Sunday, July 22, 2012

Alaska Journal Part 3: Alaska Native Heritage Center

Welcome back to the Alaska Journal. This pleasant moose surprised us as we turned into the Alaska Native Heritage Center and Museum in the Anchorage area. She was just happy to munch the plants while we took her picture alongside the road.

The Native Center is an amazing place. It is well worth the entrance fee. We spent about five hours here absorbing all we could about the lives of the Alaskan natives. Allow me to share some of our visit with you.

There are eleven distinct native cultures in Alaska and eleven different native languages. This museum honors the first Alaskans by telling the stories of the diverse groups based on five culture groupings. I was surprised to learn that many of the cultures are related to native people who live in the lower 48 states.

In this map, each color designates a distinct native people's region. The Center's speakers, dancers, and interpreters come from all the different groups and were well-versed in their cultures.  I am happy to say they are very proud of their heritage.

The native dances tell a story and were full of driving drum beats and energy. They reminded me of watching the Hawaiian dancers.

With no written language, the totem poles tell a story through their beautiful works of art. Not every group makes them.

A tour guide walked us around the many exhibitss on the grounds. These homes and artifacts helped us understand how people can live in such a harsh environment and thrive. This group built homes dug into the ground for warmth and safety. 
The Athabascan people built strong log homes. The structure to the left is a cache for keeping their food safe from critters.

My husband stands by the cow parsnips so you see how tall these plants are. They grow everywhere and are edible before they reach maturity. This stalky plant can also cause skin rashes. 

This is the skeleton of a whale. Can you imagine hunting and killing a whale having only spears and a canoe?  The people used every part of the whale.

The jaw bones of a whale.  The native Alaskans erected these to identify the entrance to their community because farther north there are no trees, so there are no landmarks.
John Baker,  the first native Alaskan Iditarod champion since 1976, had his sled dogs at the center. Baker is the 2011 winner. 
                           I couldn't resist placing this photo of the darling puppy here. Snow white coat. I'd  name her Snowflake.

These delicate spring flowers (mind you we visited here June 30) graced the path curving around the displays.
 If you missed  Parts 1 and 2 Click the links below.

Part 1: Wasilla/Palmer and Mat-Su Region 

Part 2:  Denali National Park


Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Janet, do they still have that room at the centre with all the eagles? It's been 13 years since I was there, so maybe it's gone now. Glad you're enjoying yourself.

J.Q. Rose said...

Joylene, I didn't see the eagle room. The room in the back has a lot of arts and crafts and they were holding a class on silver jewelry making. Gorgeous items.!

Gail Roughton said...

Oh, that's great!! They have to pry me away from the dogs! Did you get to pet 'em?

J.Q. Rose said...

Gail--I didn't get to pet the dogs. One of the workers brought another puppy out, but of course, I didn't want to push the kids out of the way to play with the pup. LOL...The dogs were fenced in, so no access. They did offer sled rides, but we didn't take them. I mean really, sled dogs should be pulling sleds on snow, not carts through the woods. !! I guess they are training sleds and they have to keep in shape for winter work/racing.

Conda Douglas said...

Ooh, this series so makes me want to go to Alaska, right now! Alaska is on my "bucket list" for sure, trouble is, it's a long list!

Lisa Lickel said...

We loved our visit. I wanted to move there.

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