The Local Alaskan: Incredible Native Woodworking From A Master Carver

See 10,000 years of indigenous Alaskan history in a local artisan’s traditional wood carvings
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Totem poles are traditionally crafted from a native cedar tree, representing the backbone of Tlingit culture.

Credit: iStock

Alaska is known as the Last Frontier for its sprawling mountains, rugged forests and imposing glaciers. You can discover the state’s expansive wilderness and even more on a Royal Caribbean cruise. With the best of both worlds—exploring by land and sea—it’s a journey like no other. You’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in the local culture and Alaska Natives traditions, like the artistic woodworking of the Tlingit people by master carver Wayne Price.

Here’s a look at what goes into Wayne’s intricate work and his incredible story:

 

Tracing His Roots

The heart of Wayne’s art is the native cedar tree, which represents the backbone of Tlingit culture. He transforms them into totem poles, dugout canoes, headpieces, masks, paddles and several other creations. The Tlingit have a vibrant presence in Alaska, with their homes spanning the southern islands and coastal regions. Their art, known for its signature bold, black lines and swaths of reds and blues, beautifully depicts animals and mythology. It’s gained notoriety thanks in part to the customary totem poles prevalent around the region—like those found at Saxman Native Village and Totem Park.

 

Saxman Native Village has the world’s largest collection of authentic replicas of standing totem poles.

Credit: iStock

Seeing It Yourself

A Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska can get you up close to Wayne’s art and 10,000 years of Tlingit history, community and ceremonies.

While in Juneau, for example, after exploring Mendenhall Glacier or enjoying a salmon bake, consider heading into the city to look for Wayne’s work at the Sealaska Heritage Institute. Hand-carved with a traditional adze—a tool like an ax with an arched blade—the master carver worked for five months straight to make nearly 1 million cuts on more than 3,200 square feet of wood while building a traditional clan house for a wing at the institute. Some of his other works could be found at the center as well, including wooden hats used in ceremonial Tlingit dances.

If you’re further inspired by the beauty of work like these traditional hand carvings, there’s a Tlingit clan house in Ketchikan, Alaska, to see striking totem poles made by hand.

You can also head to Icy Strait Point to see a Tlingit Native dance performance and the village of Hoonah, the largest Tlingit community in southeast Alaska. In fact, the destination is largely owned and operated by Alaska Natives, and it’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in the local culture. Wearing colorful, symbolic attire, Tlingit performers in Hoonah sing and tell stories through the beautiful, interactive dances.

 

The Last Frontier is a bucket-list destination waiting to be discovered.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

Adventure Abound

Of course, there’s plenty to see and do on a cruise to Alaska. In addition to cultural exploration, you can also interact with the land’s expansive nature by dog sledding, whale watching and even glacier hiking.

Have your pick of four Royal Caribbean ships, including Ovation and Quantum of the Seas, that depart from several different cities, from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Seward, Alaska; and Seattle, Washington. As you sail from one place to the next, you can also take in Alaska’s natural sights while 300 feet above sea level in the ships’ all-glass observation capsule—the North Star.

If you’re on a ship like Radiance or Serenade of the Seas, you’ll have amazing views of the surrounding land’s mountainsides, glaciers and waterfalls through miles of floor-to-ceiling windows on board. There are few experiences quite like cruising the Inside Passage, where you can spot wildlife, such as bears, moose and caribou—you might even see humpback whales nearby.

 

Ready to chart your adventure to the Last Frontier? Check out your options to see the wild and immerse yourself in the local culture here.