When the reality of the COVID pandemic began to set in this March, the Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC) staff prepared for the worst. Our summer cultural tourism season generates a sizable portion of our annual income each year, and difficult but necessary social distancing measures and mandates threatened our mission hinging on community and togetherness. However, by relying on our Alaska Native values, people, and community throughout these unprecedented times, we have moved forward in an innovative new direction and emerged stronger than ever before.
It is our belief that everyone deserves access to their culture, no matter where they live, and our COVID programming was developed with that in mind. When COVID-19 began unfolding in Alaska, our team quickly utilized existing online platforms like Zoom and Facebook Live to provide Indigenous storytelling, cooking lessons, artist workshops, cultural awareness workshops, and art classes virtually to people all over the world. With the help of educational partners, we also produced more than 1,000 at-home cultural kits for K-12 students across the country so they can continue connecting with their heritage from home. We tapped into our existing partnerships across the state to offer Raven Tail Weaving in Hydaburg, beading classes in Fairbanks, and Ivory carving classes in Anchorage.
We are continuing to offer virtual programming as we plan for the new year, and for the first time in years, ANHC will remain open to the public throughout the Winter season, free of charge, in hopes that unrestricted access to our scenic 26 acre campus will provide a safe, healing space for our community during this time.
We still face challenges today as we navigate this new reality, but we are excited about moving forward in this new direction together. We hope to see you at ANHC soon!