The Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) provides cultural programming for the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people of southeast Alaska. SHI develops and implements programming for the preservation and perpetuation of Southeast Alaska’s Native arts and cultures. Primary constituencies are the approximately 22,000 Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian of the region and in the lower 48. While Alaska Natives comprise approximately 15% of Southeast Alaska’s total population, they comprise approximately 20% of the population in the region’s nine larger schools, and average 81% of the population in the region’s eight smallest school districts.
The Tlingit Paddle Carving Project is a youth education project targeting 12 Native high school students at the Juneau-Douglas High School, ages 15 to18, each of whom designed, carved, finished, and publicly displayed a ceremonial Tlingit paddle during a 12 week period of instruction by Native Alaskan artist, Donald Gregory. At the end of the project, every student said they would be able to complete a similar project on their own. Three students added that they wished they could carve every day! At the end of the course, some of their completed work was put on display in the Sealaska lobby during a First Friday event. Students learned the protocols of gathering wood, creating designs, and preserving their paddles, thus developing their knowledge of cultural traditions and maintaining vital canoe culture heritage practices.