Sharing Our Knowledge conference coming to Wrangell

For the first time in its almost 30-year history, Sharing Our Knowledge, a regional conference of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian tribes and clans will be held in Wrangell.

The conference is scheduled for Sept. 7-11 at the Nolan Center, with activities also planned for Chief Shakes Island and the WCA carving shed.

Each day will begin with keynote speeches followed by workshops, said Alice Taff, a conference coordinator. Several field trips are planned and evenings will be devoted to cultural activities for participants.

The sessions will be open to anyone interested in Southeast Alaska indigenous people and their Canadian relatives. Registration will be $75 for general admission and $25 for elders and students, organizers said.

Presentations will cover topics such as language retention, art, Alaska Native history, museum studies, cultural anthropology, indigenous law, clan protocols, fisheries and traditional ecological knowledge, according to the Juneau-based organization’s website.

The event started in 1993, then known as the Clan Conference, and was first held in Haines and Klukwan. The 2021 conference was canceled due to the pandemic. Past events have attracted as many as 400 participants.

Funding for the Wrangell Sharing Our Knowledge conference comes from a variety of sources including WCA, the U.S. Forest Service, National Science Foundation and others.

This year’s conference theme is “A Time for Peace.”

Taff said presentations on a range of topics have been accepted for the September schedule, including art and healing, Wrangell’s history, boarding schools in Alaska, ethical research and community empowerment.

Local clans will welcome attendees on the eve of the conference with a “Warming of the Hands” ceremony at the Chief Shakes House.

Other activities will include Raven and Eagle/Wolf ceremonies, and creative presentations. Weavers of Chilkat and Ravenstail blankets and other artisans will be invited to work on and present their pieces throughout the conference.

Alaska Native art will be presented for sale.

While most presentations will be in person, a few will be via Zoom, said Peter Metcalfe, a member of the event’s planning committee who is also coordinating video coverage. “We expect to have people making presentations from St. Petersburg, Russia, and from Washington, D.C., and Montreal.”

The conference will be live streamed and recorded on the organization’s YouTube channel.

Alaska Waters business manager and Wrangell resident Brooke Leslie said the community is helping prepare for the conference. Many businesses have stepped in and donated to help with catering, equipment, drinks and such.

Students and faculty of Outer Coast, a new two-year college in Sitka, will be on hand as volunteers.

Presentation proposals from the canceled 2021 conference provided a start for this year’s program, which has filled out in recent weeks. Anyone who wants to submit a proposal for this year can go to the conference website sharingourknowledge.org.

 

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