A new passenger jet celebrating the deep-rooted cultural importance of salmon to Alaska departed from Anchorage on Friday, May 12 as Alaska Airlines flight 62, bound for Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and then on to Seattle.
The colorful Boeing 737-800 jet, inscribed with the name Xáat Kwáani (Salmon People), depicts the ancestral importance of salmon through Northwest Coast formline art, as interpreted by Alaska Native artist Crystal Kaakeeyáa Rose Demientieff Worl. It honors Alaskan salmon, culture and language.
Alaska Airlines officials said this is the first aircraft in the history of any domestic airline to be named in an Alaska Native language and to depict the ancestral importance through Northwest Coast formline art.
“When people look at my art, I hope they feel inspired, they feel motivated, but I also want them to know, it’s not easy, it’s challenging,” Worl said.
“My family’s been here for a long time, and I can say my ancestors are from here, and I’m eating the same food in the same place that they once were, and that’s really special to be able to share that and say that and feel that—and to create and retell their stories through my eyes,” she said. Worl is Tlingit, Athabascan, and Filipino.
Her work overall — whether printmaking, painting or public art — recreates and modernizes her ancestors’ stories and explores relationships and bonds that her people, the land, and the animals share with Alaska so that generations learn its importance.
During the design process, Worl worked with people close to her and the design was shared with employees from the Native Employee Network (NEN) business resource group, and multiple community leaders in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast, Alaska Airlines officials said.
Worl even redesigned the NEN logo with a fresh take on formline art, featuring the beloved salmon. Her mother, Beverly Demientieff, who is Deg Hit’an Athabascan from Holy Cross, Alaska, was actually one of the founding members of Alaska’s NEN group when she was a customer service agent in Fairbanks, Alaska. “Everything about this project has come together in a really beautiful, connected way,” she said.
Alaska Airlines officials said it took 117 gallons of paint and a total of 12 days to complete the project.
The salmon people jet is expected to fly for a number of years through a paint system that applies a protective clear coat over the base coat to keep the paint job looking fresh for many years.