Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Art Collection Obtained by SHI

In December 2008 the Sealaska Heritage Institute obtained three new art items for inclusion in our ethnographic collection. These items were obtained by SHI from Art Peterson of Douglas, Alaska who had owned them for over 20 years. These three art items now constitute SHI’s Art Peterson Collection (AR 34) and will be preserved and presented to the public for generations to come. Below is a brief description of these items as well as photographs of each.

Item 1: Consists of a Warrior’s Mask and measures approximately 9.5 inches by 7 inches. It contains no paint, the reverse contains the original price tag, a date of 1974, and a small booklet discussing Leo Jacobs, Sr. and the movement of producing affordable Northwest Coast art. This movement emerged during the early 1970s wherein the Northwest Art Company hired a few accomplished carvers and artists and paid them to produce quality art for trade, with the aim of making quality art available at affordable prices.

Item 2: This piece was created by Leo Jacobs, Sr. and consists of a small but delicately carved Frog Woman Mask that measures 3.5 inches by 3 inches. It is carved, no paint is present, and the woman has an abalone inlay labret. The reverse of the mask contains the original price tag and identifying information about Jacobs and the mask itself, and is dated 4/6/1974.

Item 3: This Nathan Jackson carving consists of a decoratively carved and painted Raven Helmet measuring 19 inches long and 9 inches wide at the largest points. It is carved, contains abalone inlays for the eyes, has human hair, and is painted in shades of red, black, and blue. Inside the helmet are leather straps for fashioning the helmet to the wearer’s head and the carved signature of Nathan Jackson and the date of 1970.

Of importance, according to Nathan Jackson, he made this helmet for himself especially to perform with the Marks Trail Dancers (Jackson was a member of this dance group) at the 1971 Smithsonian Folklife Conference in Washington, DC. While in Washington, DC the Marks Trail Dancers were invited to perform in the Rotunda in the US Capital Building and later before a Senators reception gathering, where the Marks Trail Dancers performed a Sorrow Song for those suffering in and from the Vietnam War. The helmet was later retained by Jackson for a few years before he sold it to Art Peterson in the 1970s.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Photos Showing Regalia

SHI Special Collections recently processed a collection of digital photos capturing views of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian regalia. The collection consists of seven CD-Rs that contain approximately 500 digital photographs which were taken at the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Celebration festival in 2004. The pictures in this collection were taken by a special team working to document and photograph Native regalia and the history behind specific regalia pieces. Participating individuals allowed their regalia to be photographed and then were interviewed about their regalia. The project was known as the Dance Regalia Documentary Project and was managed by Tlingit artist and weaver Clarissa Hudson. The project was sponsored by the Sealaska Heritage Institute and Artstream Cultural Resources, with additional funding provided by the Alaska Humanities Forum.

The pictures on our CD-Rs include individuals and families in various poses displaying/wearing their regalia. All individuals are identified and signed a waiver granting SHI rights to use these photographs for educational purposes. There are approximately 500 images and there were around 50 studio shoots, wherein either an individual or a group posed for photographs. Photographs were taken by Donna Foulke and Clarissa Hudson. A sample of these photos can be viewed online via SHI Special Collection’s webalbum. Additional information and more specific details about the Dance Regalia Documentary Project can be found via the project’s website, by clicking here.

All in all, SHI Special Collections is grateful to have these and other historic images. As a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the public, SHI Special Collections obtains images primarily by donation. If you or your family have old photographs you would be willing to donate please contact SHI’s archivist.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Genealogy

Since genealogists are the largest user group of archival repositories in the United States, I wanted to make a post about conducting genealogy research at our facility. First off, if you have never conducted genealogy research you should be aware that it can be time consuming and require a great deal of work on the part of the genealogist. Before visiting an archive, a genealogy researcher should already know what they are looking for and be prepared to conduct research. For example, I recommend that a genealogy researcher should:

  • Compile as much information as possible about your family. Start with yourself, parents, and grandparents.
  • Ask your relatives about your family history. Often, family members remember stories or information, or possess documents, that can help start you on your way. Write this information down.
  • Look in family records (letters, family Bibles, scrapbooks, diaries, photographs, baptisms, and news clippings, etc).
  • And know exactly what type of information you want. Are you looking for mechanical information such as birth and death data? Or are you looking for personal stories and information about certain family members?
  • Be aware about how to conduct historical research by using primary sources.

These are some good starting points. A host of other informative sources are available about how to conduct genealogy research. I’d recommend you visit National Archives’ webpage by clicking here. Juneau-based researchers should also know that there is a local genealogical society, the Gastineau Genealogical Society, which could prove helpful. Additionally, people should be aware of the genealogical research conducted by Kenneth Lea, who has indexed around 35,000 Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian names on ancestry.com, which can be viewed by clicking here. Lastly, there are numerous organizations and archives in Alaska and elsewhere in the USA that could have sources to aid genealogists, some of these I have listed on the right column of this blog, under the title “Southeast Alaska Native Studies Links.”

As for resources at Sealaska Heritage Institute, we have some materials that could help people learn about family history, but please be aware that we do not have materials on most Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian families at this point. We do not have census information or family history records. However, some of our collections that could provide information for genealogists include our Curry-Weissbrodt Collection and our audiovisual recordings collection. The Curry-Weissbrodt Collection contains the papers of lawyers for the Tlingit and Haida from the 1920s up to the ANCSA period. Some papers consist of depositions from select Alaska Natives and information about the people in specific villages. Next, our audiovisual recordings collection consists of around 600 recordings, some of which are oral history interviews wherein people talked about their family, history of their clan, and similar topics. Please feel free to contact the archivist for further details.

We must also emphasize, that Sealaska Corporation maintains shareholder records, which are confidential and not available to the public or for genealogical research. In closing, we desire to help assist people in their research and are more than happy to assist genealogists. Importantly, should you have any old family papers, photographs, or other materials that you would like to be preserved in our archival facility, please contact the archivist about making a possible donation. (above featured Arthur J. Demmert photo was donated to SHI in early 2008, image captures Sheldon Jackson College students, class of 1933)

Note update: SHI now has a specific webpage devoted to assisting patrons with genealogical research. SHI also contains the BIA census records for the state of Alaska, which are a great genealogical tool.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tips for finding books on NW Coast Native topics

Quite regularly people visit our repository to use our book collections and other resources. While we don’t have every book on the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people, that is our lofty goal. Since our books can be viewed onsite only (we are a non-circulating library), there are now a number of great resources out there to help people find the books they want and that are available, which is what I wanted to post about this week. I wanted to make everyone aware of WorldCat, a ‘world catalog’ or database of the world’s books. This international database can be used by anyone, and allows users to search a database of all books produced in the world (or at least listed by participating libraries, which means most all US & Canadian libraries, many European, Australia and New Zealand, etc.). It also provides search categories for music, movies, and other, which can be helpful. Once you find a book you want, WorldCat tells you where the nearest library is that holds the book. Users can also quickly create a username and create favorite lists of books they want to read (or movies to watch, etc.), and view lists others have created. WorldCat has largely become the premier library resource. It is also starting to link with Facebook, for any of those out there who are Facebook users, to stay connect with the rising technological/social generation. All in all, this new revolutionary ‘world’ catalog is really changing things for information seekers. I encourage everyone to spend a few minutes just exploring WorldCat and use it anytime you have information needs.

Friday, September 19, 2008

SHI Awarded Grant to Post Catalogs of Holdings Online

[To view SHI's online archival, library, and ethnographic presence, click here.]

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has received a grant to create an online catalog of its archival and ethnographic collections and to catalog its book holdings in an online library database.

The project is a huge step forward in making the institute’s materials more accessible to the public, said SHI Archivist Zachary Jones, noting for the first time a full listing of SHI’s collections will be available via the Internet.

“This is going to transform the way we operate, up our effectiveness and hopefully bring more people in and serve people better,” Jones said.

“It allows us to let people know in a more effective way what we have and to bring them in here. We want people to use our materials. The most important part about having these great collections is getting people to use them,” he said

To get a sense of SHI’s collections, patrons currently must contact Jones directly or go to SHI’s Juneau office to peruse catalogs of the institute’s holdings, which include more than 5,000 publications, approximately 20,000 photographic images, roughly 1,000 cultural objects, nearly 2,500 media items, and more than 750 linear feet of manuscript material that document the history, culture, heritage, and language of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska.

The two-year, $148-thousand grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) will allow people to search SHI’s archival and ethnographic holdings on the Internet by using keywords or browse searching for authors and subjects. The archival catalog will give descriptions of the materials, but people still will have to go to the institute’s office to view the collections.

SHI’s book holdings will be cataloged in the online Capital Cities Library Information Center, a catalog that is shared by the Juneau Public Library, the Alaska State Library, the University of Alaska/Southeast, and other libraries in the Juneau City and Borough area. The institute eventually will post links to the databases on its website at www.sealaskaheritage.org.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a regional nonprofit representing the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures.

A version of this press release was also published in the Juneau Empire, which can be viewed via clicking here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Collecting The Voice of Brotherhood

Last week one of our Board of Trustees, Dr. Walter A. Soboleff, donated some additional Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) papers to SHI Special Collections. (Over the years Dr. Soboleff has donated a large collection of his ANB papers to SHI, some of which can be viewed online by clicking here.) Dr. Soboleff has been involved with the Alaska Native Brotherhood for decades, and even served as its Grand President and in other ranking ANB offices. Of special interest concerning this most recent donation, it contained numerous issues of the ANB & ANS periodical The Voice of Brotherhood. This periodical was produced monthly by ANB and ANS from 1954 to 1976 and is quite rare today. WorldCat, a database of international library holdings, shows that only 12 libraries in the world have partial or complete runs of Voice of Brotherhood (most all of these 12 have incomplete runs). While our collection is not complete either, as we are missing issues from a few years, we are working to collect all the issues produced by ANB & ANS. If you have any copies of Voice of Brotherhood and are interested in donating them to us please contact the archivist.

Regarding the Voice of Brotherhood, this periodical is especially important for researchers because it contains very informative information about historic ANB & ANS activities. The periodical talks about ANB’s efforts to fight for land claims, stop racism, improve conditions for Alaska Natives, and their work on various other important issues. Before 1971 when ANCSA (the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act) was passed and Native corporations were established, ANB regularly served as the voice of Alaska Native people. ANB first hired the lawyers (like James E. Curry and I. E. Weissbrodt) worked on the judicial settlement of Southeast Alaska Native land claims. ANB and ANS truly worked tirelessly for the betterment of Alaskan communities. SHI Special Collections is proud to make available to the public our historic collections of ANB papers and issues of the Voice of Brotherhood.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Curry-Weissbrodt Papers at SHI

For this post I wanted to briefly highlight one of our best and most important collections at SHI Special Collections, the Curry-Weissbrodt Collection. This 50+ transfer case/box collection (boxes are sized 16” long x 13” wide x 10” tall) contains papers gathered and saved by law firms representing the Tlingit and Haida from 1930s to the 1970s. These firms were primarily led by attorneys James E. Curry and I. S. Weissbrodt, who were first hired by the Alaska Native Brotherhood to fight for Native rights and land claims. The collection contains materials relating to the administration of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, lawsuits undertaken by the attorneys on behalf of the Tlingit and Haida, lobbying efforts leading to the enactment of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, the role of the Alaska Native Brotherhood in Native history, general Alaska Native history, and reference materials such as books, clippings, and government reports. The collection documents the high level of interest and participation in the claims movement by tribal members, the growing sophistication and changing activities of various individuals, and political, legal, and legislative tactics indicated or employed by the Tlingit and Haida Indians.

The Curry-Weissbrodt Papers really are one of the most important collections available for studies on Southeast Alaska Natives. The collection contains correspondence and depositions from Native people all across Southeast Alaska and documents their way of life in many aspects. While the collection is available for ILL in microform format from a few libraries, we would love to have people view the collection first hand. We’d really like to see the collection used by scholars, students (one could easily write a thesis or dissertation from these papers), and the general public. SHI is proud to have the papers of the Curry and Weissbrodt firms. The collection was donated to SHI in 1981 by I. S. Weissbrodt. For any additional information or if you have any papers you would like to donate to SHI please contact the archivist.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tips for finding historic photos of the Tlingit and Haida

Quite often we receive requests from people seeking information about historic photos on the Tlingit and Haida. We often instruct people to view our online photo albums, which show scanned samples from our collection holdings, and/or let them look at our holdings in person. (photo shown is of two unidentified Tlingit, circa 1890, via our John DelGado Collection) In the next few months we aim to launch an online searchable catalog that will allow people to search our collection holdings (a more detailed update on this project is forthcoming). And we are always working to help people find what they need, whether we have it or if we need to steer them toward another repository. Regarding other resources, another great place to find photos of this type is via Alaska’s Digital Archives, which a searchable database containing thousands of images held by archival repositories across the state. Yet, as far as published photography books on the Tlingit and Haida during the 19th century are concerned, I’d recommend Victoria Wyatt’s 1989 book Images from the Inside Passage: An Alaskan Portrait by Winter & Pond. This 144 page photo history book contains images from the Winter & Pond Collection held by the Alaska State Library, Historical Collections Division. Winter and Pond were Juneau based photographers during the late 19th century and early 20th who regularly took pictures of the Tlingit and Haida, both at Juneau and in small villages across Southeast Alaska. The book contains many great views of people and places across Southeast before the turn of the century, allowing the reader to study aspects of the past.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Photos of SHI Canoe Project in 1987 Now Online

SHI Special Collection Research Center has posted online scans of a photo album showing the carving of a Tlingit canoe using traditional tools and methods near Bartlett Cove in 1987. The canoe was made from a Sitka Spruce log measuring 25 feet long and four feet in diameter. The late George Dalton, Sr., born in Angoon in 1897, and other elders with personal knowledge of canoe making traditions served as cultural advisors to the project. Lead carvers Nathan Jackson, Steve Brown, Richard Dalton, and Mick Beasley carved the canoe using traditional tools, such as the xot’ah or Tlingit adze. The project was done in partnership with the National Park Service. These scanned images can be viewed by clicking here.


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has built a facility to accommodate its growing collections and to better serve the general public and researchers studying Southeast Alaska Native cultures.

The expanded Special Collections Research Center, located on the third floor of Sealaska Plaza, includes a library that houses books on Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures, a reading room with computer access and a storage room for the institute’s historical documents, recordings and cultural objects. The new facility is part of an effort to encourage research of Southeast Alaska Native cultures, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“Very often Native peoples’ voices are absent from history, and if they’re absent from history then they’re absent from educational material and curriculum,” Worl said.

“We’re hopeful we’re going to see some PhD dissertations, and we’re going to have educational material that’s developed from the studies that might be done as a result of our collections.”

The facility houses more than 3,000 publications, approximately 20,000 photographic images, roughly 300 cultural objects, nearly 2,500 media items (such as video and audio recordings), and more than 750 linear feet of manuscript material (such as personal diaries, correspondence and meeting minutes) that document the history, culture, heritage, and language of Southeast Alaska Native people.

The collections are cataloged in binders, which are available to patrons. SHI also is developing an online searchable database to make it easier to research the holdings. The facility is a closed-stacks research center, meaning the materials cannot be checked out because of their rarity and special nature, a common practice for archival operations. Patrons may request materials and review them onsite.

The center is open 8 am – 4:30 pm weekdays (closed from noon-1 pm) and managed by professional archivist Zachary Jones. The project was funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Sealaska Corporation and SHI.

SHI is a Native nonprofit established in 1981 to administer educational and cultural programs for Sealaska, a regional Native corporation formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The institute’s mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures. Language revitalization is a priority of SHI.

Photo: SHI archivist Zachary Jones displays a horned spoon in the institute's new collection storage room.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Open and Ready to Serve

I wanted to make the announcement that SHI Special Collections Research Center’s move and construction is complete, we have a new Reading Room and more accommodating facility. While we are not a large operation, we invite all those interested to stop by and see our enhanced facility. We especially want to make contact with students, scholars, or anyone interested in using our holdings; we want our materials to be used. For university students we have holdings we feel could easily provide ample source material for thesis and dissertations.

Regarding our new facility, it consists of a more accommodating research area or Reading Room, comprised of a room for patrons to come and conduct research at a workspace and obtain computer access to search our collections. We need this space since we are a closed stacks research center, meaning our materials can’t be checked out because of their rarity and special nature (this is the common practice for archival operations, such as at the Alaska State Library Historical Collections Division). Having this area allows patrons to gain front row access to our special holdings. Additionally, we plan to use the Reading Room to host other small educational events and engage with the researcher community.

As for location, our new Reading Room will remain on the third floor of the Sealaska Building (address: One Sealaska Plaza, Suite 301), but we moved to the east end of the building. We are open from Monday to Friday 8 am to 4:30 (closed during the lunch hour, or if staff are absent). All in all, this is a great improvement through which we hope to better serve the public.

Importantly, funding for this project came through three main organizations. Generous funding and action occurred on the part of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, which funded the purchase of furniture and office supplies as well as the general activities of the department. Next, generous funding for this came through the Sealaska Corporation, which funded the expensive construction work to create the Reading Room and provided IT support for computer setup. Lastly, a substantial portion of this operation occurred because of funding from the Institute of Museum & Library Services, a granting agency which funded the purchase of Reading Room furniture, collection shelving, and computers, and provided financial assistance for the archivist to accomplish the planning and operation of the whole endeavor. All in all, we couldn’t be more pleased and are excited to see the public use our materials.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has received a $100,000 grant to research Native perspectives during the fight for statehood and to tell the story from the Native point of view.

The two-year grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum will fund a statewide effort by Native scholars and leaders to interview elderly Native people who were active during the statehood era and to research archival materials.

The project, A Retrospective Analysis of Alaska Statehood from a Native Perspective, will initially result in an electronic publication, said SHI President Rosita Worl, noting the institute will raise funds to print the book later. The effort will finally add Native voices to the history of statehood, said Worl.

“We’re very excited that we’re going to have an opportunity to have Alaska Native people tell the story of statehood from their perspective. It’s very exciting to us. It responds to an unmet need,” said Worl, a Tlingit who holds a PhD in Anthropology and will serve as project director.

The late Native leader Frank Peratrovich was a delegate to the constitutional convention and active in the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB), a nonprofit fraternal organization founded in 1912. During the statehood era, the ANB was fighting to secure citizenship for Native people, but it’s unclear how Native people felt about other issues, such as subsistence, maintaining cultural identity and land claims. The constitution did not address the legal rights of Native people, setting the stage for later battles over land and subsistence. The project will explore whether Native peoples’ views paralleled or conflicted with the framers of the constitution, Worl said.

“Were they at that time looking at the legal status of Native people that would actually set us apart from the other citizens of the state? Those are questions we really need to look at and answer,” Worl said.

Some of the research will be derived from historical materials archived at SHI’s Special Collections Research Center. Materials include the Dr. Walter Soboleff Collection, twenty boxes of historical papers that document activities of the ANB from 1929 to 1995, and the even larger Curry-Weissbrodt Collection, which documents the struggle for the legal rights of Alaska Natives prior to, during and after the statehood period. The interviews will be conducted with Native people identified through the Alaska Federation of Natives network. In addition, non-Natives who were actively involved in the statehood discussion will be interviewed about the issues that were not addressed in the constitution.

SHI is a Native nonprofit established in 1980 to administer educational and cultural programs for Sealaska, a regional Native corporation formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The institute’s mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures. Language revitalization is a priority of SHI.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sealaska Native Artist Market & Necklace Donation

As some of you may know, the Sealaska Heritage Institute hosts a Native Artist Market during our biennial Celebration festival. Sealaska does this to encourage and support Native artists and their artistic abilities. From what our records show Celebration 2008 (held June 5-7) was the mostly widely attended Celebration festival to date, which demonstrates that Celebration and its associated events, such as the Native Artist Market, continue to grow in popularity.

At the conclusion of a successful Native Artist Market one particular Tlingit artist, Myra Rudolph-Dore who currently resides in the state of Washington, donated a beautifully crafted beaded necklace from her inventory to SHI as a show of her gratitude. The necklace was designed by Rudolph-Dore in this way because it reminded Rudolph-Dore of when she was a little girl walking home in Tenakee and seeing the blue berries being eating by the brown bears, hence the brown bear has a blue tongue. It measures 18 inches at the longest point and contains a 4 inch by 4 inch beaded bear head. Rudolph-Dore was born in Juneau and grew up in Juneau, Tenakee, and at the Wrangell Institute. This item is truly a great addition to our holdings and a sentimental piece which SHI gratefully accepts.

SHI Special Collections Research Center seeks to collect all types of Native art and ethnographic items in order to document the achievements of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people. Those interested in donating to SHI Special Collections or those with questions about this subject should contact SHI’s archivist.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Future of SHI’s Special Collections

I wanted to let everyone know that we will be opening a new research facility for SHI’s Special Collections Research Center within the next few months. Construction is already underway to build our new facility. For patrons this new facility will host a more accommodating research area or Reading Room, which consists of a room for patrons to come in and sit down at a workspace, obtain computer access, and conduct research by using our materials. We plan to use the Reading Room to host other small educational events as well. The move to the new facility is especially great for Special Collections because we are getting more storage space for our growing collection holdings. As for location, our new Reading Room will remain on the third floor of the Sealaska Building, but move to the east end of the building. All in all, this is a great improvement whereby we hope to better serve our patrons. Announcements about when the project is near completion will be posted. Thanks.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A new find of old Tsimshian photographs

SHI was fortunate in recently obtaining two original historic photographs that show views of Tsimshian Natives in the town of Metlakatla, Alaska. This is great for SHI because we have a fair amount of Tlingit and Haida material, but not as much Tsimshian material as we would like. In short, I am working to balance our holdings and seek for more Tsimshian materials. Please contact the archivist if you have any materials you would like to donate. All donations to SHI are tax deductible and photos are available for viewing by the public for research and educational purposes.

Regarding these photos, both date to circa 1890s. The first image, seen on the above right, is a stereoview photo showing a Tsimshian family seated on the front porch of their home (click on the image for a close-up view). The caption refers to “New Metlakatla,” which is interesting because the term ‘New’ was dropped in 1888 (for additional information about the history of Metlakatla click here). While it appears the photographer of the image scratched the year date of ‘1897’ on the image (on the door), it’s possible this image is older since the term ‘New’ was used. The reverse of the stereoview contains a handwritten note that the stereoview was given as a gift to someone during Christmas 1900.

The second image is an 8 x 5 inch cabinet card showing a unique view of students from the Native Girls School in Metlakatla. Taken by Miller-Chase photographers, the image likely also dates to circa 1890s because of the clothing worn and since the photo is in cabinet card format.

All in all, both images are great recent additions to SHI’s Special Collections Research Center. Special Collections staff is pleased to obtain Tsimshian material and we hope to locate more. Special Collections offers its services to anyone interested in the study of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

SHI Historical Photograph Collections Go Online

These past few weeks, in conjunction with our posting of the W. A. Soboleff papers online, we have been processing many of our photograph collections and are now beginning the task of putting some of our historical photograph collections online, which can be viewed here. (featured picture is a stereoview image of a Whale Totem at Wrangell, circa 1900.) Our aim is to have all or at least a good portion of our images online someday, but that is a large project and one that will take a great deal of time. That said, I have begun this process and will be adding photographs to our online Picasa Web Album roughly each week. What I have accomplished so far serves to let On occasion I will solicit for information to identify places and people in various pictures, and I welcome your comments on images. First off, the below photograph of this band, can anyone identify the people or from which city this band came from? This image has been held by SCRC for some time, but we have no information about it and it contains no label. I would welcome any information about this photograph.

Lastly, SHI Special Collections is looking to collect original photographs (and postcards) that document all aspects of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian culture. Our photograph collections are open to the public and copies can be generated for researchers. We have had two great photograph donations recently, PO014 Linn A. Forrest Photograph Collection and PO019 Harold Wheaton Photograph, and we hope to continue this momentum. If you have any historic photographs that you would like to donate please contact me, the archivist. Thanks.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Smithsonian: Listening to Our Ancestors

While some readers may already know about the Smithsonian Museum project of last year; Listening to Our Ancestors, I wanted to revisit it and call attention to their current online resources from the project and the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s involvement. The Smithsonian’s online Listening to Our Ancestors exhibit offers some very interesting insight into various North Pacific Coast cultural items and art pieces. The excerpt below, from the Smithsonian’s website, provides a brief explanation about their online display.

“In this exhibition, representatives from 11 Native communities along the North Pacific Coast share their perspectives on more than 400 ceremonial and everyday objects that connect them to their lands, customs, and ancestors. Their words reveal the deeper meaning that lives within the objects, as well as the enduring lifeways of which they are a part.”

SHI and others from Southeast Alaska went to Washington, DC to help with the selection of these objects, which are housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of the American Indian. Those who took part of this project include the Council of Traditional Scholars, Clarence Jackson, Peter Jack, and George Ramos with Anna Katzeek as translator, along with Donald Gregory and Delores Churchill. Dr. Rosita Worl, President of SHI, has served as adviser to the Listening to Our Ancestors exhibit and just finished reviewing and commenting on exhibit labels.

The Smithsonian has also been involved with SHI on a number of additional projects, including the current canoe carving project which is underway at the Sealaska Corporation building. Viewers can watch Doug Chilton, head carver, and his team work on the canoe live via this link or view pictures of the project here. Additional information about this project can be found via SHI’s press release of last fall.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Essay on Protecting Alaska's Native Population--With Federal Records

Over the weekend while doing some homework, I stumbled across a very interesting article entitled, “Protecting Alaska’s Native Population—With Federal Records,” by Thomas E. Wiltsey. Originally published in The Record in 1995, but now available online via the National Archives and Records Administration-Pacific Alaska Region, Anchorage website, this essay makes some great points about the valuable sources archives hold for Alaska’s Native peoples. Archival records serve as evidence of traditional land claims, for pension applications, for genealogy, for village histories, and much much more. I invite readers to look over this essay and offer their thoughts. I think the essay does a great job of explaining the value of archival sources and encouraging Alaska Natives to use these great resources.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Important Photograph Donation: Linn A. Forrest Photos

In December MRV Architects of Juneau generously donated a very significant photograph collection to SHI Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). MRV has a history of specializing and offering its services to the Southeast Alaska Natives, and are currently working with the Kasaan Haida Heritage Foundation to restore the Chief Son-I-Hat Whale House. MRV chose SCRC because they wanted to place these photographs with an organization that would preserve, protect, advocate the importance of, and allow patrons of all backgrounds to learn from these historic images. Amounting to around 150 black and white images, these photos document the work of architect and Alaska Native arts advocate Linn A. Forrest (part-founder of MRV Architects). To view a selection of these images click here.

In the late 1930s the U.S. Forest Service contracted regional architect Linn A. Forrest, based out of Juneau, and regional forester, B. Frank Heintzleman, to oversee various Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) operations to restore and preserve totem poles and traditional Native architecture. From 1937 to 1939, and via a $24,000 U.S. Government grant to the Alaska Native Brotherhood as a CCC project, Forrest oversaw the construction of the Shakes Island Community House and totems at Wrangell, Alaska (image above shows early construction on the Shakes Island Community House in 1939/1940). In 1939 he also oversaw totem pole restoration work at the Sitka National Park. Although Forrest was involved in a number of other similar projects, the photographs donated to SCRC document these two projects. The bulk of the photos show construction work on the Shakes Island Community House from beginning to finish and contain snapshots of the dedication celebration at the completion of the house.

Through these and other efforts Forrest become highly involved in local Native life and later wrote a book about his experiences, The Wolf and the Raven: Totem Poles of Southeastern Alaska, popularity for which has led to it being republished in over twenty editions. This donation is a significant addition to SHI SCRC and documents an important era of Native life. Those interested in viewing these items should prearrange an appointment with SHI’s archivist. Those interested in donating similar items should also contact the archivist.

Note: This story was recently covered by the Juneau Empire; please click here to read it.