By Claire Stremple
Alaska Beacon 

Federal grant will fund canoe carving program for Southeast students


August 30, 2023

Federal money for arts, culture and educational programs will fund the creation of two dugout canoes in Southeast Alaska.

Goldbelt Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Goldbelt, the Native corporation for Juneau, will teach Alaska Native youth how to carve canoes with nearly a quarter-million dollars in grant funding from the National Park Service. The goal is to teach Tlingit culture while applying the principles of science, technology, engineering and math education to canoe making.

The National Park Service awarded the grant of $243,457 to Goldbelt Heritage Foundation on Aug. 15.

Desiree Jackson, Goldbelt Heritage Foundation executive director, said the four-year grant will fund the start of a continuing education program that will uphold stories behind the traditional use of the canoe.

“We want to grow this momentum around youth paddling and utilization of the yaak’w (canoe) because this is another sport and activity youth should be engaged with,” she said.

Goldbelt Heritage Foundation will create courses around the building of dugout canoes. “There is so much undocumented curriculum around navigation,” she said. “How did we use the stars? How did we use waypoints?

The program is called “Daak Yaylatsaak,” which means “push the boat out” in the Tlingít language. Jackson said the goal is for the program to be run through classrooms in Southeast during school, which she said is important for Alaska students as part of place-based education.

The group aims to host a regional youth canoe gathering within the next few years.

The money is part of the first round of awards for the Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development grant program. The National Park Service administers the grant using funds appropriated by Congress.

National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said the project will provide educational programming while it continues traditional practices for youth in Southeast.

The National Park Service awards the grants for scholarly study and instruction of contemporary arts and culture, to establish educational programs that lead to degrees in Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian art and culture programs, or to develop arts in the community. Private, nonprofit groups that primarily serve Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native communities and are recognized by the governor of Hawaii or Alaska are eligible.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization.


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