The story of Southeast Alaska's Native people began centuries ago
and continues today.
At the Walter Soboleff Building, you’ll be surrounded by that story like no other place in Juneau. Walk through an authentic clan house. Visit our two exhibits, Our Grandparents' Names on the Land and Yéil Yádi - Raven Child: A Nathan Jackson Retrospective. Take home a Native-crafted souvenir, along with new insights into Southeast Alaskan history and the ways we are all shaped by whatever land we call home.
- Admission: $5; $4 for seniors 65 and over. Children under age 7 admitted free.
- Summer: 9 am-8 pm
- Address: 105 S. Seward Street Juneau, AK 99801
- Call for more information: (907) 586-9114
Two exhibits are currently on view at Sealaska Heritage.
Main gallery: Our Grandparents’ Names on the Land explores ancient place names and the innovative inventions that were used to catch halibut and salmon. It includes three sections: Native Voices on the Land; Salmon People; and Halibut, Attack the Hook! Offered on interactive platforms, all three sections offer a window into how Native people historically survived and thrived in the region, said SHI President Rosita Worl.
“Indigenous people have lived in Southeast Alaska for more than 10,000 years, and during that time, our people invented ingenious tools to catch salmon and halibut and to sustain fish populations. Our people also documented important places, including subsistence areas, through names,” Worl said. “Our goal is to share this knowledge with the public and to honor the ingenuity of our ancestors"...(more) (News Story)
Back gallery: Yéil Yádi - Raven Child highlights the work of Tlingit master artist Nathan Jackson, one of the most renowned and internationally recognized Tlingit artists of his generation. Curated by carver Steve Brown, the exhibit shows work from Jackson's earliest productions to his most recent, beginning from the early 1960s and spanning to the present day. It includes a digital display of his many totem poles all over the world. Jackson was recognized as a master traditional artist in 1995 by the National Endowment for the Arts, the nation's highest honor in traditional arts. He lives and works in Saxman, near Ketchikan, Alaska...(more)
At Sealaska Heritage Institute's Walter Soboleff Building, visitors will see monumental art made by some of the best artists of our time, and each tribe--Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian--is represented in the large installations.
In front of the Walter Soboleff Building, on the corner of Front and Seward Streets, are three bronze house posts created by (from left to right) Tsimshian artist David R. Boxley, Tlingit artist Steven Jackson, and Haida artist TJ Young. Boxley’s post depicts Raven, the legendary hero of ancient Tsimshian stories. Above Raven are four human figures who represent Tsimshian clans or phratries: Gisbutwada, Ganhada, Laxsgiik, and Laxgibuu. Jackson’s post depicts the woman who gave birth to Raven, and examines the complexity of the ways in which Tlingit culture places value on feminine strength. Young’s post depicts the story of Wasgo (Seawolf), a supernatural figure in Haida culture that shares traits of both Wolf and Killerwhale, known for possessing the size and strength to hunt whales. Installed in August 2018, the three posts were carved in cedar and then cast in bronze. Each features a different patina.
Outside the building, visitors will also see the first of three major public art installations: 40-foot exterior panels designed by the internationally celebrated Haida artist Robert Davidson. The design represents a supernatural being called the "Greatest Echo" -- a theme chosen by Davidson because Dr. Walter Soboleff, the building's namesake, echoed the past to bring it to the present.
Inside the entry, visitors will see an enormous house front made by the Tsimshian master artist David A. Boxley. At almost 40 feet wide by 15 feet high, it is thought to be the largest, carved-and-painted Tsimshian house front in the world. The center of the house front tells the Tsimshian story Am’ala: Wil Mangaa da Ha’lidzogat (Am’ala: He Who Holds up the Earth). A tiny door in the belly of Am’ala leads into the clan house, formally named Shuká Hít (Ancestors’ House) in a ceremony.
Once inside Shuká Hít, visitors will see the largest glass screen in the world, made by the Tlingit glass artist Preston Singletary. Preston is internationally celebrated for his innovative creations, which use a medium not known in pre-contact times. His piece measures 17 feet wide and 12 feet high at its peak and is rendered in carved, amber-and-black glass.
The clan house, named Shuká Hít in a ceremony, is modeled after the traditional clan houses historically seen throughout Southeast Alaska. It includes a central “fire pit” and tiers for communal activities. A traditional clan house would have included a wooden house screen with posts on one side, but—in a nod to the modern world—we have rendered them in glass. In the corner of the clan house is the carved hand print of a child. The placement of a handprint or “X” in a clan house is an ancient practice and was done during the grand opening ceremony for the building.
The interior of the building is planked in cedar, which was hand-adzed by the Tlingit master artist Wayne Price. Adzing produces a texture that is commonly seen in Northwest Coast art, canoes, clan houses, and ceremonial objects. Price adzed almost every day for five months despite a very blistered hand. At the end of the project he had made nearly one million adze marks on more than 3,200 square feet of wood! In this short video, Price talks about the importance of adzing to Native culture. Once Native people learned how to adze, everything else followed--including clan houses, totem poles and dugout canoes.
Sealaska Heritage Store
Before you leave, we hope you browse our Sealaska Heritage Store, where we offer authentic Native art, gifts and souvenirs. Proceeds from store sales and admissions support our cultural programs. Read more about our cultural programs.