraising began in earnest in the past few years. SHI has raised more than 75 percent of the $20,000,000 needed to build the center and will continue to raise funds during construction.

SHI has received funds from the Alaska Native Education Program, ArtPlace, City and Borough of Juneau, Cruise Industry Charitable Foundation, Juneau Lions Club, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Rasmuson Foundation, Sealaska, State of Alaska, Walter Soboleff Trust and numerous individuals and businesses. The Capital Campaign Committee is chaired by Byron Mallott, and SHI has hired Dawson Construction, Inc., to build the center, which was designed by MRV Architects. 

The center will feature space for art demonstrations and exhibits, retail sales, a learning center for educational programs, and venues for performances and presentations. It will also house a research facility, climate-controlled collections storage, a library and work areas for scholars and the general public. (For more information on the center, see

Sealaska Heritage Institute was founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

CONTACT: Rosita Worl, SHI President, 907-463-4844