Ceremony recognizes Dena’ina place names along Anchorage trails

The Anchorage Park Foundation hosted a ceremony to mark the completion of the first sign in its Indigenous Place Making project at Westchester Lagoon Tuesday. The sign on a newly-constructed plaza along the Chester Creek Trail features the place name Chanshtnu, the Dena’ina word for Grass Creek, now known as Chester Creek.

It’s the first in what Anchorage Park Foundation executive director Beth Nordland hopes will be dozens. “We’re putting signs up along our trail system that not only have our Dena’ina language, but tell some stories,” she said.

Aaron Leggett, President of the Native Village of Eklutna who helped organize the effort, said place name and the informational signs are an important way to tell the story of Dena’ina people. “The people that come by on their bikes or walking their dogs get a chance to learn what Chanshtnu is,” said Leggett said. “This was an important location for Dena’ina people from Eklutna.”

The post also displays a steel sculpture by Athabascan & Paiute artist Melissa Shaginoff. Her steel sculpture atop the post, which uses the “firebag” design, symbolizes leadership, endurance and the survival of the Dena’ina people, Shaginoff said.

Nordland said the Anchorage Park Foundation is currently fundraising for place name markers at Fish Creek and Point Wornozof, called Ch’atanaltsegh and Nuch’ishtunt in the Dena’ina language respectively.