On May 8, NEH Director of Governmental Affairs Michael Bagley and his deputy, Marna Gettleman, attended the opening of the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage on behalf of Chairman Bill Ferris. NEH last November awarded the center a $300,000 challenge grant, which helped attract additional private funding for the center’s development. Participants in the ribbon-cutting ceremony included Senator Ted Stevens, Anchorage Mayor Rick Mystrom, and Alaska Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer.
Performances at the ceremony included native dances, a traditional blessing ceremony, and oral storytelling events by tribal elders.
The center has been in development for a decade and will represent and promote an understanding of the cultures of the five major groups of Alaska natives: Aleut; Athabascan; Inupiat; Yup'ik Eskimo; and Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Indian. Each group has its own language and customs and originates from specific geographic areas.
The center includes a main building and five villages, which will allow for interactive teaching and the re- enactment of ancient traditions associated with the heritage of Alaska natives. The center will also promote cross-cultural exchanges and communication between natives and non-natives.