ImagiNative Alaska Experience

Alaska Native Heritage Center

Funding Received: 2012
Anchorage, AK
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
July 1, 2013

In the Center and Out in the Community
The summer has been a busy season at the Alaska Native Heritage Center as we culminate various projects that have been in the works for the last year. We have had some interesting developments and some surprises along the way. As I have mentioned in past blogs, we purposed to implement an abundance of programming and we are starting to see the fruit of these programs in the community.

In Anchorage, we have a downtown park, Peratrovich Park, where people gather, both locals and tourists. Our city has a “music in the park” event on Friday’s during the noon hour and this year we collaborated with the city to have Alaska Native drumming and dancing as part of the festivities. In addition, during the week a Cultural Ambassador from the Center visits the downtown area with drum in hand. As soon as the drumming starts, the crowds begin to gather. It’s like magic. People come out of nowhere. The local businesses love it. It brings the people to their stores and food stands, all while creating in interest in Native Culture and the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

Another win developed out of a survey we sent out to the Native Community. We wanted to know what the needs and desires were and what the Center could provide to the community. Through this survey, we found an overwhelming interest in establishing community gardens and maintaining Native food ways. It wasn’t part of the original grant plan, but once we identified the need we felt compelled to provide a way to fulfill the need. In response, we built 150 square feet of raised beds this summer. An interesting coalition developed out of this. In our efforts to research the project, we contacted Alaska Pacific University. They have a farm in the Mat-Su valley used for an outdoor science program. The head of the department offered to build hoop houses for the raised beds. Hoop houses are in-ground greenhouses built with metal tubing and covered with plastic. They extend the growing season, which is quite short in Alaska.

This project has been a perfect example of something temporary, a short-term project like building garden beds, with the potential for long lasting impact. We are setting a precedent for future activities. Many of the projects we have started are a foundation, a beginning. The temporary builds an interest for the future and creates a momentum for long-term sustainability. We have made the Center more useful for the community now and for the future. We are looking forward to seeing the story unfold, even after the grant period ends.