Hundreds of people turned out to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Alaska Pacific University (APU).

While our state has celebrated Native people in lieu of Columbus Day for several years, Governor Bill Walker officially signed it into law this year.

“Alaska Native people have been in Alaska for thousands and thousands, if not ten thousand years and it's important to acknowledge we're on Dena'ina land,” said Dr. Michael Livingston, the cultural program director at the Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC).

APU and ANHC have partnered to get more culture into the classroom.

For the first time, students taking classes at the heritage center, will not only receive high school credit but college credit for APU as well.

“It's important for we women who have these talents to share it and continue it with the younger generations,” said Marge Nakak.

Nakak is one of the Alaska Native arts instructors at the heritage center. She’s honed her sewing skills over the past 60 years, creating elaborate parkys and one-of-a-kind jackets.

Students can also take classes on Alaska Native dancing or drumming, or self-defense and crime scene investigation.

Nakak said passing on her knowledge is her ideal job.

“It's a wonderful opportunity when I heard there would be a cultural center of Alaska Natives I said that's where I'm going to work. I've been here 18 years,” she laughed.

Dr. Livingson said the heritage center’s partnership with APU makes sense because the school was founded by Peter Gordon Gould, an Alaska Native man from Unga in the Aleutian Islands.

“It's awesome APU is acknowledging its rich Native heritage. If you read some of the documents from Dr. Gould way back in the 1950s, he found it was important to share culture and believes with Alaska Native people,” Livingston explained.

Nakak gave the blessing at the Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration. She said she’s thankful Governor Walker saw the importance of supporting Alaska’s people instead of Columbus.

"It's a very honorable time for us because we finally have our own day of we being Native, indigenous people and we have our own holiday. At last!” Nakak laughed.