Alaska Native Heritage Center
Alaska State Museum
American Museum of Natural History
Burke Museum of Natural History and CultureCook Inlet Tribal Council
Ethnological Museum Berlin
Hämeenlinna High School
Kenai Visitors Center
Lake Clark National Park
Museum of Cultures, National Museum of Finland
National Museum of Denmark
Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
Seward Community Museum and Library
University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
About half of Alaska’s residents live in traditional Dena’ina territory but most have little general knowledge about the indigenous people who have called Southcentral Alaska home for more than 1,000 years.
The Anchorage Museum has set out to change that with the first major exhibition ever presented about the Dena’ina Athabascan people:Dena’inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi: The Dena’ina Way of Living.
“We are still here,” said Aaron Leggett, Anchorage Museum special exhibits curator. “This is how we live. This is what we value.”
Since the late 19th century, the Dena’ina homeland has been subject to the greatest settlement, urbanization and population growth of any Alaska region. The exhibition explores the historic depth of the Dena’ina presence on ancestral lands and makes visible the early history and culture of a people who have experienced intense change during the past 150 years, thriving through innovation and adaptation.
Meet the Dena’ina through film, life-size re-creations, archival images and more than 160 artifacts on loan from museums across Europe and North America. Rare objects include a caribou antler war club, waterproof bear gut parka, and dall sheep horn bowl collected by Captain Cook’s 1778 expedition.
The exhibition includes about a dozen hands-on activities for families such as a re-creation of a winter house with audio recordings of traditional tales. Dena’ina language and oral traditions are important components of the exhibition, and visitors can hear Dena’ina spoken and try a few words in an engaging interactive display.
These elements vibrantly bring to life the deepest levels of Dena’ina identity – ancestry and family, landscape and tradition, stories and language and the reciprocal and respectful relationship between the Dena’ina and the natural world.
The Anchorage Museum worked with Dena’ina advisors for seven years to develop Dena’inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi. In it, visitors gain an understanding of Dena’ina culture and history and learn what it means to be Dena’ina in the 21st century.