The first in a series highlighting the CIRI family of nonprofits
A gathering place where Alaska Native cultures are nurtured and shared with visitors from all over the state and the world, for 20 years the Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC) has functioned as a “living museum,” strengthening the traditions, languages and art of Alaska’s Indigenous peoples through statewide collaboration, celebration and education.
CIRI Board member Roy Huhndorf; former CIRI vice president Lydia Hays; and the late Paul Tiulana, an Alaska Native artist, dancer and singer, first discussed the idea for an Alaska Native cultural center in the 1970s. “Our thinking was that Anchorage would be the best place for such a center,” Huhndorf recalled. “Not only is Anchorage the largest city in the CIRI region and in the state, it’s also Alaska’s largest ‘village,’ with virtually every Alaska Native ethnicity and cultural group represented.”
CIRI staff members and associates did much of the early work to promote the cultural center concept, and they won support for the project from the Alaska Federation of Natives in 1987. Less than two years later, in 1989, ANHC incorporated as a nonprofit educational and cultural organization. Supporters raised $14.5 million in public, private and Alaska Native regional corporation contributions to construct the center on 26 acres of CIRI land in Northeast Anchorage. It opened to the public and started operation on May 1, 1999.
Today, ANHC offers a unique experience for each visitor to learn and explore the traditional and contemporary ways of Alaska’s Indigenous cultures, featuring art, dance, games, exhibits, traditional dwellings, youth and education programs, workshops and more.