Sealaska Heritage brings Southeast Native history online

Sealaska Heritage Institute has made available online for the public recordings of two important treasures in the preservation of traditional Southeast Native culture, knowledge and history: Radio interviews with Native leaders that go back almost 40 years and the biennial Celebration festival.

The 164 radio interviews preserved in digital files are from an hour-long program, “Southeast Native Radio,” that aired on Juneau public station KTOO 1985 to 2001.

“The collection is remarkable, as it offers so many interviews with people on topics of importance to Native people and the public at large,” Sealaska Heritage President Rosita Worl said in a news release announcing the digital recordings.

“The recordings have research value but also sentimental value, as many of the people featured have since passed away,” she said.

The radio programs include:

An interview with former Wrangell resident Ethel Lund, who was one of the founders and later served as board president of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. She continues to serve as president emeritus.

Jolene and Kevin Petticrew singing the Wrangell Entrance Song.

A 1987 interview with Reggie Dangeli, who talked of his time as a student at the Wrangell Institute Native boarding school.

A 1987 interview with Chief Denny Sr., with an opening by the Yun Sho’ ka Native dancers, including the Wrangell Entrance, Tsimshian Song and Hoonah Exit Song.

An interview with Native civil rights leader Roy Peratrovich a year before he died in 1989.

Interviews with Walter Soboleff (died 2011) and Nora Dauenhauer (died 2017) on Tlingit oratory.

An interview with Native leader John Borbridge Jr. (died 2016) on the early days of the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act.

Interviews with executives from Native corporations and organizations, including the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood.

The late Kathy Kolkhorst Ruddy was the reason the recordings were digitized, Emily Pastore, archives and collections director at Sealaska Heritage, said June 30. “She was heavily involved in the project; she actually coordinated the original donation with SHI back in 2010.”

The idea for “Southeast Native Radio” started in the early 1980s with Arlene Dangeli, “who realized few outlets existed for Alaska Natives to learn about their heritage,” Sealaska Heritage said in its announcement. “She set about creating a program that would address cultural issues and help all Native Alaskans take pride in their heritage.”

Dangeli recruited the support of KTOO, organized a staff interested in Alaska Native issues and began broadcasting, the statement read.

“The recordings that involve traditional practices or sharing traditional knowledge are very important and deal with concepts that are still relevant today,” Pastore said.

Sealaska Heritage’s second online digital project is a video library of Celebration, back to the original festival in 1982.

That first gathering of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian nations encompassing 16 dance groups ran three days in Juneau.

After receiving a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in 2015, Sealaska Heritage was able to digitize Celebration for the public for the first time. Before that, Celebration 1982 was only available by in-person visits to the institute’s archives.

Video recordings of Celebrations through 1990 are now available online. Celebrations through 2016 are expected to be digitalized and posted on YouTube before the end of this year.

The 2018 festival was the first one posted on YouTube in its entirety. The 2020 event was canceled due to the pandemic, and the 2022 festival in Juneau was held just a few weeks ago.

To browse the collection of Celebration videos or radio interview recordings, go to the Sealaska Heritage website and scroll down to make your selections of either digital library.

Sealaska Heritage Institute was founded in 1980 “to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.”

It also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide.


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