Sealaska Heritage Institute to kick off first-ever virtual celebration this week

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Broadcast to start today on Sealaska's YouTube, 360North

News Release

Sealaska Heritage Institute

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will kick off its first-ever virtual Celebration this week in an effort to bring people together after the coronavirus pandemic in April caused the institute to postpone the in-person event.

Virtual Celebration 2020 will include dance performances from Celebration 2018 and new content, including submissions from people around the region and videos of associated events.

Pictured: Sealaska Heritage Institute Virtual Celebration 2020 art depicting the theme "Have Courage."
Pictured: Sealaska Heritage Institute Virtual Celebration 2020 art depicting the theme "Have Courage."(Image: Sealaska Heritage Institute)

The goal is to offer a way for people to come together online despite the pandemic, said Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl.

“During this time of uncertainty, we need to come together and celebrate our cultural survival. We as a people have been sorely tested in the past and survived many hardships. We will endure, but our people need something positive to anticipate right now,” Worl said.

The four-day broadcast will begin at 7 pm, Wednesday, and stream on Sealaska Heritage Institute’s YouTube and broadcast through public television on 360North. The theme is “Have Courage.”

The program will showcase new content, including videos on the 2020 Juried Art Show and Competition, Indigenous Fashion Show, Toddler Regalia Review and Native Artist Market participants. It will also include videos of people telling stories, new moderator segments and 2020 greetings from dance groups.

Sealaska Heritage Institute also will unveil an online exhibit featuring winners and finalists in the Juried Art Show and Competition plus galleries of photos from the Toddler Regalia Review and Indigenous Fashion Show.

The theme for Celebration was changed to Have Courage, after the pandemic broke out. It translates as:

Tlingit: Yee gu.aa yax̱ x’wán (“Have strength and courage”);
Haida: Gudangáang hl tláats’gaadaa (“Have courage”); and,
Tsimshian: Smgit maamxsgism (“Stand strong”)

This phrase is commonly used to offer support and encouragement to one another during times of sadness or challenge. The theme is depicted in art made by Tlingit artist Donald Héendei Gregory. The image of the warrior helmet and face shield is a record and symbol of this moment in history. Southeast Native people have always taken on threats and challenges with ferocity and strength. The image of the devils club leaf in the background is a symbol of traditional medicine and healing.

In normal years, Celebration is one of the largest cultural events in the state, attracting nearly 2,000 dancers and an additional 4,000 attendees to the four-day event. Celebration is also a financial boon for Juneau, according to research. A study by the McDowell Group in 2012 found that the economic impact of Celebration that year was $2 million during the four-day event.

Celebration 2020 sponsors are Sealaska (major), City and Borough of Juneau, Goldbelt, Inc., KTOO, Tideway Creative, Tongass Federal Credit Union and the University of Alaska Southeast.

(Schedule) (Flyer)

About Sealaska Heritage Institute 

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. Sealaska Heritage Institute 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.

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