Project: Cultural Traditions Workshops
Grantee: Tanana Chiefs Conference
Authored by: Cindy Schumaker

Reclaiming cultural heritage is part of the solution to the ills adversely affecting the well being of Alaska Native people. By reconnecting with traditional values, preserving traditional ways of knowing, becoming grounded in one’s past, the damage of cultural trauma will begin to heal. Tanana Chiefs Conference’s Cultural Traditions Workshops, funded in part by The CIRI Foundation’s A Journey to What Matters grant, were intended to perpetuate cultural identity as a means to prevention and to create opportunity for healing and wellness.

Through this initiative, a series of 13 workshops were held in Fairbanks. 158 students learned traditional arts from 15 master artists. Elders, adults and youth of all skill levels learned to make willow root baskets, porcupine quill or dentalium shell jewelry, beaver fur mittens, beading, caribou hair tufting, quillwork, moose hide slippers, skin drums and canvas boots.

Students who participated in the workshops shared these comments:

“For years I’ve watched my mom and grandmothers sew slippers and boots of all kinds, but never really paid attention how it was all put together. Now I know! Thank you Adeline (Potts) and Dixie (Alexander)!”

“I will make another pair (of slippers) and then I look forward to showing what I’ve learned to the ladies.”

“The class made me feel connected to my culture.”

“I learned how to bead; now I can with my mother-in-law and relatives.”

“I will teach my younger sisters.”

“Please have more classes in tufting and quilling.”

“This was a great learning experience. I’m very grateful to TCC, MTCVC, The CIRI Foundation, ExxonMobil and ASCA for providing funding to allow people to learn from master artists. Mahsii!”