Celebrating Native Alaskan Culture

Culture plays a key role in youth programming at Native Alaskan Boys & Girls Clubs. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that activities that honor traditions take place at each Unit on a monthly basis. The various activities Clubs engage in are unique to each community. The Boys & Girls Club of Tyonek, for example, maintains Junior and Senior Native Youth Olympics teams, as well as a drumming group. In the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kotzebue, youth participate in Environmental Club. Every year they have participated in subsistence fishing, berry gathering, stinkweed salve-making, and traditional drum-making. The Boys & Girls Club of Metlakatla takes a yearly Club-wide camping trip where youth collect and preserve Native foods like sea asparagus and local fish. Metlakatla’s cultural programming also benefits from a strong relationship with the local school, which employs a Sm’algyax language teacher. She volunteers at the Club once per week, teaching members to read, write, and speak the language.

Dancing is also a significant part of many Native Alaskan cultures. In the Boys & Girls Club of Klawock, Club members have learned and participated in traditional local dances for many years. Recently, youth and staff members dressed for a dance at the local Whale House for their grand re-opening.

The Whale House is a Clan House, where community gatherings, potlatches and several other events are held. Klawock Club Manager Theresa Fairbanks and her children participated in the dance as part of the Raven Clan, or crest. Both Tlingit and Haida are matrilineal cultures, in which descent is traced through the mother’s heritage. This means all of Theresa’s children will be members of the Raven Clan as well. Members in many Native Clubs throughout the Southeast have also been a part of moving traditional carved totem poles to from the carving house to their designated location in the village, in addition to learning the significance of the art form. Youth have done traditional art-related projects that include painting canoe paddles, and weaving traditional hats and headgear.

Thanks to the work of Club staff and their cultural initiatives, the importance of traditions and heritage have been instilled in Club youth, and will continue to play a central role in Club programming for years to come.