Friday, June 18, 2010

Historical audio recordings donated to Sealaska Heritage Institute

A public radio station has donated to Sealaska Heritage Institute a major collection of audio recordings that include a treasure trove of interviews with notable Elders, clan leaders and other Native people.

The collection includes approximately 350 recordings made for the award-winning program Southeast Native Radio, which was broadcast by KTOO-FM in Juneau from 1985 to 2001.

The station made the donation in June at a ceremony attended by most of the people who worked on the program. KTOO General Manager Bill Legere said his staff is honored to have the institute accept the collection.

“We know these recordings are very important, and for many years we’ve been concerned about their safekeeping and their availability for historical research,” Legere said. “I know that Sealaska Heritage Institute will provide a safe and secure home and will treat the recordings with great care and respect. SHI has the knowledge and expertise to preserve these voices for the benefit of future generations.”

The recordings document Native history and action taken by Native Elders, leaders and other people, said SHI Archivist Zachary Jones, who called it one of the institute’s most important collections.

“The quality of these recordings really is quite fantastic--the content and even the questions that were asked are very powerful--they really asked hard-hitting questions on the vital issues of the day,” Jones said.

Southeast Native Radio was conceived as a way to educate Alaskans about Natives in Alaska and to provide a community forum. It covered a range of topics, including politics, religion, subsistence, land claims, political movements, women’s issues, cultural survival and language documentation.

The show was produced by a team of volunteers, including Arlene Dangeli, Joaqlin Estus, Cy Peck, Jr., Kathy Ruddy, Kim Metcalfe, Andy Hope III, Jayne Dangeli, Laurie Cropley Nix, and Rhonda Mann, while KTOO provided the facilities and staff time to help with production and training.

The idea for the program germinated after a visit to Juneau’s prison, said Arlene Dangeli, a founder, producer and host of the show.

“There were over 60 percent Native inmates in that population,” Dangeli said. “We talked with the inmates about having a voice for our culture, and having something to learn. We met with KTOO about our concerns. I then kept going back to KTOO, until finally Southeast Native Radio was founded.”

The recordings include a 13-part series from 1986 on the history of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, now 99 years old and the oldest civil rights organization in the United States. The series was produced by Vern Metcalfe, who interviewed Judson Brown, Richard Stitt, Cyril George, Ethel Lund, Dr. Robert Cogo, Vesta Johnson, Esther Littlefield, and John Hope among others.

The collection also includes Tlingit language segments—in one set of recordings from the annual "Live Day" produced by KTOO-FM, Nora Dauenhauer, Walter Soboleff, Cecilia Kunz, Selina Everson, Irene Lampe, Helen Sarabia, Al McKinley and Richard McKinley among others conversed in Tlingit for half hour segments. These "Conversations in Tlingit", recorded over a period of seven years from 1995 to 2002, include three and a half hours of conversation entirely in the Tlingit language, covering a wide range of subjects. These recordings have been recently transcribed and translated into English through the work of linguist Keri Edwards and others.

The late Richard Dalton of Hoonah made a recording on the Seagull Clan; the late master weaver Selina Peratrovich made a recording on Haida basketry; and Fred Paul did a series on the history of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Jones said the collection will be well used.

“I can see a lot of interest from researchers, as well as people who are concerned with Native issues because we have a lot of very important Native leaders and individuals speaking on issues that have a lot of relevance today,” Jones said.

Most of the original recordings are on large reel-to-reel tapes, which are being migrated to digital format. The list of the recordings should be available to the public through Sealaska Heritage Institute by mid July. Kathy Ruddy, a producer of Southeast Native Radio from 1985-2001, said the producers were inspired to preserve the collection by Frances Field and the Archive Rescue Corps.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit founded in 1980 to administer cultural and educational programs for Sealaska Corporation. The institute is governed by an all-Native Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

CONTACT: Zachary Jones, SHI archivist, 907-586-9261; Bill Legere, KTOO general manager, 463-6406; Arlene (Dangeli) Roberts, founder, producer, host,

(Photo caption: Transfer ceremony in Juneau, June 2010. Front row, from left: Ishmael Hope, (representing his late father Andy), Joaqlin Estus, and SHI Archivist Zach Jones. Back row, from left: Kathy Ruddy, Cy Peck Jr., Kim Metcalfe, Michael Dangeli (representing his mother Arlene Dangeli, who was unable to attend), Jayne Dangeli, SHI Trustee Marlene Johnson, KTOO General Manager Bill Legere, and Alice Taff.)

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