Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: May 12th, 2022

Biennial event depicted from a child’s point of view

(Get the Book)

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has released a children’s book about the institute’s biennial dance-and-culture festival, Celebration, as seen from a young girl’s point of view.

The book, Celebration, is part of the SHI’s Baby Raven Reads, a program for Alaska Native families with children up to age 5 that promotes language development and school readiness.

The book brings readers into the life of one particular child, who has already learned about Celebration and who greatly anticipates the event, wrote SHI President Rosita Worl in the foreword.

“We see how grandparents in our society play an important role in teaching our youth about our traditional culture and the songs and stories of our clans. She clearly sees that Native culture and Celebration will continue to play an important part in her life,” Worl wrote.

The story begins with a trip to Juneau on a ferry and culminates with her dance performance at Centennial Hall, before she attends some of Celebration’s associated events, including the Toddler Regalia Review, the Native Artist Market and the Indigenous Fashion Show.

The original story was written by Wooshkindein Da.áat Lily Hope, who is Raven of the T’aḵdeintaan clan. It was illustrated Jaax̱snée Kelsey Mata Foote, who is Raven of the Taakw.aaneidí clan.

Celebration is the thirtieth book published under Baby Raven Reads since SHI launched the program in 2014. The book will be given to families enrolled in Baby Raven Reads and is available for purchase at the Sealaska Heritage Store

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.óowu (sacred objects). It was held at the urging of Elders and clan leaders, 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 10,000 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. 

About Baby Raven Reads

SHI sponsors Baby Raven Reads, an award-winning program that promotes a love of learning through culture and community. The program is for families with Alaska Native children up to age 5 living in Southeast Alaska. Participants attend family events and receive free books and literacy kits through the program.

Baby Raven Reads first piloted in Juneau in 2014. Through partnerships with Tlingit and Haida Head Start, Chilkat Indian Village, Ketchikan Indian Association, Metlakatla Indian Association, and the Organized Village of Kake, the program has served 16 communities throughout the region.

The program is based on ample research that has shown that Alaska Native students do better academically when culturally relevant content is incorporated into learning materials and classes. Books published through the program also help educate non-Native families about Alaska Native cultures, place-based storytelling, and traditional oral literature.

In recognition of SHI’s success in promoting literacy through Baby Raven Reads, the Library of Congress selected the program for its 2017 Best Practice Honoree award, making it one of only 15 programs in the world to receive the honor that year. In 2018, the American Indian Library Association gave SHI’s book Shanyaak’utlaax̱-Salmon Boy its American Indian Youth Literature Best Picture Book Award, and in 2020, recognized Raven Makes the Aleutians with a Picture Book Honor Award.

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 Media and Publications Deputy Director, 907.321.4636,

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