Sealaska Heritage Institute cancels Celebration 2021

Dancers with goose down Celebration 2016 (Photo courtesy of Brian Wallace)
Dancers with goose down Celebration 2016 (Photo courtesy of Brian Wallace)

Southeast Alaska’s largest Native cultural gathering won’t be held this year.

Celebration traditionally draws thousands of participants to Juneau to honor Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian dances, language and song.

It’s normally held every two years. But the coronavirus pandemic forced the 2020 event to move online, and organizers hoped to hold a gathering this year.

Now, the in-person event tentatively planned for June has been called off. That’s because the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available for those under age 16, Sealaska Heritage Institute said in a statement Wednesday.

SHI’s vice chair Albert Kookesh said the board of trustees didn’t want to put children at risk.

“I mean, we’re talking 5,000 people here to come into one place in Juneau,” Kookesh said. “And we don’t know whether we can bring those kinds of people together, it might be irresponsible, as for trying to do that if the pandemic was still raging.”

Kookesh said the board will revisit the issue to decide whether it’s safe to hold a Celebration event in 2022.

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