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Celebration! – Juneau 2010

June 6, 2010


post by Vince

Celebration is a biennial gathering of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people of southeast Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon. The 3 day event features dancing, art fairs, story telling and lectures on Alaska native topics. The dancing portion of the event lasts all three days, as dance groups from various tribes, clans, villages, towns and cities show off their best. The format follows the ancient tradition of inter clan gatherings. “Entrance” songs are sung by each group as they take the stage; in the same way that they were sung as the visiting clan entered the long house of the hosting clan. Sometimes these songs were sung as the visiting clan approached by canoe. Introductions follow, with the clan leader announcing their people and showing off some of their finer regalia. Then, songs owned by the clan are sung and danced to. Finally, the exit song is sung as the group leaves.

My family joined the Shx’at Kwaan dance group; a group comprised of people of the Stikine Tlingits in Wrangell, AK. This group is lead by Marge Bird, an elder from Wrangell who has heroically kept the spirit of the Wrangell Tlingit alive over the years. Heavily represented among this group are the Kiksaadi, the Frog Clan of the Raven. Myself, my brother and mother are members of the Tee Hit Tan, Cedar Bark House, of the Kiksaadi clan. My brother, Albert Laine Rinehart, is the tall, wild looking Raven sporting the Raven button blanket with an intricate, beaded frog crest inside. This was made by my mother, Nila Rinehart. My Father, Albert John Rinehart, is wearing a tunic, also made by my mother, with a beaded bear crest on the front which was transferred to the tunic from an old vest commissioned for my father for his college graduation. He is Kaagwantaan, Brown Bear clan of the Eagle; from Klukwan, AK. I am wearing a more contemporary vest with a purple Raven crest and a Raven bib, which I wore for my high school and college graduation. These were also made by my mother. Among the Tlingit this regalia are heirlooms and the wealth of the clan. The dancing is a way of showing off this wealth as well as the strength of the clan. The women sing loud and sweet and the men’s dance is comprised of powerful moves meant to demonstrate strength.

Incorporated in our regalia are two gourds and two fans designed for use in the Native American Church for prayer. The gourds are used as a singing instrument during peyote meetings, and the fans for delivering blessings. The gourd I carry was made by Jasper Gomez, the road man for the church my family belongs to. The fan I carry was a gift to my mother from her sister. The gourd Laine carries was a gift to my mother from her father. The fan he carries was the fan of Telesfore Romero, my great grandfather. He was a road man and leader in the Native American Church. Many prayers and good thoughts have gone into this fan. This fan is a treasure of our family.

The carrying of these items in our Tlingit dancing represents a blending of our mother’s culture, who is a Taos Pueblo Indian from New Mexico, and my father’s culture, who is Tlingit of Southeast Alaska.

This was Benecia’s first true experience of Tlingit Culture. We had a hard time keeping her off the stage while other dance groups performed. She finally got her chance with the Shx’at Kwaan. Her and I danced on Friday at the Centennial Hall in Juneau, as well as during the parade through downtown Juneau on Saturday morning and at the top of the Mount Roberts Tram on Saturday afternoon. I had almost as much fun dancing as she did. My legs and arms are sore from carrying her while I danced. I thought that I was quite popular during Celebration, as every where I went people were taking my picture. I finally realized that it was the gorgeous three year old I was carrying on my arm that everyone was photographing….. 🙂

This experience has inspired us to continue making regalia. My mother’s next project is a tunic for me. I have plans to revisit Tlingit carving, which I did as a teenager, and carve a hat (for dad?) and a war helmet for myself. I also have mostly finished bear frontlet to complete. Ambitious projects, but I have two years to do it! Celebration 2012, here we come!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Grandma Linda permalink
    June 7, 2010 6:01 pm

    Wow…How to make a Grandma cry…I could almost hear the singing and drumming, even though I never have. The strength, the power, the beauty of three generations combining to create a perfect family circle of tradition was overwhelming. Thank you for sharing that…and Tossy, too! I’d love to hear some of the music if there happens to be something burnable…and how I love you all. Grandma

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