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What Is the Alaska Native Heritage Center?

By Laura Metz
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Alaska Native Heritage Center is a museum located in northeast Anchorage, Alaska, on 26 acres of woodland surrounding Lake Tiulana. Examples of Native dwellings surround the lake, while the main museum complex consists of the Gathering Place, the Hall of Cultures, and the theater. Exhibits focus on ways of life in five distinct cultural groupings located throughout Alaska.

During the summer, the Alaska Native Heritage Center is open for self-guided walking tours daily. Discounted tickets are available for Alaska residents, children, seniors, military, and large groups. Special events such as the World Music Celebration and the Holiday Bazaar are held throughout the year, and buildings can be rented for special events such as weddings and reunions.

Inside the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Gathering Place showcases various half hour demonstrations throughout the day, including traditional dances, native games, and storytellers. Nearby the theater run films focusing on different aspects of Alaska’s heritage. The Hall of Cultures exhibits artifacts such as tools, clothing, and even traditionally made kayaks. Throughout the hall native Alaskans practice traditional crafts, answer questions, and teach crafts to visitors.

Six full-size traditional dwellings are located on a walking path that circles Lake Tiulana. Each of the five culture groups is represented by at least one building. Culture representatives are stationed at each site to discuss the artifacts placed in each dwelling, such as the whale bones at the Inupiaq village site.

A gift shop, located near the main entrance, sells authentic pieces made by Alaska natives, including masks, dance fans, and jewelry. Museum workers recommend allowing a minimum of two hours to visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center, but many visitors enjoy spending several hours more than that. These visitors often stop by the Raven’s Call Café inside the main building, which sells soup, sandwiches, and other food items to hungry guests.

For an extra fee, guests may also visit Qipmigaq, an interactive sled dog exhibit. Experienced Iditarod mushers show sled dog artifacts, answer questions, and demonstrate how teams are harnessed. Visitors can play with the young puppies and even ride with an experienced musher behind a team of 14 sled dogs.

The Alaska Native Heritage Center maintains many educational programs. Field trips for student groups from kindergarten to twelfth grade can be scheduled year round. In addition, the center offers free classes for high school students. Many subjects are available, including native dances, leadership, and native art. Students at the high school or university level can also apply for summer internships.

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