Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lectures for Native American History Month Online

We wanted to announce that all the lectures from SHI's lecture series for Native American History Month are now available for viewing online. These can be found via the Sealaska Heritage Institute's online video library.

Cabinet card photograph of Haida man standing in front of a Haida home with totem at Howkan Village, wood shavings in foreground, by Edward DeGroff, circa 1880s. Richard Wood Photograph Collection, PO049, Item 55.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Everson, Lund to speak about Alaska Native Sisterhood


Selina Everson and Ethel Lund will give a joint lecture on Monday, Nov. 30, on the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS).

The talk is part of a brown-bag lecture series sponsored by Sealaska Heritage Institute to celebrate Native American Month.

Everson serves on the executive committee of the ANS and has a long history of public service, especially in Juneau schools, where she is known as Grandma Selena. Lund also serves on the ANS executive committee and is a visionary in the field of Native health care.

The lecture is scheduled from noon-1 pm in the 4th floor boardroom in the Sealaska building in Juneau. It’s open to the public and free of charge.

Image of ANS leadership and members. From the Rosa Miller Photograph Collection, PO057, SHI Special Collections.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Author Daniel Lee Henry Speaks about Early Encounters

Daniel Lee Henry gave a lecture on Tuesday, Nov. 17, on nineteenth century encounters between Natives and non-Natives in Chilkat country in the Sealaska Building. The talk is part of a brown-bag lecture series sponsored by Sealaska Heritage Institute to celebrate Native American Month. Henry is an award-winning author, teacher and journalist based in the Haines area. He has recorded numerous oral histories of Chilkat/Chilkoot Tlingit Elders and is currently working on a rhetorical history of land use confrontation in the communities of the Northern Lynn Canal.

Watch Daniel Lee Henry's talk about nineteenth-century encounters between Natives and non-Natives in Chilkat country online via Sealaska Heritage Institute's video library.

Cabinet card photograph of Chilkat Tlingit at Klukwan posing in regalia for a potlatch or event, by Winter & Pond, 1895. From the Richard Wood Photograph Collection, PO049, Item 68, SHI Special Collections.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Southeast Alaska Native Perspectives on Statehood – Presentation by Jeane Breinig

For Native American History Month, on Wednesday November 4, 2009 Sealaska Heritage Institute Trustee and University of Alaska Anchorage Professor Jeane Breinig gave a presentation in the Sealaska Building on Southeast Alaska Native perspectives of Alaskan statehood. She spent countless hours doing meticulous research for her lecture, some of which was conducted at SHI Special Collections. Funded in part by the Alaska Humanities Forum and the Sealaska Heritage Institute, her research is part of a project entitled “A Retrospective Analysis of Alaska Statehood from a Native Perspective,” which seeks to shed light on how Natives across the state of Alaska reacted to statehood.

The Sealaska Heritage Institute recorded her hour-long lecture, which can now be viewed by the public via Sealaska’s website by clicking here.

Overall, Breinig’s lecture did a good job in addressing the complexities of how Southeast Alaska Natives grappled with statehood up to 1959, as well as balancing the direction that historical memory has moved since that time. Her arguments came down to a handful of complex points, some briefly summarized below. But for a full understanding of her arguments, interested parties are strongly encouraged to watch the lecture via the link provided above.

First, regarding some of Breinig’s findings, she discovered that historical records showed most Southeast Alaska Natives generally supported statehood, but only tepidly and if conditions for statehood favored—and didn’t hurt—Native land claims, subsistence rights, and other important aspects. Southeast Alaska Natives, through Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood’s efforts, the work of their lawyers William L. Paul Sr. and Jr., and the ANB attorney James E. Curry, had previously fought against some statehood bills that attempted to deprive Alaska Natives of land, most notably in 1950, but they did cautiously go along with the 1959 statehood bill—though most clearly had hoped statehood would have brought more to Alaska Natives (additional details on this are mentioned in Breinig’s lecture). In many ways however, although statehood did not resolve a number of important issues for Alaska Natives, it set in motion events that helped with the solidification of the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

One important point made by Breinig that cannot be underestimated is the issue of fishing rights and subsistence. In many ways statehood for Alaska Natives revolved around land claims and subsistence. Breinig accurately noted how large corporate fish traps, which were run by lower-48 corporations that were protected by Federal laws while Alaska was a territory (and not a state), were vehemently opposed by most Southeast Alaska Native villages. Most villages were opposed to fish traps for many reasons, but one major reason revolved around the fact that fish traps affected subsistence fishing. These fish traps were taking fish from Southeast Alaska Native subsistence fishermen, causing food shortages in Native villages during the winter months. Not only were these fish traps enormous, they were very ecologically devastating to salmon populations and migration patterns. With fewer salmon in Southeast Alaskan waters, salmon migrations changing, and with laws that protected these fishing trap operations at the expense of Alaska Native subsistence needs, Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian saw statehood as a way to break corporate fishing powers. As Breinig noted, statehood broke the hold of corporate fishing operations in Alaska as state legislators were able to soon enact laws that banned fishing traps (since the state had jurisdiction over previously federally controlled fishing laws). So in some ways, through statehood Southeast Alaska Natives gained some ground in resolving subsistence problems of the period. Clearly however, the battle for Native subsistence in Alaska was not resolved with statehood, nor has it been resolved today, as Alaska Natives work tirelessly toward enacting political reform that will satisfactorily address the issue of subsistence. Overall, Breinig’s research shows the complex issues that moving toward statehood produced and how Alaska Natives dealt with these heavy issues.

To conclude, Breinig has done great work and conducted ample research for this project. Importantly, for this project Breinig spent many hours at SHI Special Collections, primarily looking at our Walter A. Soboleff Papers and our Curry-Weissbrodt Papers collections. SHI Special Collections is committed to serving researchers and furthering education about the history of the Alaska Natives. We are also working to obtain additional records that document the history of Southeast Alaska Natives. As Breinig mentioned in her lecture, the efforts of the Alaska Native Sisterhood remain to be told or documented because archival records of the Alaska Native Sisterhood remain in private hands, and thus off limits to researchers. SHI Special Collections is looking to obtain additional Alaska Native Sisterhood records so the Sisterhood’s work can be documented and their story told. If you would like to donate or help SHI secure a donation of Alaska Native Sisterhood records, please contact Special Collections staff today.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

SHI to Sponsor Lecture Series for Native American History Month

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a noon lecture series in November to celebrate Native American Month. The brown-bag lunch series will focus on topics such as Native history and languages, Native art and the statehood movement. “Native people have such a rich history in Alaska, but much of it is not taught in schools,” said SHI President Rosita Worl. “We hope to highlight our history in November in honor of Native American Month.”

Tlingit leader Byron Mallott will give a lecture on Monday, Nov. 2, on the development of Alaska Native corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and the efforts by Alaska Natives to transform the corporations into “Native” institutions in the face of Congress’ competing intent to assimilate Alaska Natives economically through profit-making corporations. Mallott is the former CEO and President of Sealaska Corporation and serves as a Fellow with the First Alaskans Institute. He is the clan leader of the Kwaashk’i Kwáan Clan of Yakutat.

Jeane Breinig will give a lecture on Wednesday, Nov. 4, on Southeast Native perspectives on statehood. Breinig is an associate professor of English at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Her teaching and research areas include American Indian and Alaska Native literature, American literature, and American ethnic literature. Her publications include articles and books documenting Alaska Native oral histories. She is Haida, originally from Kasaan, TáasLáanas, Raven Brown Bear.

Jordan Lachler will give a lecture on Tuesday, Nov. 10, on Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian linguistic origins and relationships. Lachler is a linguist at Sealaska Heritage Institute who specializes in Haida. He is the editor of an upcoming Haida dictionary and phrasebook to be published by Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Daniel Lee Henry will give a lecture on Tuesday, Nov. 17, on nineteenth century encounters between Natives and non-Natives in Chilkat country. Henry is an award-winning author, teacher and journalist based in the Haines area. He has recorded numerous oral histories of Chilkat/Chilkoot Tlingit Elders and is currently working on the book Dancing at Deer Rock: Toward Community Among Warriors, a rhetorical history of land use confrontation in the communities of the Northern Lynn Canal.

Wally Olson will give a lecture on Thursday, Nov. 19, on contact between Alaska Natives and European explorers in the late nineteenth century. Olson will show from specific events that most of the time the explorers (not always the fur traders later) and Native people got along well because it was a win-win situation. The explorers wanted information, and the Natives wanted trade goods, so they were "pragmatic partners." Olson is an author, a professor of Anthropology (Emeritus) with the University of Alaska Southeast and a Fellow of the American Anthropological Association.

Richard and Nora Marks Dauenhauer will give a lecture on Tuesday, Nov. 24, on relations between Russians and Tlingit from the 1790s through 1818, an era when Russians expanded into Southeast Alaska to take control of the Northwest Coast fur trade. The Dauenhauers have written numerous award-winning books on Native culture and history, including Anóoshi Lingít Aaní Ká: Russians in Tlingit America, The Battles of Sitka 1802 and 1804, winner of the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.

The lectures will be held from 12-1 pm in the 4th floor boardroom at Sealaska Plaza in Juneau. Attendees are invited to bring their own lunch.

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.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Display Case for SHI Special Collections

Last week SHI Special Collections obtained a new display case which has been placed in the Reading Room. This case was purchased with grant funds via the Rasmuson Foundation and will now feature a rotating display of SHI Special Collections’ holdings. Now set up, the case currently features a small display on the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood. Inside the case is an original Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) Camp 2 meeting minutes ledger dating from 1935-1945, William L. Paul Sr.’s original ANB cap (both featured in picture), an original 1944 letter written by Elizabeth Peratrovich while Grand President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS), and two rare books on ANB and ANS. Overall, SHI Special Collections staff are grateful to have this display case so we can better market our great collection holdings and foster educational research.

The Sealaska Heritage Institute collects materials that document the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people and makes these materials available to the public for educational purposes. SHI employs an archivist/librarian to care for them. Sealaska Heritage Institute is a Native nonprofit established in 1980 to administer educational and cultural programs for the Sealaska Corporation, 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.

Monday, August 31, 2009

New Audio Recordings Obtained from Wallace Olson

Last month Wallace Olson, UAS emeritus anthropology instructor and author of numerous books about Alaska, donated three audio recordings documenting Tlingit and Haida history to SHI. The three cassettes were recorded by Olson around 1982, and two cassettes concern stories about Glacier Bay told by Tlingit Walter Williams of Juneau, and the final recording concerns Haida history told by David and Annabell Peele of Ketchikan.

In regards to the recordings of Walter Williams, on these two cassettes Williams reads a story about the history of Glacier Bay, then discusses this story and adds traditional information to the story from his Tlingit perspective. The third cassette by David and Annabell Peele contains stories about how Haida Indians entered Southeast Alaska, various histories of places, people, and clans, as well as a discussion of the Haida language. We at SHI Special Collections are very grateful to have these materials and to make them available to the public for educational purposes. These recordings have now been created and named the Wallace Olson Recordings Collection (MC 4).

Also of importance, upon donation SHI archival staff took steps to help preserve and make these recordings more readily available. The cassettes have been placed in a special archival box in our locked storage facility for care. Additionally, because cassette tapes and the quality of audio captured on cassette tapes can deteriorate over time, Special Collections staff had the audio recording transferred to CD format. To accomplish this we played the cassette’s audio through a special software program, enhanced the recording and eliminated background noise digitally, and then saved the improved recording on a CD. Now patrons can more easily listen to these recordings on CD and we can more readily make copies for interested patrons. We are proud to care for materials of this nature. SHI Special Collections obtains most of its collections through donation.

Friday, July 31, 2009

New Haida Art Obtained by SHI

The Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) recently obtained a new Haida art item for inclusion in our Special Collections Research Center (image below). This piece was carved by emerging yet accomplished artist Matthew J. Helgesen. Helgesen was born in Ketchikan, Alaska, and raised in Hydaburg, Alaska. He now lives in Ketchikan. Helgesen is Kaigani Haida of the Eagle Clan, and has studied under Warren Peele of Hydaburg and as an apprentice of Norman Jackson of Ketchikan.

The piece SHI obtained from Helgesen consists of a carved and painted war helmet modeled after an eighteenth century war helmet. War helmets, which were held as clan property, were an integral piece in a warriors’ armor for both physical and spiritual protection. After the introduction of rifles, their use was relegated to the ceremonial sphere. This helmet is a quality art piece that took great skill to create, and we are proud to add it to our collection. We plan to place it on display in our library Reading Room when a new display case we recently purchased arrives.

Regarding Helgesen’s inspiration for this helmet, it was modeled after a Tlingit war helmet that sold at a private auction in Connecticut in 2008 (image below). The Tlingit helmet, described as an eighteenth century piece, established a record price for any Native American Indian art piece ever sold at auction, coming to near $2.2 million dollars. Sadly, this Tlingit helmet was sold to a private collector and is off limits to public viewing and repatriation claims. While the loss of the Tlingit helmet is profound for the Alaska Native community, Helgesen’s piece stands as a reminder of the impressive ability found in the continuing Southeast Alaska Native artist culture.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Press Release: Two Historical Collections Obtained by Sealaska Heritage Institute

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has acquired two photographs documenting Southeast Alaska Native cultures from circa 1883 to the 1990s.

Longtime photojournalist Brian Wallace donated several hundred images, including photos of the founding fathers of the Alaska Native Brotherhood (circa 1912) and past Alaska Native Sisterhood presidents. He also donated several hundred images of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood taken from 1965 to 1995, with the majority taken by Wallace in the 1980s. He made the donation in memory of his late parents, Dorothy (Natstklaa) and Amos L. (Jeet Yaaw Dustaa) Wallace.

"Both my parents were lifetime members of the ANB and ANS respectively. They devoted most of their lives fighting for Alaska Native rights. By donating all the photos of the ANB and ANS to Sealaska Heritage Institute I wish to honor their memory and accomplishments, as well as the other ANB/ANS elders past and present," Wallace said.

SHI President Rosita Worl said it’s a privilege to have a collection given in honor of Dorothy and Amos. “Dorothy and Amos were active in the Native community and Amos was a well-known artist and mentor to young artists,” Worl said.

Wallace’s donation has helped the institute build a repository of materials that document the ANB-ANS, said SHI Archivist Zachary Jones.

“It’s important that we have the records of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood because it helps document the activities they’ve done presently and in the past, and it helps capture the importance of these organizations,” said Jones, adding the institute also in recent times received donations of materials documenting the ANB-ANS from other people, including ANB Grand President Emeritus Dr. Walter Soboleff.

“SHI Special Collections really wants to collect these types of materials because it gives voice to great achievements in Alaska Native history. And the more materials like this we have, the better our library is for researchers,” he said.

SHI also acquired twenty historical images dating between 1883 and 1941. One of the more unusual photos shows the interior of a house and a display of Tlingit regalia and American military uniforms. The photo, obtained from Alaskan Heritage Bookshop owner Dick Wood of Juneau, was taken circa 1900 by Frank La Roche and inscribed “Interior of Capt. Jakes house, Killisnoo.” Another shows a marriage of two Native people who are seen standing under cedar boughs. The images are rare glimpses into Southeast Alaska Native life a century ago.

“We have some photographs of village life, of early village scenes, of people gathering for certain events. All in all, these pictures are really great and give us insights into the way people lived and how life was over a hundred years ago,” Jones said.

Many of the images are posted online with links through Direct links are as follows: Brian Wallace Collection and Richard Wood Collection.

The institute collects materials that document the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people and makes these materials available to the public for educational purposes. SHI employs an archivist to care for them. Sealaska Heritage Institute 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.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Content of Rare Books

One objective of SHI’s Special Collections Research Center is to collect special and rare books that document the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian. We collect special publications because we seek to support both general and specialized research, and research often necessitates the need for unique materials. The more unique materials a library has, the stronger its research potential is at that library. We have published works dating as far back as 1798, and many of our rare books offer unique and one-of-a-kind insight into Southeast Alaska Native life. This post seeks to briefly touch upon just a couple of our many unique books, some recently obtained which were published in the 1880s and one published in Swedish during the 1920s.

During the late 1800s it was quite popular for travelers to visit places around the world, and then publish their travel accounts as a book. The adjacent scan shows the title page for the 1885 book A Trip to Alaska by George Warden. It discusses a trip Warden made to Alaska in 1879 and the places he visited. As the scan of the table of contents shows, Warden made stops in Wrangell, Sitka, and other villages in Southeast Alaska. He discussed the towns, the people, and local Native art. His book, and many books like this, offer insights into life in Alaska during the 1879 period. Other books, like the 1884 Life in Alaska by Mrs. E. S. Willard contains the published letters of a female missionary residing at Haines. Her published letters discuss life at Haines in great detail, mentioning names of people, events that transpired, and a host of other activities. Her book, like many others of the period, contains drawings of Native art items, clan houses, totems, and images concerning the Haines Presbyterian Mission. The adjacent scan is one of twenty-two sketches from the book, and this image shows Tlingit art. These are just a few books of this nature held by SHI Special Collections.

There are not only great and interesting books printed in the English language, but many in European languages since Europeans visited Alaska regularly before and after it became an American territory. Often these non-English language books go unstudied, but a careful observation shows that they can yield interesting information for those not fluent in European languages. One special book of interest is the 1924 Swedish language book Sjutton ar i Alaska by Albin Johnson. This book discusses Swedish missionary Albin Johnson’s missionary work and friendships made while serving as a missionary in Yakutat. The book contains numerous photos of people and places and discusses life in Yakutat. The adjacent scan shows one image from the book, with people dressed in traditional regalia.

Overall, SHI Special Collections aims to be a place were those interested in Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian studies can find resources that foster learning and educational studies on Native culture and life. SHI is proud to collect these materials and make them available to the public. If you have any questions about materials available at SHI Special Collections, contact the archivist and see our website at

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Historic Photographs of Cape Fox Village and Killisnoo, Alaska

We recently obtained two new historical photographs for inclusion in our archive; one of Cape Fox Village circa 1899 and another of a scene at Killisnoo circa 1900. We obtained these photographs from local collector of rare Alaskana, Richard Wood, who operates the Alaska Heritage Bookshop.

When we made contact with a person at the Cape Fox Village Special Collections about the first photo, they were quite excited about it (shown below). Our contact reported that this photo was likely from the Harriman Expedition in 1899. They reported that “if you look near the center where the house that does not have a front....where you see just the frame....well that house was the Xoots.hit (Brown Bear House) of the Teikwei Clan Leader Thomas Johnson. If you look real close you can see the Teikwei pole in front of it. You can see the bear cubs climbing down the pole.” Since the Brown Bear is one of the Teikweidí crests, it’s known to belong to the Teikweidí. Sadly the Harriman Expedition removed many items from Cape Fox Village, including totem poles, and the pieces later ended up in museums. Since then many of these items have been repatriated to Cape Fox under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and returned under the 2000 Harriman Expedition Retraced. This photo is important because it shows what the village looked like before the Harriman Expedition removed various totems and items.

The second photograph shows an interior view of “Capt. Jake’s” house at Killisnoo. Kitcheenault or Kichnaalx was Jake’s Tlingit name. He was from the Deisheetaan clan of Angoon, but he was also known as Saginaw Jake, Chief Jake, and Killisnoo Jake. Jake was a policeman at Killisnoo for a number of years and involved with the US Navy, and his uniforms are visible in this photo. Many photographs were taken of Jake by professional photographers around the turn of the 20th century with images of Jake posing in his uniforms. To view some of these photos go to the Alaska’s Digital Archives and type in the keyword “Jake”, click search, and a numerous will appear. The photograph we obtained was taken by professional photographer Frank La Roche and is interesting because it shows how Jake displayed his traditional regalia alongside his American uniforms. There are many pictures in circulation of Jake wearing this regalia and uniforms, but this may be one of few ever taken of his regalia and uniforms displayed as a whole. A biographical and historical essay was published on Jake and is cited as Robert N. DeArmond, "Saginaw Jake: Navy Hostage, Indian Policeman, Celebrity" Alaska History 5, no. 1 (Spring 1990). Because the navy failed to pay a dept owed to the Deisheetaan, they adopted the naval uniform as a crest and Haa At.óowu (Clan Property). Overall, SHI Special Collections was pleased to obtain these unique photographs for inclusion in our archive. For more information about additional historic photos held by SHI Special Collections click here to see our digital displays.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood Photographs

A few weeks ago local Tlingit photographer Brian Wallace donated a batch of historical photographs to SHI Special Collections. Wallace, a professional photographer by trade, has always had a great gift with photography, and the pictures in this donation show his talent. Although Wallace has donated to SHI Special Collections in the past, this donation contained around 200 great photographs concerning the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood from the 1980s. These photographs have since been arranged into our Brian Wallace Photograph Collection (PO032), and for additional information about the collection’s contents you can view our online finding aid by clicking here. Importantly, these photos were donated in the memory of Wallace’s late parents, Amos L. (Jeet Yaaw Dustaa) and Dorothy Wallace (Natstklaa). The below picture is one from the recent donation.

This image was taken by Wallace in 1983 and shows former and then current Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS) Camp 2 presidents. The label on the photo reads “Bessie Visaya, Alice Vavilas, Emma Olsen, President, Dorothy Thornton, and Dorothy Wallace.” Camp 2 is the Juneau camp of the Alaska Native Sisterhood.

SHI Special Collections collects materials that document the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people and makes these materials available to the public for educational purposes. If you would like to learn more about donating to SHI Special Collections click here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Working on the Curry-Weissbrodt Papers

These past few months Special Collections staff have been working on the Curry-Weissbrodt Papers collection, and we’ve found some real treasures in this large collection. The Curry-Weissbrodt Papers were donated to Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) in 1981 by I. E. Weissbrodt and consist of approximately 50 transfer case-boxes of materials. These materials are comprised of records documenting the work of lawyers James E. Curry and I. E. Weissbrodt from the 1930s to the 1970s while their legal firms were employed by the Tlingit and Haida Indians to fight for fishing rights and regulations, timber development, and possessory rights of Alaska Natives. Overall, the collection contains thousands of documents, reports, publications, a few photographs, and thousands of letters between these lawyers, members of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, and various Tlingit and Haida individuals from villages across Southeast Alaska. The collection significantly documents an important era in twentieth century Tlingit and Haida history. For those interested in viewing a finding aid (a descriptive inventory) of the collection, click here, and a few years ago Special Collections staff and our webmaster created a small online statement and display about the collection, which can be viewed by clicking here.

Of interest, we recently looked at in more detail a few hundred historic photographs embedded in the collection. Since photographs often require special archival care, we recently separated the photos, placed them in new archival folders and sleeves, and created a Curry-Weissbrodt Photograph Collection. A finding aid for this growing collection’s contents can be viewed by clicking here. The photos shown below are from this collection.

This first photograph is a black and white photograph taken on Nov. 11, 1941 at Hydaburg, Alaska where representatives from Southeast Alaska villages and members of the Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indians of Alaska met to discuss a pending land suit. There are seven other images from this meeting.

This second photograph is one of 107 images taken by William L. Paul, Jr. in 1945 of “cannery housing conditions” in Southeast Alaska. Paul took these photos to document how poor conditions were for cannery workers and fishermen in Southeast Alaska, many of whom were Tlingit and Haida. Most of these photos are sized 8” x 12”. This image was labeled on the reverse, and Mr. Paul stated it was a housing unit of the Superior Packing Co. near Tenakee, Alaska. SHI also has produced a digital display of other photographs taken by Mr. Paul, which can be viewed by clicking here.

SHI is an Alaska Native nonprofit organization 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. If you would like to donate materials to SHI, or conduct research at our Special Collections Research Center, click here to contact SHI’s archivist.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Emma Widmark’s ANS Papers Donated to SHI

Another significant manuscript collection was recently donated to SHI Special Collections, the papers of the late Emma Widmark, which contain her papers while she served in the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS).

Emma Georgenia Widmark (1940-2008) was born in Ketchikan, Alaska to Dr. Alfred Widmark, Sr. and Carmel Demmert Widmark. Widmark’s father was of the Kaagwaantaan Clan and her mother of the L’eeneidí Clan. Widmark´s Tlingit name was Kinle. During her youth Widmark grew up in Klawock and Ketchikan, but later moved to Juneau in 1967, where she lived for the remainder of her life. After graduating from high school, Widmark enrolled in Pepperdine University, but soon transferred to Oregon State University from where she obtained a B.S. Degree in Home Economics. She later earned a Masters of Education from Harvard University.

Throughout Widmark´s life she remained a dedicated educator. She worked for the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension as a Home Economist, and frequently traveled throughout rural Alaska for her work. Widmark was also very active in the Alaska Native Sisterhood, serving in various ANS ranking positions and as Grand President. Widmark also created the ANS Executive Committee newsletters, Executive Echoes, from the late 1990s to mid 2000s. She remained active in ANS and in her efforts to encourage education until her death in mid 2008. Recently, a biographical tribute on Emma Widmark was published in Kimberly Metcalfe’s new book In Sisterhood: The History of Camp 2 of the Alaska Native Sisterhood (Juneau: Hazy Island Books, 2008).

Concerning Widmarks papers, they were donated to SHI Special Collections by the heirs of Widmark's estate, via Edith Jacobsen, on Jan. 5, 2009. The papers comprise four boxes of materials concerning her work for the Alaska Native Sisterhood from the 1980s to 2007. The papers consist of her correspondence for ANS (1987-2007), newsletters of the ANS Executive Committee entitled Executive Echoes (1995-2006), meeting minutes of ANS Juneau Camp 2 (2000-2001), ANS Saxman Camp 14 (1999) and papers of the ANB and ANS Executive Committee. Overall, the material in this collection documents and provides great insight into the activities of ANS and the life of an accomplished and educated Tlingit woman. To view SHI's online finding aid for this collection click here.

SHI is a Native nonprofit organization established in 1980 to administer educational and cultural programs for Sealaska, a regional Native corporation formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. SHI’s mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures. SHI obtains its collections by donation and if you would like to donate, please contact SHI’s archivist. SHI is working to collect ANS and ANB papers.

This historic photograph came with the donation of Widmark's papers and captures Tlingit elders and dancers in regalia, circa 1963, photography by Martin R. Strand, taken at Sitka. 

Photo identification by Harold Jacobs.

L-R: Back row: Eli Howard (Shákataax’, Kooxkoonaak) Chookaneidí Iceberg House-Sitka ; Charlie Benson (Kaalgaas’) Kaagwaantaan Eagle Nest House; David Howard Sr. (Ltuteen, Xhixch’i Tlein, Aataatseen) Kiks.ádi Point House; George Hobson (Héexhoo) L’eeneidi Log Jam House; Henry Benson Sr. (Xhaaydiská, Naawooshkeitl) Kiks.ádi Steel House; Louise Benson (Shda.áa) Chookaneidí Iceberg House- Hoonah), A...lex Andrews (Kooxhích, Khusataan, Shaax’shaani éesh) Kaagwaantaan Eagle Nest House; Andrew Wanamaker (Wooshkeenaa, Chalyee éesh); Patrick Paul Sr. (Anaaxhoots, Stuwukháa, K'axhook éesh ) Kaagwaantaan Wolf House.

Front row: Scotty James (L’ashaa éesh, Néilyeekaawooshgheet) T’akhdeintaan; Katherine Benson (Kookáxkw) Kiks.ádi Steel House; Nellie Aragon (Shakhéiwés) Koosk’eidí Cow House; Susie Paul (Náats’i) Kaagwaantaan Wolf House; Susie Howard (Khaaxhsgheiy) Chookaneidí Lower Inlet House; Elizabeth Basco (Kaatshi tláa) Kaagwaantaan Eagle Nest House; Julia Widmark (Aandaxhltín) Deisheetaan Needlefish House; Isablla Brady (Yeidikook’aa) Kiks.ádi Point House; Annie Henry (Koowaa) Kaagwaantaan Box House. 

Monday, January 12, 2009


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has posted a searchable catalog of its archival collections on the Internet, a major breakthrough that will help researchers easily sort out what types of materials the institute houses.

The institute also has just started to add its book collection to the local library consortium’s searchable database, making it the only private library to do so.

The projects are part of an effort to foster greater scholarship on the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska, said SHI Archivist Zachary Jones.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for study because some aspects are unstudied. I think there are a lot of dated studies that need to be revised, and it’s only by looking at these fresh sources that people can get the information to rewrite history,” Jones said.

Before the archival catalog went online, people had to physically go to the institute’s Special Collections Research Center in Juneau to peruse it. The change allows people to search and view the catalog on the Internet.

“People can do a keyword search, they can search by topic, they can browse search, they can do a handful of things, they can just look at things by genre, say they wanted to look at what recordings we had, they could look at all the recordings in a list,” said Jones.

The holdings include approximately 25,000 photographs, roughly 1,000 cultural objects, nearly 2,500 media items, thousands of books and more than 1,000 linear feet of manuscript material that document the history, culture, heritage and language of the Tlignit, Haida and Tsimshian.

The institute also is adding a catalog of its book collection to the Capital Cities Library Information Center (CCLIC), so Sealaska Heritage Institute will show up as a facility that has particular books when people search the CCLIC system.

“We have around 3,000 publications. They date from the late 1800s to the present and they all focus on Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian or Northwest Coast studies in general,” said Jones.

The catalogs will produce lists of the institute’s holdings. Patrons still will have to go the Special Collections Research Center to view the materials and books. The center is located at Sealaska Heritage Institute at Sealaska Plaza. The center is open 8:15 am-4:15 pm weekdays (closed from noon-1pm). The database links are posted at

This undertaking is two-year project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Sealaska Heritage Institute, and Sealaska Corporation.

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.

CONTACT: Zachary Jones, SHI Archivist, 907-586-9261