Local News

Culture camp teaches Native traditions

Avery Herrman-Sakamoto is 14 years old and, like most teenagers, loves music. But she says she isn’t listening to Kesha or Justin Bieber. “I listen to Joan Jett and all kinds of 80s music. I also listen to ACDC. That’s what my dad raised me on besides Tlingit music,” Herrman-Sakamoto said. She’s participating in PIA culture camp, a week-long workshop where kids make traditional native handcrafts.

Listen Here

Today about a half-dozen kids are making headdresses. Herrman-Sakamoto sews buttons onto a red strip of felt. “I want to take my time with this. I want to be able to bring it to Celebration and show it off.” Celebration is an event that happens every 2 years in Juneau, showcasing Southeast Alaskan Native culture. Herrman-Sakamoto says she wants to learn everything she can about her Tlingit roots. “We have a back story and it’s kinda nice to learn it. And the stories are great life lessons because I’ve learned a lot from them. It just stuck with me and I’m still interested in it.”

Avery Herrman-Sakamoto (right) and Ronelle Beardslee (left) assist with making headdresses

Avery Herrman-Sakamoto (right) and Ronelle Beardslee (left) assist with making headdresses

But she says her classmates haven’t always shared her enthusiasm for learning about Native culture, like when she tried to teach them a few words in Tlingit. They would tease her, pronounce the words incorrectly. “It really bothered me, and that’s why I haven’t brought it up to them since. But yeah, even if it seems like a little thing, a joke it can still hurt someone. Actions and words hurt. Both.”

She says as the kids in her grade are maturing, it’s starting to turn around. They’re becoming more interested in cultural identity. “Every year they’re actually realizing this is really important to me. I wanna show it off. This is what I can make. This is what my heritage has made.”

Dara Karo helped organize the event. She isn’t of Tlingit, Haida, or Tsimshian ancestry so she she finds Native people to teach the workshops. She says the class is about instilling a respect for Native traditions. “And also kind of experiencing the fun of making something hands on. And working together, helping each other, and creating something,” Karo said.


PIA culture camp is funded through a Johnson O’Malley grant which goes toward tutoring native kids and cultural enrichment projects. It’s open to both Native and non-Native youth. For Herrman-Sakamoto, the camp is an opportunity to learn, make, and share. “It teaches you a lot about sewing, history, your heritage gets mentioned a lot. It inspires you as well. You carry on that information with you through life. It’s kind of life changing even though it seems small.”

The week-long camp is finished for the summer, but PIA hopes to plan more cultural enrichment projects throughout the year.

Recent News

Logging restrictions in place for dry weather on Tongass

Officials on the Tongass National Forest are restricting logging activities because of the hot, dry weather and some lightning strikes in the region. The forest has been placed on “Hoot Owl” restrictions, effective Friday, May 22nd. That means some logging work cannot take place during the afternoon and evening. The limitations are in place for the Craig and Thorne Bay districts on Prince of Wales Island along with the Wrangell ranger district. more

Lohr opens art show at Petersburg’s museum

Artist Ashley Lohr Friday, May 22 opens a new exhibit of paintings and collage at the Clausen Museum in Petersburg. Lohr this year is finishing up a master’s program in fine art through the Maryland Institute College of Art. more