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Easing virus fears prompts return of Alaska Native festival

April 22, 2021 GMT

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Celebration, a four-day dance-and-cultural event billed as the largest gathering of Alaska Natives in southeast Alaska, will return next year as an in-person event after widespread immunizations in the nation’s largest state, organizers said Thursday.

Sealaska Heritage Institute said the event celebrating Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures will be held in Juneau from June 8-11, 2022.

The institute’s board of directors decided to return to an in-person event after the release of coronavirus vaccines, widespread immunizations and the confidence of the staff that life will be back to normal next year, said Rosita Worl, the institute’s president.

The biennial event was held virtually in 2020. Another event planned for this year was scrapped in January.

“We cancelled the in-person event because we had to protect our people. We look forward to reuniting in 2022 and celebrating our cultural survival,” Worl said in a statement. “We survived this pandemic. We are still here.”

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The theme for the event will be “Celebrating 10,000 Years of Cultural Survival.”

The event, first held in 1982, draws thousands of people to Alaska’s capital city, including 2,000 dancers. Many of those attending dress in the traditional regalia of clans from throughout southeast Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

Associated events include a Native fashion show, a juried art show, art market, Native food contests, lectures and a parade through downtown Juneau.