sharriger | Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center

Gwich’in Fiddle Dance Nov 14-17, 2018

Join us at the Morris Thompson Center on the evenings of November 14, 15, 16 & 17 for Gwich’in Athabascan Fiddle Dance – a family-friendly dance for all ages. Two step, Double J

ig, Duck Dance, Square Dance, Rabbit Dance, Handkerchief Dance & Neets’ee Tlyaa. Doors open at 6:30 pm and we’ll dance till after midnight.  Dance lessons all four nights from 7-8 pm for those unsure of the steps.  Food and refreshments included until they run out. See you soon!

$15 adults/$10 for kids 10 and under

The Morris Thompson Center: the Landscape for a Learning Journey

On April 18, ten student teachers from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks drifted one by one into the Denakkanaaga elders’ living room at the Morris Thompson Center. They gathered there, seated in a half-circle facing a group of people ready to share many years of accumulated wisdom about teaching and learning.  Elders Dr. Elizabeth Fleagle and First Chief Reverend Anna Frank were joined in-person by educators Beverly Kokrine and Kathleen Hildebrand. By teleconference, educator Sonta Roach joined from Shageluk.  Sharing in the experience were the Executive Directors and staff of Doyon Foundation, Denakkanaaga, and the Morris Thompson Center. Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly was excited to learn about the unique event, and took time to stop by and show his support.

Some weeks earlier, Professor Doug Cost had reached out to see if the Morris Thompson Center could host a learning journey for his students in a course called “Multicultural Education and School Community Relations.”  The course included both undergraduate and graduate students who were working on education degrees and initial licensure to teach in the state of Alaska. Few of them, however, had experience in rural Alaska or deep knowledge of the history of Alaska Natives in western education. They needed some context, and this was an opportunity for them to gain understanding of challenges faced by Alaska Natives in an education system that still struggles to acknowledge and incorporate Alaska Native languages, knowledge, and ways of being and doing. The students also enjoyed learning about the panelists’ many successes and achievements.

The well-educated, successful Native women on the panel shared stories from their own educations and thoughts on how to approach teaching today. Their powerful stories brought to life essential values that are the ingredients of successful relationships between students and educators, including connection, authenticity, and respect.  They talked about the importance of understanding how cultural context influences a student’s learning style and interests. For example, a new teacher in a village might see a boy drowsing in class. If he doesn’t realize that boy is considered an adult in his community, and that he spent the early morning hours providing food and firewood for elders, the teacher might misunderstand and not make the best decision on how to re-engage with his student.

Listening to these stories took the students on a mental adventure to Nulato, Huslia, Alatna, Minto and Shageluk to learn how teaching and learning are done in rural Alaska. They eagerly noted nuggets of wisdom on how to connect with Alaska Native students in their future classrooms. Denakkanaaga’s Sharon McConnell advised that “character is more important than cognitive ability. Teach with respect for all students.” Valuable advice to guide the young teachers in their craft – and in becoming their best selves.

This cooperatively-organized event embodied perfectly the Morris Thompson Center’s values of collaboration, celebration of diversity, and diplomacy.  As the students listened to the panelists and asked questions, they were bridging some of Alaska’s deepest divides: cross-generational, rural and urban, and Native and non-Native.

At the end of their learning journey, Doug and his students took a few minutes to walk through the exhibit hall.  Perhaps one of them stood in the Thompson Family smoke house, mind awash with new perspectives, and imagined teaching in rural Alaska in a new light:  as an opportunity to teach and to learn, grow, and connect with others by openly experiencing different ways of life.  In their culminating projects, many of the education students chose to share photos from this event and reflections on the influence this learning journey had on their preparation to become teachers in Alaska. Two of the student teachers are headed out to teach in rural Alaska; one to Nenana and another to Koliganek.

The Morris Thompson Team Helps Make-a-Wish Kid’s Wish Come True

Eight-year-old Isaac King of Rhinelander, Wisconsin is preparing to be a firefighter one day, and says the Northern Lights are “the most beautiful thing he has ever seen.”  Isaac is also battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  With help from the Rhinelander Fire Department and the Make-a-Wish Foundation, earlier this year Isaac accomplished his goal of visiting Alaska and seeing the Aurora in person.

During his Alaskan adventure, Isaac also asked to learn about Alaska Native culture and traditions. On March 11, the Morris Thompson Center welcomed Isaac and his family for a special visit.  Denakkanaaga Executive Director Sharon McConnell brought together elders and the Fairbanks Native Association Youth Dancers in the elders’ living room.  The youth introduced themselves in their Native languages, shared traditional songs and dances, and explained the significance of their traditional clothing, jewelry, and instruments. The Denakkanaaga elders presented Isaac with a kuspuk they made for him in a bright Aurora Borealis print. Everyone remained together in the living room for a long time, talking and sampling Native snacks including salmon, blueberry jam, and pilot bread. Hearts and tummies full, Isaac and his family then explored the Center’s exhibits and took in a film about the Northern Lights.  Finally, Explore Fairbanks and APLIC provided a goody-bag full of information and souvenirs for Isaac and his family to take home enjoy.

According to “Wishful Thinking,” the official newsletter of Make-a-Wish Wisconsin, during his visit “Isaac was able to spend time with his family, relax, have fun, and experience something he had never seen before. He came back with a new sense of strength to push through treatments and continue battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and live life to the fullest. He and his family agreed that it was the trip of a lifetime!”

July 28 – 30: Half Dry Salmon Smoking & Jarred Pickled Salmon

Starting with fresh Alaska salmon, learn how to gut, clean, cut and salt salmon so it’s ready for the smokehouse. Drive to North Pole and hang fish in traditional smokehouse stoked with alder wood. The next morning, meet in North Pole again to tend to fish in the smokehouse. Take a field trip to identify and cut alder wood, the best wood for smoking fish. Finally, learn to prepare salmon bellies for pickling and jarring in a pressure cooker. You will leave class with a package of half-dry salmon and a jar of pickled salmon.

July 28 & 29 9 am

July 30 5 pm

This class is limited to the first 20 people to pay class fee.

$200 per Student

Interested in Attending?
Contact TCC Cultural Programs at 907-459-3741 OR
cultural.programs@tananachiefs.org

Alaska Native Scholarships: Thanks to the generosity of our workshop sponsors, there is one youth scholarship available (covering 90% of class fee) and two adult/elder scholarships
available (covering 50% of class fee). Contact us for more information!

If you cancel your registration 7 days prior to the workshop, you are
entitled to a full refund. If you cancel less than one week prior to the
class, a $50 cancellation fee will be charged.

Celebrating Ten Years of Sharing Cultures

2018 marks the tenth anniversary of the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center – can you believe it? If you haven’t been by in a while, consider taking our tenth year as a good reason to stop in for a visit, either before the summer rush starts or once the days are long and the exhibits filled with visitors from far away: whichever suits you.  Remember that we are here to welcome visitors, and also as a place for the community to gather together and share with each other.  If you have a meeting or event, our classroom and conference room and the elders’ hall are available for reservation year-round.  The auditorium and lobby can be reserved for evening events in the winter.  And you’re always welcome to simply peruse the exhibit, catch a film in the nook, borrow a book, or eat lunch in the park outside.  We look forward to seeing you here soon.

 

2018 Cultural Traditions Workshops: funded in part by Conoco Philips Alaska, the CIRI Foundation, ExxonMobil, and Alaska State Council of the Arts

Cultural Immersion: Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce Leadership Fairbanks: Feb 21  with Jorie Paoli, First Alaskans Institute

Fry Bread Making: March 2-3 12pm-4pm with  Dixie Alexander

Beading/Caribou Tufting/Porcupine Quill Work:  March 3-4 with Emma Hildebrand

Gwich’in Athabascan Fiddle Dance: March 14-17  – Dance lessons each night from 7 to 8 pm. Learn the Jig, Square Dance, Rabbit Dance, Handkerchief Dance, and Neets’ee’tlyaa!

Open Mic Night: March 15, 7-9pm: Co-hosted by the fabulous Amanda Frank & Tonya Garnett. Come
share your special talent – poetry, singing, comedy, drumming, music, magic.

Snowshoe Making: April 2018 with George Albert

Athabascan Drum Making: May 5-6 with Kenneth Frank

Dry Fish cutting & Smoking and Jarred Pickled Salmon: July 2018 (2 days) with Dixie Alexander

Traditional Medicines:  August 2018 (1 day) with Adrienne Titus

Canvas Boots: Date TBD (2 days) with Sasha Housley

Birch Bark Baskets:  Date TBD (2 days) with Tina Custer

Kuspuk Making: Date TBD (2 days), Instructor TBD

Storytelling – Historical Alaska Native Warriors: Date TBD, 1-night event for Young Emerging
Leaders and invited community

For reservations or information, contact TCC Cultural Programs at 907.459.3741 or cultural.programs@tananachiefs.org

Cultural Traditions Workshops are funded in part by Conoco Philips, the CIRI Foundation, ExxonMobil, and Alaska State Council of the Arts

Welcoming New Executive Director Sara Harriger

 

The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center Board of Directors is pleased to announce the hiring of Sara Harriger as the new Executive Director for the Center.  As Executive Director, Harriger is charged with managing and promoting the Center’s facility and overseeing fundraising to build the Center’s cultural endowment. Harriger brings to the position extensive experience in public diplomacy, management of multi-stakeholder projects, and cross-cultural collaboration.  A graduate of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, she previously served as a Foreign Service Officer and speaks French, Japanese, and Arabic. Harriger succeeds Cindy Schumaker, who was instrumental in the vision for and construction of the Morris Thompson Center. Harriger began her duties in December.

“We’re excited to welcome Sara to the Morris Thompson Center as our new Executive Director.  She brings a unique perspective and a lot of energy to the job.” – Board President Audrey George

 

 

 

Cultural Program Endowment Fund Supports TCC Cultural Programs

 

On December 13, 2017, the Morris Thompson Center presented our first-ever contribution from the Morris Thompson Center’s endowment for cultural programs to the President and Executive Board of the Tanana Chiefs Conference.

In the months and years to come, we look forward to working closely with our supporters to grow the endowment for cultural programs, ensuring that we can continue to work with partners like TCC to provide visitors and residents of Interior Alaska with access to plentiful, high-quality opportunities to share and learn about the cultures and history of interior Alaska.