New Alaska Native Culture Guide Informs Travelers About the State’s Rich Indigenous Experiences

The guide aims to help visitors respectfully interact with Alaska’s 229 sovereign nations.

The guide is meant to help visitors experience Alaska Native culture, like the traditional dances at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

The guide is meant to help visitors experience Alaska Native culture, like the traditional dances at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

Courtesy of Travel Alaska

In celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 10, the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA) released its first Alaska Native Culture Guide intending to show visitors how they can engage with its First Peoples authentically and respectfully.

The 20-page guide is now available in both digital and print formats (though travelers need to request the physical copy online). It breaks down the various cultural groups and regions so visitors can better understand the 229 federally recognized tribes—the most numerous of any state—that call Alaska home, and it includes in-depth primers on Alaska Native events, traditions, greetings, stories, and more.

The guide also offers Alaska-bound travelers information on ways to learn about daily life, past and present, through cultural tours and visits to museum and heritage sites, as well as insight on how to support Indigenous businesses and artists.

“This guide is an opportunity for us to provide information on the diversity of Native cultures,” Camille Ferguson, ATIA Cultural Enrichment Subcommittee chair, told AFAR.

Roughly 15 percent of the state’s population identifies as Alaska Native, but considering how large the state is—it’s more than two-and-a-half times larger than Texas—the differences in art, traditional foods, language, storytelling, and more can be vastly different in various regions. A large part of the guide explains etiquette about engaging with different Alaska Native cultures. It includes some golden rules for respecting the local way of life, such as referring to Indigenous peoples as Alaska Natives (rather than Native American or Native Alaskan) and showing respect for Elders (like allowing them to speak uninterrupted).

“These living cultures strongly influence our way of life today—from the names of rivers, mountain peaks, and traditional lands to artwork, architecture, and the celebrations shared in our cities,” one of the first pages of the guide reads.

The guide, ATIA said, is only the beginning. In the coming months and years, the organization plans to reach out to tribal groups across Alaska to develop more specific cultural itineraries, with a goal of promoting and connecting Alaska Native communities.

“Alaska always has been and always will be a Native place,” said Emily Edenshaw, one of the guide’s authors, Alaska Native Heritage Center president, and Yup’ik and Iñupiaq tribal member, in a statement. “It’s exciting to see resources like this cultural guide be developed so travelers can learn about Alaska’s First Peoples and our beautiful, living, and vibrant cultures.”

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at Afar. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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