New ‘Dear Kin’ exhibit celebrates Indigenous members of the LGBTQ+ community in Alaska

Kai Ash is one of the people profiled in the “Dear Kin” exhibit showing throughout October at the Anchorage Museum. (Courtesy of Alexis Sallee)

“Dear Kin,” a new exhibit celebrating Indigenous members of the LGBTQ+ community in Alaska, opened this month at the Anchorage Museum. 

Filmmaker Alexis Sallee said she hopes viewers can learn and find comfort in the exhibit, knowing that there is a place for LGBTQ+ people in Alaska Native culture. The videos feature Native individuals who identify as trans, two-spirit, non-binary or gay, talking about their experiences. 

“As someone that’s queer and Alaska Native, I really came from not really having that representation of someone that’s Indigenous, but also queer, and then feeling kind of stuck in these two worlds and not ever feeling like you fit in somewhere,” Sallee said.

Sallee is Inupiaq and Mexican and lives in Anchorage. She directed and produced nine video profiles that serve as visual letters to the Indigenous queer community with photographer Jenny Miller, who shot portraits of each of the people profiled. 

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The exhibit is sponsored by Native Movement, an Alaska-based non-profit working to promote healing and sustainability in Indigenous communities. 

The people profiled represent tribes and communities around the state. Many of them speak to the pride they take in both their culture and their queerness. 

One of the profiles features Kai Ash, a drag performer who struggled with their identity early in life. 

“Performing as a drag queen made me love and appreciate myself on a whole new level,” Ash said in the video. “And if I were to say a few words to the queer Indigenous peoples from the past, present and future, it would be this: love and appreciate yourself, even on the most tough days.”

The official premiere of Dear Kin is Friday, Oct. 15, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Anchorage Museum with a panel discussion featuring the creators and participants in the exhibit.

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