PUBLISHED: 5:08 PM on Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Celebration 2006
Bi-annual event promotes Native culture

More than 5,000 people will gather in Juneau from June 1-3 to honor the traditions of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures during Celebration 2006, which has been held since 1982.

"The culture was slumping off and dying off. The new generations weren't learning the language or any of the customs," said Donald Gregory, assistant at Sealaska Heritage Institute, which holds the event. "In the beginning there were hardly any groups, but it's really grown. The vision of the elders, who are mostly gone now, came true."

With events such as a black seaweed contest, baby regalia review and a canoe race, the three-event will have something for everyone. Celebration coordinator Bob Hamilton said the primary focus of the event is the dance groups.

Language workshops also will be held.

"It takes a lot of work to put this event on and for the groups to get here," Hamilton said. "The culture is having a renaissance coming back, and it's kept rolling. To learn from those who speak the language is a race against time, and it still is."

Cost of the event is $25 for the three days or $10 a day. One ticket gains access to events in Centennial Hall and the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

"The tourists who are in town when Celebration is going on are very lucky. They get to see our culture at its richest," Gregory said. "It's the biggest event that happens in Juneau."