Indigenous place name markers further spread around Anchorage area

Indigenous place name markers further spread around Anchorage area
Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 6:39 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - They are the original inhabitants of Alaska’s Southcentral region, but not always have the Dena’ina people been seen.

Thanks to a new project, people will now have a better understanding of the impact they made.

A small crowd gathered at Point Woronzof last month where the fourth Indigenous place name marker was installed. It was one of 32 locations around Anchorage and the Native Village of Eklutna where place markers have been and will be erected.

Speaker after speaker, stories were shared of what it was like growing up, learning about their culture and the significance of the place markers around town today.

“It was when I got to know [Native Village of Eklutna President] Aaron [Leggett] through my work at the city of Anchorage that I started learning about the traditional names and the stories embedded within every name in every part of the city that I started to feel my own roots attached to this place and a sense of commitment to place comes along with that knowledge,” Roy Agloinga said.

“They didn’t teach about us as people, even in the Anchorage School District,” added Debra Call. “I learned about it through my mom, and through different family members, of who we were.”

The Indigenous Place Names Project was started in 2018. With the help of several organizations and funding, a total of 32 will be placed around Anchorage and the Native Village of Eklutna. Each sculpture has a Dena’ina phrase. The design depicts a fire bag and has art inspired by Dentalium beads.

Leggett explained the idea behind the place marker design.

“What a fire bag was used for is Dena’ina men would have one — he would always have close to him — and he would carry in it things that you would use to start a fire later on,” he said.

The installations serve as a reminder of a city that recognizes and honors its past Dena’ina history and other Indigenous cultures.

“We will keep going until we can recognize — until we can all recognize — we are walking on Dena’ina land,” said Beth Nordlund, executive director of the Anchorage Park Foundation.