Day Seven: Anchorage Museum and Alaska Native Heritage Center

Friday, I got to spend the day with Daddy, Grandma and Aunt Paulina at the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center. My family had known about a beaded necklace that my great-grandmother had donated to the Anchorage Museum several years ago but had never seen. When my trip was finalized, I decided to do a little investigation. I contacted the Anchorage Museum’s Director of Collections, and she responded right away by saying they did indeed have a necklace donated to the museum by a Mary Jacobs in 1973. So I made an appointment for us to take a look at it. (They had to take it out of their collection’s storage.) I had always thought that she made the necklace herself, but it turns out that her uncle gave the necklace to her when she was 8 years old, which would have been in 1925. Her uncle’s wife, or her aunt, is the one that beaded the necklace using trade beads. It was in really good condition and very neat to be able to see for the first time with two of her daughters.

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Afterwards, we were able to walk through the rest of the museum for free. 🙂 It was a really nice museum that told the story of Alaska in chronological order from before European contact through Russian ownership and finally as a United States territory and state. I got some bear kisses, too. :*

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We got to see a puffin beak rattle, which was pretty cool. Apparently puffins will shed their beaks after breeding season, and then they can be harvested and made into rattles. Most of the time these rattles were used by shamans or chiefs in ceremonial activities. There was one in the back when we looked at the necklace, and I took a picture. However, the family that had donated requested that no pictures be taken, because it was considered to be a sacred item since it once belonged to a chief. I had to delete that one but found another one to take a picture of instead.

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In one of the downtown parks, we stumbled upon a performance of dancers from the Alaska Native Heritage Center. The dancers demonstrated dances from the five major Alaskan ethnic groups: Haida/Tlingit, Yup’ik/Cup’ik, Aleut, Athabaskan, and Inupiaq.

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Next, we decided to head out to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. The museum is laid out with inside exhibits like any other museum, but they also have replicas of the different dwellings that the Alaska Native peoples lived in historically. When we got there, they were getting ready to start a tour, so we headed outside. The tour was led by two students, who gave background information for each dwelling. It was really neat and very informative.

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This is a Yup’ik dwelling, partially submerged and covered with dirt and sod. The larger opening is where the men and boys would be, while the women and children would live in the smaller dwellings to the side. 

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We also got to see a dog sled team and some seven-week-old puppies that were so cute! The dogs pulling the sled were pretty incredible to watch. The entire time they weren’t moving they were literally chomping at the bit to start moving. You can tell those dogs have so much energy and live to pull a dog sled.

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I finally got to see a moose in the wild!!! I was so excited, and Grandma was just as tickled that I got to see one. 🙂 The Heritage Center’s property is completely fenced in, but one of the employees told us that this summer this particular moose waits until someone leaves the gate open and sneaks in to the pond. The moose just hung around for probably an hour before they were able to scare it away–they were worried about liability if someone were injured.

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At the Heritage Center, they also have demonstrations of different things, like dance and Eskimo games, and we were able to watch those. The Eskimo games were historically a way for children to practice the skills needed to hunt, fish and survive. Now they are a way to carry on tradition and culture. Do you think I could do the one-handed reach (shown below)??

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The Heritage Center also has tables set up from which local artists can sell their artwork. We ran into Douglas Yates, a Haida/Tsimshian artist who happened to be friends with Grandma. He apprenticed with David Boxley, one of the most well-known Tsimshian carvers, and is known for his copper engravings, which were really neat. His artwork is at the United Nations, in some Alaska Senators’ offices, and even the Alaska Governor’s Mansion. He was very entertaining and told us the Haida story of how the Raven stole the sun. http://www.magma.ca/~jbremner/blog/months/RavenStealsSun.htm (The story he told was very similar to this one.)

After a full day of museums, Grandma took us to eat Chinese food. That does sound rather odd to come to Alaska to eat Chinese, but they had all kinds of different seafood, including crab legs and squid. Although I have eaten crab before, I have never had crab legs, so I decided to give it a shot. Let’s just say, that was probably the first and only crab leg I will eat. For those that know me, they will understand me when I say that I don’t like to work for my food or get messy. If I can’t just pick it up and eat it, then it’s too much trouble for me. I also decided to give the squid a try, and if that was the only thing to eat, I could probably choke it down. But I won’t ever voluntarily eat squid again. It was sort of rubbery and almost “hard.” After such a long day, we called it an early night and went back to spend the evening at our hotel but not before seeing the most beautiful double rainbow.

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