Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines Promotes Indigenous Artist With Its First Aircraft Named in Alaska Native Language
In a groundbreaking announcement, Alaska Airlines has unveiled its latest artistic masterpiece, ‘Xáat Kwáani’ (Salmon People), an aircraft adorned with captivating Northwest Coast formline art, fulfilling the long-held dream of artist Crystal Kaakeeyáa Rose Demientieff Worl. Formline art is a feature in the indigenous art of the Northwest Coast of North America.
This historic achievement marks the first time in the history of any domestic airline that an aircraft has been named in an Alaska Native language, paying homage to the ancestral significance deeply rooted in the region’s cultural heritage.
Growing up near Juneau’s shores, Crystal always envisioned her artwork adorning the planes that flew overhead, and today, her vision has become a reality. The aircraft’s exterior showcases Crystal’s unique and expressive designs, blending traditional elements with a modern twist, effectively capturing the essence of her ancestors’ stories and highlighting the profound connections between Alaska’s Indigenous communities, the land, and its diverse wildlife.
“Every time I looked at an Alaska plane, I couldn’t help but visualize the salmon being in formline, or having some sort of design that represents identity. I can’t help but look at things and see how to Indigenize them,” Crystal said.
Alaska’s Indigenous Traditions
Crystal’s passion for preserving and promoting Indigenous culture shines through her artistic endeavors. Each stroke of her brush or printmaking technique is a testament to her unwavering dedication and lifelong commitment to sharing her story with the world. She believes that art holds the power to inspire, motivate, and educate, offering a window into the rich tapestry of Alaska’s Indigenous traditions.
The inclusion of the Alaska Native language on the aircraft holds significant cultural significance. By featuring ‘Xáat Kwáani’ prominently, Alaska Airlines not only celebrates Crystal’s artistic achievement but also fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of Indigenous languages and cultures. The hope is that passengers and onlookers will be captivated by the artwork, sparking curiosity and a desire to learn more about the history, values, and traditions of Alaska’s Native communities.
“Having read about Crystal, seen her murals in Juneau and Anchorage and knowing her love of monumental art, she came to mind when we had the opportunity to paint a very large canvas— a 737-800,” said Marilyn Romano, regional vice president in Alaska.
During the design process, Crystal collaborated closely with Alaska Airlines’ Native Employee Network (NEN) and sought input from community leaders across Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and the West Coast. This inclusive approach ensured that the artwork resonates authentically with Alaska’s diverse Indigenous cultures while promoting unity and cultural exchange.
Identity of All Alaskans
The aircraft’s unveiling is not only a personal triumph for Crystal but also a source of immense pride for her family and the broader Alaskan community. Crystal’s mother, Beverly Demientieff, a founding member of Alaska’s NEN group, expressed her joy and emphasized the profound connection between Crystal’s art and the collective identity of all Alaskans.
‘Xáat Kwáani’ serves as a symbol of resilience and strength, paying tribute to the salmon and its timeless importance in sustaining Alaska’s communities. As Crystal passionately explains, salmon is not only a vital source of nourishment but also represents a deep connection to the land and the people who call it home. The aircraft’s visual representation of salmon pays homage to their enduring presence, their role in shaping the lush Tongass rainforest, and their integral part in sustaining generations of Alaskans.
Alaska Airlines’ groundbreaking initiative to showcase Crystal’s artwork on ‘Xáat Kwáani’ signifies a step forward in celebrating and honoring Indigenous cultures, their languages, and their artistic legacies. The airline hopes that this artistic collaboration will foster a greater understanding and appreciation for Alaska’s rich Indigenous heritage while inspiring future generations to embrace and protect these invaluable cultural treasures.
As ‘Xáat Kwáani’ takes flight, Crystal’s artistic vision soars across the skies, carrying with it a powerful message of cultural pride, resilience, and the enduring spirit of Alaska’s Native communities.