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ANMC Heritage Tree is a living connection between the old and new hospitals, staff and patients

December 21, 2017

In celebration of ANTHC’s 20th year (2017-2018), we are republishing stories from our archives.

A tree grows at ANMC.

In fact, there are many trees that surround the Alaska Native Medical Center on Tudor Road, but one special spruce tree that began its life at the original Alaska Native Services Hospital (ANS) on 3rd Avenue in downtown Anchorage, continues to grow today on the Alaska Native Health Campus, just outside of the ANMC hospital.

This wasn’t any old spruce – it was the one that grew near the driveway entrance to the ANS patient pick-up and drop-off area. There, it added to the character of the hospital – it was lit up and decorated during the holidays, and some people said it was good luck to touch it.

After the new ANMC hospital opened in 1997, the tree remained at the old site downtown. A committee was formed in the summer of 2005 to have the tree transferred to the new hospital. It took many contractors and volunteers who worked for two years to arrange for the tree to be uprooted, brought across town and replanted. After the old hospital and buildings had been torn down, the land had been transferred to the Municipality of Anchorage, which had to grant permission to remove the tree. The timing had to be just right, too – the tree had to be in a dormant stage but the ground could not be frozen. The move had to be in the early fall.

Around that time, ANTHC’s Board of Directors declared October 8, 2007, Alaska Native Traditional Healing Celebration, or ANTHC Day. A celebration was planned and it proved a perfect time to transfer the tree.

That beautiful fall day, a group of people gathered at ANMC in anticipation. A huge truck slowly made its way down Ambassador Drive while a group of Alaska Native Elders welcomed the tree with drumming and a song.

Fred Olin (pictured with Roberta Miljure, ANMC Volunteer Services), a longtime ANMC carpenter with Hospital Facilities and Engineering, placed four small bags of earth at the base of the tree – he had saved the dirt from beneath each wing of the old hospital. Those attending the tree planting were encouraged to take a handful of soil from each bag and place it at the base of the tree.

ANTHC’s then-CEO Paul Sherry stated, “The ANMC Heritage Tree serves as living recognition of the many Alaska Native and American Indian people who were born, cared for, and passed away at the Alaska Native Medical Center, and honors the memory and service of the thousands of men and women who provided health care for the people.”

This message, like the tree, still stands true today.

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