Alaska Native elder stories are preserved through the Tanana Chiefs Conferece video series “Legacy of our Elders.” In this photo, Adam Demientieff interviews Mary Deacon in Holy Cross in 2017. Photo by Rachel Saylor, courtesy TCC.

Tanana Chiefs Conference is a nonprofit Alaska Native corporation. It administers health and social service programs throughout six subregions that together cover 235,000 square miles of interior Alaska. At a TCC board meeting in 2015, one board member lamented the death of three elders in their area. Each elder lost takes with him or her vast cultural knowledge and many traditional stories. Shortly after, the corporation’s communications department launched the video series “Legacy of our Elders” as an effort to preserve those Alaska Native elder stories.

“The project was to preserve our culture and way of life through documenting stories of Native elders throughout our TCC region,” says Director of Communications Doreen Deaton. 

Each video is about 30 minutes and centers around the life stories of one elder. All the footage in the video is from the elder’s area. TCC staff often dig up historic photos to accompany the stories. So far there are 10 volumes, with each volume containing one elder from each of the six subregions. 

TCC board chairman Victor Joseph calls the videos works of art that exhibit the essence of each elder. “We captured a great way for them to share their message not only for today’s generation but for future generations as well,” he says.

Doreen Deaton and native elder Luke Demientieff
Doreen Deaton and Luke Demientieff before his Legacy Interior. Photo by Rachel Saylor.

Alexander Deedy formerly worked as the assistant editor and digital content manager for Alaska magazine.

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