49 Voices: Nellie Vale of Yakutat

Nellie Vale of Yakutat (Photo by Adelyn Baxter, KTOO – Juneau)

This week, Celebration 2018 kicked off. The festival is held every two years to celebrate Southeast Native culture, and it begins with canoes arriving into Juneau representing various tribes. This week we’re hearing from Nellie Vale who arrived in the Yakutat canoe. 10-year-old Vale decided to introduce herself with her Tlingit name.

Listen now

VALE: My dad had me go on it once, and the first time I went on it was really fun. And also, I wanted to learn how our ancestors traveled and what it was like for them.

The first day we were on the canoe, it was super fun, and we only had to go nine miles. We practiced a bunch before we went, so we got to get there quickly because whenever we practiced, we tried going as fast as we can.

It was really fun. On the first night, we had to build a campfire. And there was one big campfire, and somebody’s socks got burned. It was so funny. Oh yeah, and somebody put their sweater by the fire, and it was literally steaming because it was drenched.

The first we camped out at my cousin Alejandre’s teacher that teaches kids how to carve. And he’s white, so that’s pretty good cause their trying to learn our culture.

The rest of Celebration… I’m probably just gonna be hanging out with my family when I have free time, and the rest of the time I’m going to be dancing at Centennial Hall and on the streets when we’re doing the parade. There’s a couple other places, I think. I forgot.

I think it’s just trying to keep our cultural spirit alive and making sure we don’t forget it. So I’m happy we get to do this every two years.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

Previous articleAK: The tucked-away Icy Waves Surf Shop on the island of Yakutat
Next articleWhittier, gateway to the Prince William Sound