Sam Schimmel demonstrates how to carve ivory in a modern way on Friday, July 6, at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, near Soldotna, Alaska. Schimmel, who is originally from St. Lawerence Island, Alaska, said that cutting ivory traditionally required a sharpened baleen knife. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge hosts cultural heritage workshops

Traditional beadwork, storytelling, fish processing and a tutorial on how to harvest local plants are just some of the cultural heritage workshops the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge will be hosting through the month of July.

“These are all really effective ways of connecting the visitor to the land,” Leah Eskelin, visitor services park ranger, said.

The programs will include guests from the Kenaitze Indian Tribe and skilled artisans from around the area.

“The Kenaitze Tribe are key partners that have a lot of connections to highlight what’s special about this land to generations,” Eskelin said.

July 17-21 is Fish Week and the events will be hands-on. Visitors will learn about fish, including their anatomy and biology and how to catch and clean them.

“We pretty much cover everything you can imagine about fish,” Eskelin said. “We’ve always done fish related programs but not like this.”

Eskelin said she hopes to increase awareness about food waste.

“There’s always this question about what we do with last years fish,” Eskelin said. “To not be wasteful, you can process it by canning and smoking it.”

Eskelin said that dog mushing heritage will also be a part of Fish Week.

“It’s intertwined,” Eskelin said. “Fish is a huge part of feeding those teams.”

The workshops are all free and kid-friendly, with the exception of the adult beadwork class, on July 13.

The next workshop is storytelling. Participants can listen to traditional stories from the area that have been passed down through generations. The workshop is at 2 p.m., Thursday, July 12.

The adult beading workshop will teach students how to craft a small project using traditional designs at 1 p.m., Friday, July 13.

For Fish Week, activities will be held throughout the day, and Eskelin said the schedule for the week is still in the works. Updates will be posted to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge’s Facebook page.

A guided traditional plant use walk will take place at 2 p.m., Friday, July 27.

A hands-on “Harvesting the Kenai” workshop will take place at 2 p.m., Saturday, July 28.

Reach Victoria Petersen at

An ivory owl figurine made by Sam Schimmel is used as an example during his ivory carving demonstration at the first workshop of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge’s cultural heritage series on Friday, July 6, at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, near Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

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