PUBLISHED: 4:24 PM on Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Alaska Native Cultural Conference DVDs available
"Sharing Our Knowledge: A Conference of Tsimshian, Haida and Tlingit Tribes and Clans," which was held March 21-25, 2007 in Sitka, is now available on DVD.

Northstar Television of Juneau and Sitka has released a 37-volume DVD compilation of the conference, with over 62 hours of coverage.

Three-concurrent workshops were presented several times a day throughout the March event. Each DVD volume covers one "Sharing Our Knowledge" session or workshop, with an average of 4 presenters per volume. Nearly 60 PowerPoint several video presentations are embedded throughout the DVDs.

Courtesy photo
  Walter Porter, a Tlingit specialist in mythology, speaks with Preston Singletary, a Tlingit glass artist from Seattle.
"That conference, it just had everything," said Clarissa Hudson, a renowned Alaska Native fabric artist who made presentations at three separate workshops. "It was an educational experience: it wasn't just about fun and performance, it was educational in all ways, regarding so many things. It reminded me of all of our Alaska Native cultural and social events rolled into one."

"We all had trouble deciding which workshops to attend," said Andrew Hope III, the conference executive director. "Knowing that every presentation was being recorded on digital video made it easier for those who attended the event to make decisions."

Hope said well over 400 people participated in the conference, the first in ten years. Several clan conferences were held in the 1990s, beginning in 1993 at Haines/Klukwan.

"There is enough here to provide source material for several college level courses in Alaska Native ethnology, history, linguistics, and art," Hope said.

The conference was coordinated and organized by Hope, Steve Henrikson of the Alaska State Museum/University of Alaska, and Sergei Kan of Dartmouth College.

Peter Metcalfe of Juneau was the volunteer director of videography and documentation.

According to the organizers, the five-day conference was one of the most inclusive events of its type ever produced, with more than 150 presentations by Alaska Native elders and cultural bearers, academics, researchers, students and artists. The topics presented included regalia, repatriation, history, sacred sites, Native music, basketry, cultural atlases, museum collections, and intellectual property rights.

The DVDs can be purchased through Northstar Television, with ordering information available on the Web. Hope suggests using a Web search engine to find the page that provides ordering information and downloads. "Enter just about any combination of 'DVD' and 'Sharing Our Knowledge,' or 'Tsimshian,' or 'Haida,' or 'Tlingit,' in a search engine, and it will find the 'Sharing Our Knowledge' web page," he recommends.

According to Metcalfe, the only disappointment will be that the evening cultural events, some of which extended into the early morning hours, were not captured on video.

"We had three cameras, and were able to cover every presentation of the conference, but we did not have the horsepower, or the budget, to record everything," Metcalfe said. "The DVD format allows the viewer to click on the topic of choice. This is a huge advance over the VHS days - not only is the quality much better, with high resolution PowerPoint graphics, but there is little need to fast forward. You just click on the topic and you're there."

Metcalfe said that the contractor, Northstar Television, put in much more time and work than was anticipated or bid for, especially in the post-production work that included embedding close to 60 PowerPoint presentations in the DVDs.

"I sent out e-mail solicitations to everyone who attended the event to determine how many DVDs would be ordered," he said, "and so far it looks like this might be a break-even or slightly better project for the contractor."

The "Sharing Our Knowledge" conference was funded in part by the Alaska Science Foundation, and the video documentation was funded in part by the University of Alaska Southeast, the Anchorage School District, the Juneau School District, and Shee Atiká Inc. of Sitka.