Story last updated at 3/21/2012 - 11:08 am
SITKA - Next week, a four-day gathering in Sitka will bring together Alaska Native tradition bearers, academics, artists, students and community members to share knowledge and stories of Tlingit, Haida and Timshian cultures. Organizers of the "Sharing Our Knowledge" conference welcome the public to attend the events March 29 to April 1 at Harrigan Centennial Hall. This year's theme is "Haa eetí káa yís," which means "for those who come after us" in the Tlingit language.
"This event is open to anyone who is interested in learning," said conference organizer Peter Metcalfe.
The schedule is packed with more than 40 seminars about Alaska Native history, indigenous law and protocols, linguistics, art, museum studies, education, cultural anthropology, fisheries and traditional ecological knowledge. Past conferences have attracted presenters and participants from Alaska, Canada and the Lower 48.
The conference began as the vision of the late Andy Hope III with the first conference held in 1993 in Haines/Klukwan and rotating to communities throughout Southeast.
"Andy envisioned bringing together living culture bearers and non-Native people to have a person-to-person dialogue," recalled Gerry Hope, conference director.
Students and teachers from local school districts along with students and faculty from the University of Alaska Southeast will be in attendance. The conference is funded in part by grants from the Alaska Humanities Foundation and the Association of Alaska School Boards. As in year's past, the sessions will be followed by evening cultural events.
Highlights this year include clan leader workshops for Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian representatives from Southeast and inland Tlingit country.
"It is important to include people who know the history firsthand," said Ray Wilson, a Kiks.ádi clan leader who will travel to Sitka to take part on in the welcome ceremony.
In recognition of the 100-year anniversary celebrating the founding of the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB), this year's conference will feature presentations about the history of ANB and the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS).
"The conference theme 'for those who come after us' acknowledges the long-term vision these elders had for future generations," explained Hope. "They set the example for us to think about how our actions will impact those who are not yet born."
Blending traditional culture with cutting-edge technology, sessions will be recorded and available on the clan conference website. Metcalfe also noted, "The Smithsonian Institution will also debut 3-D scanning technology that creates digital historical records of artifacts and precious objects."
The conference unites people from diverse backgrounds working together to ensure that Alaska Native cultural knowledge continues to be passed on from one generation to the next through stories, writing, and digital media.
"The conference is a good place to learn and encourage each other," observed conference organizer and Tlingit language specialist Marsha Hotch. "It is a time for people to listen and respect each other's knowledge."
For more information, visit www.ankn.uaf.edu/ClanConference2.
Jennifer Nu is a freelance writer based in Juneau. She may be reached at email@example.com.