SITKA, Alaska — Members and employees of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska will be running programs on Tlingit culture starting this summer.

Sitka National Historical Park and the tribe have teamed up to jointly operate the park’s visitor services, interpretation and education programs, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported Tuesday.

Tribe General Manager Lisa Gassman said it is important that the tribe have some ownership over the presentation of Tlingit culture and history to the public.

“To me, they’re telling the story of the Tlingit people,” Gassman said. “(The agreement) recognizes the fact that it is our story that’s being told at the park. That’s why it’s so special to us to be able to hire the people in the positions that will tell the story to visitors as they come in to Sitka.”

Tribe Chairwoman KathyHope Erickson said the partnership is the first of its kind in the country.

“Before too long, people all over the world will be able to pronounce ‘Gunalcheesh,'” Erickson said of the Tlingit word for “thank you.”

The partnership will be an annual agreement, but due to the timing of its finalization, it will be in effect for just six months in 2018, Erickson said. Gassman said the Tribe will receive $285,584 in funding for that six-month period, all of which will be allocated toward three year-round positions and five seasonal park rangers. Negotiations for fiscal year 2019 will begin on April 20.

Angie Richman, Sitka National Historical Park director of visitor services, said she views the partnership as valuable to the services offered at the Sitka park.

Information from: Daily Sitka (Alaska) Sentinel,

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