About 100 people attended Saturday’s benefit dinner and auction for the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center in Klukwan.
"We found documents that said we were trying to build a museum/cultural center here in Klukwan since 1930," said Kimberley Strong, tribal council president. "There was a House bill in Congress when we were a territory, so this isn’t something that we’ve been trying to do just for the last few years."
Guests dined on a main course of moose or salmon prepared by chefs Joshua Hotch and Jess Jezorski at the meal with a suggested donation of $50 for adults. The auction featured handmade items and generated more than $4,000.
"It’s been a long road for us, in doing all of the fundraising that we’ve done over the years," Strong said. "As most of you who’ve been here supporting us throughout the years know, we started out with the Traditional Knowledge Camp, and then (in 2010) we built the Hospitality House, through various funders."
She said State Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, co-chair of the House Finance Committee, has been "one of the strongest supporters" of the group’s efforts.
"We’ve got $3.5 million from the Alaska State Legislature for the culture center building, and for the final phase, I think we need another $4 million to build it," said grant writer Lani Hotch. "I’m not sure how much we have set aside, but I don’t think it’s very much now, because we’ve had to dip into it for the Hospitality House."
Klukwan, Inc. manager and president Ralph Strong on Saturday told attendees the corporation would donate a Chilkat blanket for the museum.
"Klukwan acquired it many years ago, and it’s been at the Sheldon Museum, on loan there, for 25 years or more," he said. "Given that the village received funding to move forward with a museum building, we thought this would be a good occasion to give the blanket to the village."
Hotch said Klukwan is known for Chilkat weaving, "and we’re trying hard to carry on that tradition here."
"Seeing this blanket come back for our culture center is exciting to me," she said.