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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Alaska Native corporation uses its voice in new cultural tourism consulting service

For the past 13 years, Huna Totem Corporation has shared its people’s culture and history with travelers who have visited the Huna Tlingit ancestral homeland, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, and their modern day home in Hoonah, Alaska. This week that cultural tourism business takes another step forward, expanding beyond Southeast Alaska as Alaska Native Voices.  

Formerly the Cultural Interpretive Services department of Huna Totem Corporation, Alaska Native Voices will offer a cultural tourism resource and consulting service to other Native peoples, cultural groups and communities around the world.

Led by Huna Totem Corporation’s Director of Interpretive Services Mark McKernan, the new service will help other groups or destinations share their culture with visitors. A solid business plan and training model will be developed for each client that balances cultural integrity and visitor expectations.

“Huna Totem operates two successful cultural tourism businesses in Alaska and we see the growing demand for those travel experiences worldwide,” said Lawrence Gaffaney, Huna Totem Corporation president and CEO. “We hear a calling and a duty to share what we’ve learned with others.”

An Alaska Native village corporation owned by Huna Tlingit shareholders, Huna Totem Corporation began its Cultural Heritage Guide program in 2000. In the past two years, McKernan has built upon this foundation, introducing Cultural Heritage Guides to cruise passengers traveling with Alaskan Dream Cruises, Lindblad Expeditions and American Cruise Lines; expanding the programs on Holland America Line’s ships; and launching oral history and educational sessions at Glacier Bay Lodge in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Cultural presentations are planned onboard 199 cruise ships in Alaska waters during the 2013 season.

Huna Totem Corporation opened Icy Strait Point, a cruise destination offering cultural and adventure experiences in Hoonah in 2004. More than a million travelers have visited Icy Strait Point, with another 135,000 cruise passengers scheduled to visit in 2013.

“Our knowledge and experiences — especially in partnership building with the National Parks Service and government agencies on a local, state and federal level — will translate well as we advise other cultures and destinations,” McKernan said. “At the same time, each culture or community is unique and has its own resources, traditions and experiences to highlight. We will pay close attention to the core values of the culture.”

McKernan, a certified interpretive guide and trainer, has specialized in creating educational and interpretive programs for communities and travel providers across North and Central America during his 13-year career.  He joined Huna Totem Corporation in 2011 to assist in growing the company’s tourism base.

Huna Totem Corporation was recognized for its efforts to advance the economic aspirations and culture of the Huna Tlingit people by Travel + Leisure magazine’s Global Vision Awards last year. Icy Strait Point also won a Travel to a Better World Award from the Travel Industry Association and National Geographic Traveler magazine for its commitment to the Huna Tlingit people in 2008.

Native peoples, cultural groups or communities interested in Alaska Native Voices’ consulting service can call (907) 523-3672 or find more information online at www.AlaskaNativeVoices.com. Huna Totem Corporation is the village corporation formed in 1973 under the terms of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Visit www.hunatotem.com for more details.