Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: December 21st, 2022

Program explores the origins of Celebration to today


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has released a feature-length film on the history and origin of Celebration since its inception in 1982.

The film, 40 Years of Celebration — A Biennial Festival of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Cultures, begins with the first Celebration, when Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people came together for the first time to celebrate that their cultures had survived, and progresses through the evolution of the event over the years.

“Imagine that for the first time ever in our long house we have the three nations under one roof,” said SHI Chair Judson Brown at the 1982 event. “I believe this is one of the most historic occasions for our three designated tribes. I believe we will remember this day probably into infinity.”

Celebration started off with primarily Elder participants, and hardly any children were there. The year 2022 marked the 40th Celebration, which now includes participation of all ages. It has grown to include many associated events, such as a Juried Art Show and Competition, a Native artist market, Native food contests, a Native fashion show, a toddler regalia review, a parade through downtown Juneau, several affiliated events, and other special events.

Today, Celebration, which draws thousands of people to Juneau every even year, is the largest gathering of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people in the world.

The 60-minute film, which premiered in June at Celebration 2022, includes footage of the first Celebration and interviews with numerous people. The documentary was produced by SHI through Farthest North Films with funding support from the U.S Department of Education Alaska Native Education Program. The program includes closed captions, which viewers can toggle on or off.

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,

Caption: Photo of Chilkat Thunderbirds by Brian Wallace, Celebration 2022. Note: news outlets are welcome to use this photo for coverage of this story. For a higher-res version, contact

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