More to learn, and more to share

What happens when your past meets your present? More importantly, are there lessons that can be drawn from your cultural heritage and applied to your day-to-day life?

These two questions cross cultures and generations, but an exhibit at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Dena’Inaq Huch’ulyeshi: The Dena’ina Way of Living, examines the issue from the perspective of the Dena’ina, the indigenous people of Southcentral Alaska.

In a Sept. 29 story in the Clarion, Clare Swan, a Kenaitze elder and chair of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, explained the role elders play in passing their heritage on to the younger generation — and the reward in seeing that knowledge put to use.

“We have always been here and help them understand that we have always respected the land, we are close to the earth and now there’s a way we can help them understand that process,” Swan said. “I can just see the grandmas and grandpas smiling and nodding their heads when all of the sudden you get something that they have been trying to teach you forever.”

No matter what your cultural heritage, that comment might sound familiar. Who among us hasn’t, at one time or another, rolled our eyes at advice from a parent or grandparent and insisted on doing something our own way — only to discover, through trial and a lot of error, value in that advice. How many adults have experienced that fulfillment that comes when a connection is made with a young person, and a concept or skill is passed on, preserved in the next generation’s body of knowledge.

Dena’Inaq Huch’ulyeshi: The Dena’ina Way of Living illustrates that connection with cultural exhibits, such as a recreation of a fish camp, where youth learn through working with their family.

That type of connection can benefit us all, whether it’s parents showing their children how to be productive members of their community, educators helping young minds grow, coaches, scouting or other youth organization leaders leaders, business professionals — we all have something more to learn, and in turn, something we can share.

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