Launch of New Alaska Native Culture Guide for Travelers

On the occasion of Indigenous Peoples Day On October 10, the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA) released its first guide to Alaska’s Native culture with the goal of showing visitors how they can engage with its First Peoples in an authentic and respectful way.

The 20-page guide is now available in both digital and to print formats (although travelers must request the physical copy online). It breaks down the different cultural groups and regions so visitors can better understand the 229 federally recognized tribes—the most in any state—that inhabit Alaska, and it includes in-depth introductions to events, traditions, greetings, stories, and more.

The guide also offers travelers to Alaska information on ways to learn about daily life, past and present, through cultural tours and visits to museums and heritage sites, as well as information on how to support Indigenous businesses and artists.

“This guide is an opportunity for us to provide information on the diversity of indigenous cultures,” Camille Ferguson, chair of ATIA’s cultural enrichment subcommittee, told AFAR.

About 15% of the state’s population identify as native Alaskans, but given the size of the state (it’s more than two and a half times the size of Texas), differences in l art, traditional foods, language, storytelling, etc. vary greatly from region to region. Much of the guide explains etiquette about engaging with the various Alaska Native cultures. It includes some golden rules for respecting the local way of life, such as referring to native people as Alaska Natives (rather than Native Americans or Alaska Natives) and showing respect for Elders (such as allowing them to speak without interruption).

“These living cultures strongly influence our way of life today – from the names of rivers, mountain peaks and traditional lands to artwork, architecture and shared celebrations in our cities,” reads one of the first pages of the guide.

The guide, ATIA said, is just the beginning. Over the coming months and years, the organization plans reach out to tribal groups across Alaska to develop more specific cultural routes, with the goal of promoting and connecting Alaska Native communities.

“Alaska has always been and always will be a native place,” Emily Edenshaw, one of the guide’s authors, president of the Alaska Native Heritage Center and a member of the Yup’ik and Iñupiaq tribes, said in a statement. “It’s exciting to see resources like this cultural guide being developed so travelers can learn more about Alaska’s First Peoples and our beautiful, vibrant, and vibrant cultures.”

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