By Randi Somers
An enthusiastic crowd helped launch the Dena’ina Indian lifestyle exhibit at Friday’s opening reception at the Pratt Museum.
Celebrations and informational presentations related to the exhibit are scheduled to continue through Aug. 29, and the traveling show includes a series of summer events that focus on the preservation of the thriving Dena’ina Indian culture that exists across 41,000 square miles of this part of Alaska.
Dena’ina Kenai performer Jon Ross performed three traditional pieces — mostly in the Dena’ina language.
“Dena’ina: Among the Last of the Indigenous Salmon People,” starts at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 29, when Kenai Peninsula College anthropologist Alan Boraas discusses the important role salmon fisheries play in the Dena’ina life — both historically and currently.
Then, at 6 p.m. on June 11, linguist James Kari from the UAF Alaska Native Language Center will discuss the significant Dena’ina place names and what they reveal about the distant past.
Ethnobotanist Priscilla Russell will speak about her journey to understand Dena’ina plant use at a 6 p.m. event on Wednesday, June 25.
Kenaitze Elder Sasha Lindgren and independent archeologist Janet Klien will discuss, “Across Time; Archeology and Anthropology of the Kenai Peninsula Dena’ina” on Wednesday, July 2 at 6 p.m.
Upon entering the downstairs display, one encounters two Indian women cleaning salmon who look so real, many people stop to ask them questions. The statues were created by Joel Isaac, a Dena’ina artist from Soldotna. He is scheduled to be the artist in residence at the Pratt from Aug. 2-4, and will meet the public between 1 and 5 p.m. each day.
The last session, “What we live on from the outdoors,” starts Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. Karen Evanoff, cultural anthropologist at Lake Clark National Park and a Dena’ina tribal member of Nondalton, will discuss Dena’ina subsistence, fish camp and traditional knowledge.
The Dena’ina Way of Living exhibit was organized by the Anchorage Museum and major support for the traveling show came from the Rasmuson Foundation.
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