On Friday, people from all over Alaska gathered at the Kenai Visitor Center for the Dena’ina winter celebration and the Dena’inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi: The Dena’ina Way of Living exhibition.
Alexandra Lindgren, Kenaitze elder and director of tribal government, said she was excited about the events.
“We’re celebrating the fact that the exhibit is here, and we’re also celebrating with our community partners, neighbors and friends the fact that it’s winter,” Lindgren said. “Winter is the time to meet together and share songs and stories, and to connect with those who share the land with us.”
Throughout the day, Homer musician Atz Kilcher and Kenaitze tribal member Bunny Swan preformed songs and stories honoring Dena’ina culture. Several Kenaitze tribal members provided fry bread and salmon dip. The Kenai exhibition is a condensed version of one held at the Anchorage Museum. The original exhibition was held from Sept. 15, 2013 to Jan. 12, 2014, according to the Anchorage Centennial website. More than 160 Dena’ina artifacts were gathered from private lenders and museums around the globe, according to the site.
Co-curator Aaron Leggett said the Anchorage exhibition was seven years in the making. He said preparation included finding Dena’ina objects and consulting with experts and scholars.
“It was a massive undertaking,” Leggett said.
Leggett said that he thought the Kenai exhibit looked great, but the size of the Kenai Visitor’s Center limited the amount of artifacts that could be displayed.
“Wouldn’t it be great if (people) could see pieces collected by Captain Cook, or a Dena’ina war club?” Leggett asked.
Because many artifacts couldn’t be displayed due to limited space, several multimedia installations are in place to teach about various aspects of Dena’ina culture.
Leggett said that it was important to offer several types of displays, including video, iPad and audio presentations, because people learn in many different ways. Leggett said having audio was an integral part of the exhibition.
“That was one of the number one drivers for the exhibition was the incorporation of the Dena’ina language,” Leggett said.
The exhibition in Kenai runs through May 10. What happens to the exhibition after that has yet to be decided.
“We’re hopeful some form of (the exhibit) will stay here in Kenai,” Leggett said. “We just have to work out the specific details and find an appropriate location.” While the future of the traveling exhibition is unclear, Leggett said he was more concerned about the future of the Dena’ina youth.
“That’s what it’s about — the next generation,” Leggett said. “Get them excited about (culture) and hopefully they will want to know more about it.”