Connecting with Alaska’s living, breathing Indigenous cultures

Alaska is home to 229 federally recognized Alaska Native tribes, eight cultural regions and 20 distinct dialects. With more than 60 museums and cultural centers across the state, there are numerous ways that visitors can learn and experience more than 10,000 years of various cultures and traditions in each of the five regions of the state.

Arctic Alaska has been home to the Iñupiat and St. Lawrence Island Yup’ik people for thousands of years, referring to themselves as the “Real People” and have hunted and gathered on what the land provides. Visitors to the region can experience and learn more about these cultures by visiting the Iñupiat Heritage Center in Utqiagvik, Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Kotzebue, Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum in Nome and more. Tours of the region’s cultures are also offered by Northern Alaska Tour Company and Tundra Tours.

The Athabascan people of Alaska call the Interior and Southcentral regions home, ranging all the way from the mountains of the Brooks Range to the waters of Cook Inlet, with 11 distinct languages representing the various groups of Athabascan people. These First People of Alaska have always lived off the fish and game of the land, creating communities near some of the state’s largest rivers including the Yukon, Tanana, Susitna, Kuskokwim and Copper rivers. Visitors to Fairbanks can stop by the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center or the University of Alaska Museum of the North for enriching opportunities. Southcentral Alaska is also home to the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, the only statewide cultural and education center dedicated to all Alaska Native cultures, and the notable Anchorage Museum. Visitors traveling on the Richardson Highway can also stop by the Copper Center Visitor Center’s Ahtna Cultural Center in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve to see a variety of Alaska Native exhibits.

Southwest Alaska’s Yup’ik and Cup’ik people have long relied on a subsistence lifestyle through hunting, fishing and gathering. In Bethel, visitors can learn more from Elders at the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center through its language, culture and arts programs. This region of Alaska is also home to the Unangax̂ people that have lived along the Aleutian Islands chain and Pribilof Islands, and the Sugpiaq people who have lived on Kodiak Island and in the Prince William Sound area for thousands of years. While visiting Kodiak, travelers can learn more about these cultures at the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository. Alutiiq/Sugpiaq culture can also be experienced by visiting the Kodiak Brown Bear Center & Lodge.

Southeast Alaska – commonly referred to as the Inside Passage – is home to the Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian and Eyak people, who share many cultural similarities with groups along the Northwest Coast of North America, and are talented craftspeople. This region of Alaska offers a variety of ways for visitors to learn more about these cultures: the Sealaska Heritage Institute – which will also be opening its new Arts Campus this summer – and the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan, Huna Tribal House in Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, Sitka National Historical Park in Sitka and more. Visitors can plan a trip around the return of Celebration, a three-day, in-person event from June 8-11 in Juneau, that celebrates more than 10,000 years of Southeast Alaska Native cultures.

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