Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: May 15th, 2023

Video series shows thirteenth Celebration, more years to follow


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has digitized and posted on YouTube video of Celebration 2006.

Celebration is a dance-and-culture festival first held by SHI in 1982 that has grown into the world’s largest gathering of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people. The 2006 event featured 43 dance groups from Alaska and Canada.

The theme was “Reflections of Our Ancestors in the Faces of Our Children.”

“The board of trustees selected our theme to focus on the survival of our culture through our children,” said Rosita Worl, SHI president. “It goes back to one of our traditional concepts that we have of Haa Shuká where we respect our Elders but we also recognize that we have an obligation to our children.”

In honor of the theme, SHI sponsored its first Baby Regalia Review during the event.

“The event goes right along with our theme. We wanted to highlight our children and show that even at a young age they’re already being introduced and immersed in our culture,” Worl said.

The event, now called the Toddler Regalia Review, has been a feature of Celebration since 2006. The Toddler Regalia Review has become one of the most popular Celebration events as it engages multiple generations of parents, grandparents and other family or clan members who come together to fabricate blankets, vests, headdresses, drums, rattles, leggings or jewelry. The pride of that family and clan is represented on stage during this event.

In addition to the review, the festival featured a Native Artists Market, a parade through downtown, a black seaweed contest, canoe races, a Juried Art Show, artist lectures and repatriation and language workshops.

SHI sought grants to digitize and share past Celebration tapes so the footage could be used as a resource for dance groups wanting to learn from past performances, language learners wanting to hear Elders speaking, people wanting to learn more about their culture and to teach others about Southeast Alaska Native cultures. Another goal was to use the footage to learn about traditional oratory, a skill mastered by Southeast Alaska Natives.

The rest of SHI’s Celebration footage, up through Celebration 2016, will be posted online. Celebration 2018 was the first Celebration posted on YouTube in its entirety in 2019.

The Celebration: 10,000 Years of Cultural Survival project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. 

About Celebration

SHI held the first Celebration in 1982 at a time when the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian were in danger of losing knowledge of their ancient songs, dances and stories and the meaning behind the crests depicted on their regalia and clan at.óow (sacred objects). It was held at the urging of Elders, who worried the cultures were dying after a period of severe oppression, during which time Native people did not sing their songs and dance their dances in public. The first Celebration was meant to underscore the fact the cultures had survived for more than 11,000 years.

The event proved to be so profound, SHI’s board of trustees decided to sponsor Celebration every other year in perpetuity. Celebration sparked a movement that spread across the region and into the Lower 48 — a renaissance of Southeast Alaska Native culture that prompted people largely unfamiliar with their own heritage to learn their ancestral songs and dances and to make regalia for future Celebrations. Today, Celebration is one of the largest events in Alaska, drawing thousands of people to the four-day festival, including thousands of children.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Kathy Dye, SHI Communications and Publications Deputy Director, 907.321.4636,

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