As Diverse as the State is Big
; and, art. Whether you want to
explore Alaska’s vibrant Native culture or other artistic and intellectual attractions like music
festivals, local artisan handiwork, Russian iconography or museum exhibits, a long list of
things to do and see await you.
Sitka is home to Sitka National Historic Park,
which houses an impressive collection of totem poles. Visitors to the park can wander forested
trails while learning about stories the poles tell. Tour St. Michael’s Cathedral, a bright blue,
onion-domed Russian Orthodox Church that dominates Sitka’s skyline. If visitors get their timing
right, they can attend the Sitka Summer Music Festival. Held every year in June, it emphasizes
chamber music and attracts an international group of professional musicians.
Working along the coast of the Inside Passage is the town of Wrangell. Wrangell holds the
distinction of being the only Alaskan city to have existed under four nations and three flagsthe
Stikine Tlingits, the Russians, Great Britain and the United States. The Wrangell Museum
features cultural exhibits, such as the oldest known Tlingit housepost in Southeast Alaska, a
rare spruce canoe and spruce root and cedar bark basket collections. Wrangell is best
known for its impressive collection of petroglyphs. The Alaska State Park at Petroglyph Beach
features a newly constructed, fully accessible wooden boardwalk where guests can make
rubbings from reproduced petroglyphs.
In Ketchikan, the cultural traveler can find authentic totem poles. The Totem Heritage Center
houses 33 totems and fragments retrieved from deserted Tlingit and Haida Indian villages.
In fact, this national landmark houses the largest collection of original totems in the United
States. Saxman Totem Park houses totems as well but includes carving demonstrations and
performances by the Cape Fox Dancers at the Beaver Tribal House. Galleries galore are
found on Ketchikan’s bustling waterfront. The Blueberry Arts Festival, held annually in
August, features arts and crafts, performing arts, a juried art show and other fun activities.
Haines, meanwhile, has a rich tradition of Tlingit culture. The area was originally named
Deishu, meaning beginning of the trail. The local Native community of Klukwan is considered
to be the mother village and the cradle of the Tlingit people.
In Haines, visitors can experience Native heritage in many ways. Known as an artists' haven,
there are numerous art galleries. There, visitors can find beautiful pieces of Native artwork,
from intricately carved jewelry to limited edition prints, hand-carved masks and basketry. The
Sheldon Museum has an impressive collection of Chilkat Blankets and is a wealth of information
for those interested in the history of the local Chilkat and Chilkoot tribes.
Local Native-owned businesses offer custom tours through the Chilkat Valley and into the Village of Klukwan as well as daily
catamaran service to Skagway.
Alaska Indian Arts, located in
historic Fort Seward, is a world-renowned center for totem
carving and other Native arts. Open to the public and free of
charge, visitors can enjoy watching master carvers at work
while learning a little bit about the traditions of the Tlingit people.
Nearby is the Totem Village, with a collection of totems
surrounding a Tlingit Tribal House. This is where the Chilkat
Dancers Storytelling Theatre performs contemporary interpretations
of traditional Native legends. The show is performed
most evenings throughout the summer and is a "must see."
Juneau also is rich in Tlingit culture, specifically art -- totem
poles, carvings, weaving, jewelry and demonstrations. Many
of Juneau's public and private business and buildings are decorated with Tlingit art, and
the local Native corporation owns and operates visitor attractions and activities in Juneau
as well as Glacier Bay National Park and Glacier Bay Cruise line. At the Mt. Roberts Tram,
also Native-owned, visitors can view the award winning film "Seeing Daylight," a celebration
of Tlingit culture and history. The Alaska State Museum has on display not only many
artifacts of the local Native culture but also of the Native culture of the entire state.