First Native intern wins full scholarship to pursue masters in library science
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has joined with a state university in an internship program designed to foster more archivists and museum curators.
SHI’s first Tlingit intern under the program, founded this year by the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS), was just accepted into graduate school to pursue a career in archives and given a full scholarship.
The news was gratifying because there are so few Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people working in the field of archival science, said SHI Archivist Zachary Jones, who cares for the institute’s ethnographic and archival collections.
“It’s really important to have Native archivists working in the profession because a lot of times they bring a special perspective and understanding of materials that concern their own people,” Jones said. “I think the field also needs diversity.”
Traditionally, Native history is preserved orally—stories are passed from one generation to the next. Native history also is preserved through material culture. For example, crests worn on regalia often document Native history. The modern age has brought with it photographs, documents and recordings, and special training is required to properly preserve them.
For Alyssa Peterson—SHI’s first Tlingit intern under the program—the internship made her change course. Peterson, Deisheetaan from Kake, wanted to be a librarian when she was younger. But she abandoned that plan in college, where she became more interested in anthropology and Northwest Coast art. Jones, SHI’s archivist, met Peterson through a class he teaches at UAS on archives and museums theory and practices. He encouraged her to intern at the institute.
“When I started interning at SHI, I realized that I could combine my interests with a career in archives. It was a bit of a revelation,” Peterson said. “I can do what I love and still work toward cultural preservation. SHI has definitely shown me that.”
Jones helped her to apply to graduate school, and Alyssa was recently accepted to San Jose State University in California and given a full-ride scholarship to pursue a masters in library science.
The program at UAS is open to all students, and SHI welcomed two non-Native interns this year as well. Students who participate in the internship program receive UAS credit.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a regional nonprofit serving the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures.
CONTACT: Zachary Jones, SHI Archivist, 907-586-9261