Saturday, June 12, 2010

June 8, 2010

Alaska Native Heritage Center

The Alaska Native Heritage Center is an interactive ‘museum’ who’s aim is to demonstrate, educate, and hopefully perpetuate the cultures of the tribes of the native peoples.  There is a large building that has some displays and a gift store filled with authentic native Alaskan crafts and art. 

DSC04016 Alaska Native Heritage Center

There are two other areas in the building.  The middle of the building is a large open area filled with seats and a small stage.  They call it The Meeting Place.  There are talks and demonstrations going on all day long on many aspects of the cultures of the native people.  There is no dead time.  When one subject ends another starts. 



Demonstration of dancing.  The dances all tell stories and are done entirely with hand and arm movements.  In a village the dances would be done in the homes or community building filled with people.  No room to move around.



The other area is dedicated to demonstrations of various native Alaskan skills.  There are several artists in residence who are teaching their various skills in clothing making (with pelts), beading, foot wear making (with skins), carving, jewelry making, etc. to the young people as a way of passing on the culture.  We spent probably an hour just in this area talking with the different artists and learning about techniques and about the cultures.  Everyone was very pleasant and very informative.

Outside the building is a medium sized pond.


Local residents.  Looked like the little ones had not been swimming very long.

Around the pond are placed areas devoted to showcasing the cultures of the six basic tribes of Alaska.  Each area has representative housing for that tribe and inside each is a docent that explains the construction and rational of the structure and gives insight as to the culture of that tribal area.  Very interesting.  Not just the buildings but the cultures and beliefs of the peoples. 

DSC03957 Athabascan cabin and cache DSC03963 Qasgiq,, the men's house, left, and the women's house, right,  Yupik DSC03974 the Winter House, Inupiaq, St. Lawrence Island Yupik, entrance, too small for bears DSC03988 totem pole DSC04004 whale bones in front of Yupik house DSC04010 fur dress


We spent over five hours in the heritage center and did not see all that was available.  There is a movie theater that has non-stop programs that we didn’t get to.

The rest of the afternoon was spent touring southern Anchorage.  Pretty much just a big sprawling city.  We plan to go back to the downtown/old town area to wander it in a day or two.

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