Experience Native culture with traditional performances
In addition to being a great place to buy arts and crafts, the Alaska Federation of Natives annual conference draws between 4,000 and 5,000 people to see traditional performances. Introduced at the 1982 AFN convention, Quyana Alaska is a lineup of performances designed to restore traditional Native dances and pass them on to the future generations. Since its inception, more than 200 different dance groups have performed at AFN gatherings across the state, making Quyana Alaska a convention highlight.
Saxman Native Village in Ketchikan provides another opportunity to experience Alaska Native culture. The Cape Fox Dance group welcomes visitors with song and dance and encourages them to participate. Visitors also get a first-hand look at traditional carving techniques and learn how the area’s towering totem poles were constructed. Alaska Native items and souvenirs are for sale in the Native Faces store.
Glacier Bay is an ancestral homeland for some of the Inside Passage’s Tlingit population. Cultural interpreters from the Huna Totem Corporation host performances and cultural presentations at the National Park Service’s lodge in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. They share traditional stories and songs such as “The Waterway of Life” and displays of art and craftsmanship.
In addition to the new lodge-based presentations, Huna Totem Corporation’s cultural interpreters work aboard 154 Holland America Line, Alaskan Dream Cruises and Lindblad Expeditions cruise ships throughout the summer season. The interpreters discuss personal experiences, clan and family traditions and the historic use of the Glacier Bay area. Guests learn about traditional subsistence practices and are exposed to traditions that have sustained Alaska Natives for thousands of years.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center also hosts a variety of performances on a large stage with auditorium-style seating and a giant map of Alaska as a backdrop. Native performers, representing different areas of the state, perform traditional dances, stories and also demonstrate Native games, such as those featured in the World Eskimo and Indian Olympics.
These examples aside, most Alaska communities have local Alaska Native performance groups and artistic opportunities. If you’re curious, just check in with a local visitor center and find out what’s available.