The customs, cultures and lifestyles of Alaska’s 100,000 Native people and Indian tribes are varied and alive in every region of America’s largest state. No matter where you travel, you will find rich Alaska Native culture in languages and traditions; subsistence hunting and fishing; drumming, singing and storytelling; art, crafts, totem poles and clothing; and displays of community, strength and athleticism.
There are more than 200 federally recognized Indian tribes in Alaska today. Their lifestyles, languages, clothing and art vary by tribe and region. There are many opportunities to experience it all – Alaska Native culture and history is vibrant, living and woven into every region of the state. Many museums and community cultural centers have rich displays of Alaska Native content, and there are also annual cultural events and tours led by Alaska Native people who are proud to tell the stories of their people.
The best way to appreciate the cultures of Alaska’s First People is to experience them firsthand. Most Alaska towns and Alaska Native villages have cultural centers or gathering places that display the region’s history, arts and crafts, as well as host events. Special venues span the state, including the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage; the Inupiat Heritage Museum in Barrow; the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka; the Totem Heritage Center and the Totem Bight State Historical Park in and near Ketchikan; the Sitka National Historical Park; the Alaska State Museum in Juneau; and the Totem Park in Saxman.
During your explorations around the state, be sure to look out for events that spotlight traditional Alaska Native sports. These games showcase challenges of strength, balance and mental toughness that also pay tribute to lifestyles and survival in the north. Check community calendars for Alaska Native games like the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics and Native Youth Olympics.
You can also take some of the most amazing Alaska Native art home with you, from delicate porcupine earrings and qiviut (the magically soft underfur of musk ox) scarves to ulus and hand-carved masks. In Anchorage, the Alaska Native Medical Center has some of the state’s best Alaska Native artwork displayed in its stairwells and a wide selection of art and jewelry for sale in its gift shop.