Strict COVID protection measures planned for Celebration with Juneau cases on the rise

Celebration 2018 grand processional June 6, 2018, Juneau. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter)
Celebration 2018 grand processional June 6, 2018, Juneau. Celebration hasn’t been celebrated in person since then due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

It has been 40 years since the first Celebration, which was hosted to celebrate the survival of Lingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures.

This year, the theme is Celebration 2022: Celebrating 10,000 Years of Cultural Survival. This will be the first time the event has been in person since 2018, and after two years in a pandemic, the term “survival” is even more meaningful. 

Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl said that, especially before the vaccine, the organization was committed to keeping the community as safe as possible. 

“We saw how [the pandemic] was affecting our elders,” Worl said. “And so the elders became kind of a symbol, a critical symbol for us of the survival of our culture.”

Juneau’s COVID-19 case count has risen in the last two weeks, and the City and Borough of Juneau no longer manages health risks after closing down its emergency operations center last month. 

Worl said that this is something they’ve anticipated and planned for since the official decision back in January to host Celebration in person. 

“We’re monitoring those numbers very closely,” Worl said. 

The gathering has become a vital time for Southeast Alaska Native communities to connect, she said.

“Over 40 years, it is now significant for us to gather together to celebrate our culture,” Worl said. “You put that on top of all of these other events where we were not able to gather, and it becomes really important.”

Around 1,200 dancers are registered to perform, and Worl is expecting around 3,000 people to attend. This is smaller than the usual crowd of 5,000, but higher transportation costs and tight lodging options have prevented some from coming. 

To limit spread during the events, all staff will be tested daily, temperatures will be taken at the door of each event, and masks will be required. Moderators will enforce the mask requirement. 

Yvonne Krumrey

Local News Reporter, KTOO

Juneau is built on hidden and assumed layers of power and access, influencing how we interact with identity, with the law and with each other. I bring you stories of the gaps in access to power, and those who are working to close those gaps.

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