This week, dozens of students from Haines, Angoon and Whitehorse flooded into Klukwan School for the annual ‘Culture Days’ events. They learned skills like weaving and formline drawing, went fishing for hooligan, and more.
Douglas Adams is a Klukwan fifth grader, which makes him an experienced Culture Days host.
“Yeah I’ve done this for a long time, Culture Days,” Adams said. “And so we pick different classes, the choices we have [include] beading, weaving. And the Angoon kids came this year so yesterday we had drama club.”
“Left goes over, under, snug,” Mary Jane Valentine teaches students to weave with sliced-up yogurt cups and yarn.
“I love teaching the children,” Valentine said. “The fourth graders are so excited to finish their projects. The yogurt cups I’m teaching them to weave is just the basic twining you need for raven’s tail weaving.”
Down the hall, Angoon teacher Pauline Johnson is teaching beading.
“We’re working on headbands,” Johnson said. “We have the eagle designs and raven designs.”
Ninth graders from Haines sit around the table making the red, black and white headbands.
“I think it’s pretty cool that we get to come up here and be a part of these activities for a day,” said Marirose Evenden.
“Our teachers do a good job of showing us real things like watching videos or coming out here for the day,” Morgan Cloke added. “And it’s nice to have hands-on experience instead of sitting in your classroom because that gets boring. It’s nice to bead and learn.”
Haines student Keegan Palmieri is in the cafeteria painting rocks with his friends. As part of this year’s Culture Days, the students took tours of the recently-opened Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center.
“I feel like it’s really important to stay connected with where you are,” Palmieri said. “Living in Haines we’re so close to Klukwan, but some of us don’t go out and experience the Klukwan lifestyle that often. So I always find it very exciting and I’m very happy to be able to come out here and be a part of this lifestyle.”
“I think we should do this much more often,” said Angoon School teacher Natasha DeGruy.
She’s chaperoning a group of fourth through sixth grade students from Angoon.
“I’m Tlingit as well and I thought this would be a really fun trip for me to learn more about my own culture,” DeGruy said. “I wish I was one of the kids in there beading and weaving and painting rocks.”
Klukwan elder Smith Katzeek says he has taught Tlingit language at the school over the years. But today, he’s sitting back and watching the activities unfold.
“My goal is just to keep the kids learning,” Katzeek said. “There’s not very many elders left who can talk our own language and do the dancing. I feel this is a great thing.”