Soldotna woman included in Native museum opening

Posted: Monday, September 20, 2004

Among the estimated 20,000 Native American faces in the crowd during this week's opening ceremonies for the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., will be Soldotna's own Charlotte St. Clair.

St. Clair, of Tlingit Indian descent, will be part of Alaska's delegation to the opening ceremonies for the museum, the first major museum dedicated entirely to Native Americans in the United States. She said Friday she'll be participating in cultural events during the ceremonies, including her specialty, dancing.

"It's not every day you get selected to go down to Washington to be a dancer," she said.

St. Clair has been dancing traditional Southeast Alaska Tlingit and Haida dances since she was a young girl growing up in Juneau. She said she's honored to be taking part in such a prestigious event, with Native peoples from around North America.

"It's big time," she said.

She said she's been asked to perform traditional dances during the event, which will feature performances, educational and cultural events from members of Native groups from across the continent.

One of the most meaningful parts of the ceremony for her, St. Clair said, is that she'll get to wear a piece of traditional clothing that's been in her family for decades.

"I even get to wear my grandmother's blanket," she said.

St. Clair's trip began Sunday, and she'll participate in much of the week's events to celebrate the opening of the museum, which includes three large exhibits and more than 7,500 pieces representing virtually all Native peoples of North America.

The museum, which will be operated by the Smithsonian, will specifically highlight the Yup'ik people of Western Alaska in one if its exhibits and also will include items from around Alaska representing the state's various Native cultures.

St. Clair said Friday it's a big honor to be part of such a large and important event.

"It's very exciting," she said.

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