Story last updated at 7/8/2009 - 11:36 am
TESLIN, Yukon - Just because there's no Celebration in Juneau this year doesn't mean there's no Celebration this year.
The Teslin Tlingit Council is planning the first ever Ha Kus Teyea Celebration in the small community of Teslin, Yukon Territory, for July 22-28. "Has Kus Teyea" means "our culture" or "the Tlingit way." The event will be the largest Inland Tlingit gathering ever held in Canada.
Three communities are partnering for the celebration: the Teslin Tlingit Council, the Taqu River Tlingit First Nation, and the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.
The idea originated a couple years ago at an Inland Tlingit elders gathering, said Celebration coordinator Sharon Shorty. The week-long event will offer traditional ceremonies, feasts, an artists market, artist workshops as well as several community events including traditional berry picking and canoeing.
"The idea was to have people from Southeast come to visit us and see how we live," Shorty said. "We'd like to get them right to our traditional land.
Teslin, a community of about 300 people, is an hour and half drive south of Whitehorse. The Teslin Tlingit people are descendants of the Taku Qwan, who moved inland in the early 18th century, establishing a way of life different from their coastal relatives.
"We've learned a lot of things about our Athabaskan neighbors, about hunting moose and tanning hides... things you don't get to do on the coast," Shorty said. "Traditional medicine, hunting and trapping, getting through the winter, how to travel around in the cold weather."
At this year's celebration, there will be an Inland Tlingit village set up, with demonstrations of traditional Inland Tlingit knowledge, such as moose hide tanning and animal skinning, as well as lots of story telling, Shorty said.
"When I go over to the coast, people are really interested in hearing about our hunting and trapping stories," she said.
Despite differences in lifestyle, knowledge of the shared heritage of Inland and Coastal Tlingit people remains strong.
"Everyone who's Inland Tlingit knows where they're from on the coast," Shorty said. "When you go to Juneau Celebration, we are (all) Tlingit and we stand together as Tlingit. We just focus on (the fact that) we are the same culture."
Even crossing the border won't be as difficult as organizers previously thought. Despite the June 1 passport requirement, the border will accept Native status cards and enhanced Tribal cards, Shorty said.
It's not necessary to register for Celebration - one of the priorities of the elders was that the event be free of charge - but donations will be taken with a traditional blanket dance collection.
Attendees are asked to follow the traditional practice of bringing your own dishes and cutlery when attending a feast. There are lots of different campsites and RV sites in Teslin, as well as a few hotels. Shorty said the best bet would be to count on camping.
The Ha Kus Teyea Celebration will have its grand closing on July 28, which is also National Tlingit Day in Canada. There will be traditional games and activities, wrapping up with a feast.
By the end of the week, organizers hope to be able to announce where the next Inland Celebration will be held. Teslin Tlingit Council hopes to hold the Inland Tlingit gatherings every other year, alternating with Celebration in Juneau. Organizers expect thousands of attendees for the inaugural Celebration.
"We just want to see lots of Alaskans," Shorty said, adding one final incentive: "There's lots of single people in Teslin!"
For more information, including a schedule or events, visit www.teslintlingitheritage.com/celebration/.