CIHA Story Gathering

Organization and community: Cook Inlet Housing Authority (Anchorage, AK)

Storytelling from Cook Inlet Housing on Vimeo.

Cook Inlet Housing Authority’s storytelling collaboration with Ping Chong + Company solidified that the organization was making a serious commitment to the Dena’ina (Alaska Natives of the Cook Inlet region) oral tradition of storytelling, and its importance in the culture of Anchorage and Alaska. Through the project, staff members learned how to both collect stories and conduct story circles as a part of a shift in their organizational culture. Cook Inlet Housing Authority thought about how to share these collected stories as a way to foster a better understanding of their work and the impacts of community and affordable housing development. They landed on creating a podcast, “Pilot Bread”, as the perfect vehicle for the resulting work. Pilot bread is a staple food found throughout Alaska and is a metaphor for the sharing of food and story that is prevalent, from village to village, in Alaska Native culture. The podcast is currently in production, with the first ten episodes due to be released in late 2020.

Cook Inlet Housing was introduced to Ping Chong +Company at an ArtPlace convening and later had the chance to collaborate on a local production in Alaska. In 2018, Cook Inlet Housing Authority co-sponsored (with Bunnell Street Art Center and the Anchorage Concert Association) the production of ALAXSXA|ALASKA, an immersive cross-cultural production for a wide audience that toured large and small communities statewide. The performance weaved puppetry, video, recorded interviews, and yuraq (Yup'ik drum and dance) into a collage of contemporary and historical encounters between Alaska Native communities and newcomers to the state. Rehearsals and a performance were held at the Church of Love during the Alaska Federation of Natives’ 2018 Elders and Youth Conference, followed by a post-show conversation for the Cook Inlet Housing Authority to engage the audience and promote better understanding and community building.