On 26 acres of serene woodlands, six life-sized Native dwellings pepper the banks of Lake Tiulana on the campus of the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Opened in 1999, the center, which was built on Native Dena’ina Ełnena land, is located 7 miles east of downtown Anchorage and honors the lasting legacy of Alaska’s major culture groups.
Start the journey inside with an introductory film, “Stories Given, Stories Shared,” for a quick background on Alaska’s Native people. Then, watch as Native artists produce live works on a stroll through the Hall of Cultures. Vibrant wooden posts, moose-hide boots, bark baskets, seal-skin tunics, intricate beadwork, and other Native art fill the exhibit rooms.
The Gathering Place serves as center stage for Native song and dance demonstrations, plus traditional games and storytelling. Outside, duck in and out of replica log cabins and underground cave-like structures that resemble ancient Native dwellings, and soak in the ways and customs of these close-knit, resilient communities. Culture bearers share stories and historic artifacts to help paint a picture of what life is and was like for Eyak, Yup’ik, and Athabascan peoples, among others.
In April 2022, the center received over 1,700 additional artifacts, including baskets, ivory figurines, carvings, a qayaq, the coat of an Athabascan chief, and more from the Wells Fargo Alaska Heritage Library and Museum, a gift that nearly doubled the center’s existing collection.
One notable relic, a full-scale whale skeleton outside, illustrates the importance of the whaling industry to provide clothing, oil, tools, and sustenance to the northernmost coastal peoples.
Know Before You Go
The Alaska Native Heritage Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., mid-May through mid-September and on select dates in winter. Admission ranges from $12-$29. The center is closed on select days, so call or check the website before going. Allow at least an hour; programming runs throughout the day, so more than an hour may be needed.
Anchorage Trolley Tours provides shuttles from downtown Anchorage.
While you’re there, support Native artists at the Ch'k'iqadi Gallery or grab a bite at the D’eshchin Café.