Long before the east coast of America developed colonies, the vast lands of the far northwest already had inhabitants—tribes of the First Nations that lived amongst the towering pines, expansive glaciers and mountains scraping the heavens. Long marginalized by modern society, discovering the history and ways of these indigenous people of Alaska makes for an enlightening and enthralling shift in perspective of the world as you know it. To gain this newfound perspective, here are a few places worth checking out when in the Northwest.
As the third-largest current-day population of indigenous peoples in Canada, Vancouver is rife with opportunities to discover and learn about indigenous culture. While your day’s adventures could entail countless combinations of art galleries, heritage sites, museums and cultural centers, it’d be wise to begin with the Museum of Anthropology at UBC. With an emphasis on the indigenous cultures of British Columbia, the MOA showcases a sizable collection of art and artifacts from all over the world in an impressive structure that’s a thoughtful extension of the scenery surrounding it.
Situated squarely in Ketchikan are two side-by-side parks central to the preservation of the culture of indigenous people of Alaska: Totem Bight State Historical Park and the Potlatch Totem Park. The former is a state park where you can stroll through the great outdoors and witness the restoration of a native Alaskan village—15 refurbished totem poles and a massive clan house. The latter pairs perfectly: at Potlatch Totem Park, you can also stroll and admire many intricate totem poles and several smaller clan houses in addition to discovering their cultural significance. But, you can also witness and watch modern totem-pole carvers hard at work at their craft.
Sitka is peculiar compared to other Alaskan towns in that it was established by Russian settlers rather than Americans. As such, the Sitka National Historical Park captures not only the native Tlingit culture but also the remnants of the Russian influence on the region’s history. Here you can admire an impressive medley of Tlingit and Russian artifacts, discover the old Russian Bishop’s House, enjoy a scenic stroll down Totem Trail as well as a visit to the Tlingit fort that held the 1804 Battle of Sitka between the indigenous tribes and Russia. The history housed on this land lives and breathes much like the eclectic wildlife within the surrounding trees, making this an excursion for the ages.
Looking to discover this cradle of culture for the indigenous people of Alaska for yourself? Talk with one of our specialized cruise advisors. Their professional knowledge and stellar relationships with industry-leading cruise lines like Regent Seven Seas Cruises mean that you can spend less time planning your trip and more time enjoying it.