Sealaska Invests in Southeast Regenerative Tourism
Sealaska is partnering with the Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP) and Allen Marine to support a new position within SSP, a regional catalyst for regenerative tourism, which will focus on:
- Supporting Southeast Alaska small communities around visitor industry opportunities
- Guiding the development of the visitor industry in rural areas
- Supporting new tourism business opportunities in smaller communities
Sealaska looks at the uniqueness of Southeast Alaska as an opportunity to educate and inspire. Sealaska supports Sealaska Heritage Institute’s newest endeavor to establish Heritage Square in downtown Juneau as a destination for tourism and education. Groundbreaking for Heritage Square is slated for June 2020.
Sealaska shareholder Mary Goddard has been selected as the regional catalyst for regenerative tourism. Mary will work out of Sitka, Alaska, but will be immersed in our Southeast communities. She’s been in this position four months and will soon be launching the new SSP effort. We had a chance to hear from Mary about her new role.
Tell us more about this new role; what are you most excited about? I am most excited to work within our smaller Southeast Alaska villages, offering support and guidance to help them make the difference that they want to make in regard to tourism and small businesses. Small communities face different challenges, and many times those challenges are unique to their community. I am excited to learn what those barriers are and how we can support the efforts of problem solving.
You mentioned that this position was a reflection of your professional background. Tell us more. My background includes a conglomerate of things — film making, jewelry crafting, working in rural Alaska to develop and create art programs, working with youth as a family teacher for Father Flanagan’s Boys’ and Girls’ Home, blogging about indigenous plants, design work — but ultimately no matter what I have worked on it always brought my passion of helping Alaskan communities to the surface. If I worked on filmmaking, I wanted to tell Alaska stories; when I carved jewelry, that transformed into me teaching jewelry-making in villages. So really, no matter what I work on, my passion leads here, helping and supporting our underserved small Alaskan villages as much as I can.
The new position will have a focus on smaller communities. I spent my childhood in Yakutat, Alaska. As a kid I swore I was a city girl and counted down the days until I moved to New York City to pursue acting. I remember a cousin telling me, “You will go off to the city, but you will come back.” And that’s what I did. It took me over a decade, but I did move back! I know small communities and it’s here that my heart resides.
What does rural Southeast Alaska have to offer the visitor industry? Each community is unique. And because the visitor industry is not booming in some of the small villages, they really have a chance to share what is different about their community. That’s what I am looking forward to, helping them use their voice to help shape what the tourism industry will look like in their towns. So, what does rural Southeast Alaska have to offer the visitor industry? Time will tell! I will tell you this, because our culture is rich with history, values and rugged landscapes, diamonds in the rough will come out of this. New stories will emerge and we will begin to see new leaders step up to really use their voice to make a difference in their communities and forage ahead with fresh ideas.
Are you hoping to see new businesses sprout up in the region through this effort? Most definitely! However, I am not just about creating tourism business opportunities as usual, my position is to promote regenerative tourism businesses. This basically gives me full go ahead to promote Southeast Alaska Native values in business, which places the “whole” (people, place, planet) as the priority, rather than just profit.
Now to learn a little more about you, tell us about your background. I grew up in Yakutat eager to pursue a life of acting. And although I went to school for it, it really took me on an adventure of working on films in production and preproduction work. I am Tlingit and grew up with strong community values. I think you develop that when you are from a small village; everyone relies on each other. Art was a part of my daily lifestyle, as my mother is a spruce root basket weaver and a skin sewer. I grew up fascinated with indigenous plants and their uses, and this fascination has stayed with me. I am married to a military veteran who grew up here in Sitka, and together we have a four-year-old son. My husband Lucas just launched Waypoint for Veterans, a nonprofit that promotes outdoor adventures for veterans and first responders. It’s exciting to see that our passions are directly influencing our son Ryker; daily he talks about “Ryker Camp” that he wants to be a YouTube channel, where he shows outdoor adventures and wild mushroom identification!
You are an accomplished Tlingit artist. (View website and stories.) What influences your art? Communication, bridging the gaps between ancestral knowledge and current generations — I feel like there is incredible amounts of relevant knowledge that our ancestors used, but getting our current generations to tune into that knowledge can take some creative thinking. I think of art as my way to be a storyteller. For example, I rely heavily on my Tlingit culture, but the way I share our stories and values are not exactly the way our ancestors shared. We have so many different resources at our hands, not necessarily better, but just different. I may not get my nephews and nieces to sit down and listen to Tlingit stories, but if I share them on Instagram or on a piece of art, then suddenly I have their attention.
Regional Catalyst Regenerative Tourism Position Partners
Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP) develops the capacity of Southeast Alaska communities to deploy projects that model triple-bottom-line approaches to sustainable development. SSP pays community members to participate in the work of identifying community priorities and catalyzing projects to address them.
Sealaska’s purpose is to strengthen people, culture and homelands. Sealaska has strengthened business with culture since 1972. Sealaska is a Native institution owned by more than 22,000 shareholders whose core Native values guide all that Sealaska does. Sealaska looks at the uniqueness of Southeast Alaska as an opportunity to educate and inspire. Sealaska supports Sealaska Heritage Institute’s newest endeavor to establish Heritage Square in downtown Juneau as a destination for tourism and education. Heritage Square groundbreaking is slated for June 2020.
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