Friday, December 31, 2010

Andrew P. Hope & Ellen Hope Hays Papers at SHI

SHI Special Collections recently obtained a large and very significant archival collection documenting the history of the Tlingit and Haida people. The fifty-five box collection consists of papers relating to Andrew P. Hope (shown in photograph) and Ellen Hope Hays' activities in various Alaska Native tribal, community, and civic organizations between 1947 and 2002. The collection contains detailed materials documenting the activities of the Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indians of Alaska (CCTHIA) and the history of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

Andrew Percy Hope (1896-1968) born in Killisnoo, Alaska, the son of Percy L. Hope and Mary Williams, and was a Tlingit activist, community leader, tribal leader, and politician. He was of the Eagle moiety, Kaagwaantaan Clan, and of the Eagle Nest House. His Tlingit name was Kaa.oosti. After spending his early childhood in Killisnoo and Angoon, he moved to Sitka to study at the Sheldon Jackson School, and later studied carpentry and boatbuilding at the Cushman Indian School in Tacoma, Washington before obtaining his diploma. In 1912 Hope married Matilda `Tillie´ Howard (1896-1975) of Sitka, who bore Hope 14 children. Howard was a Raven of the Kiks.adi Clan, Point House.

Hope was "an early member and organizer of the Alaska Native Brotherhood" (ANB), served as President of ANB Grand Camp for several terms (his first term began in 1922), and remained active in ANB affairs until his death. (Dauenhauer, 1994). From 1924 to 1936 he served on the Sitka City Council, and from 1945 to 1953 and 1957 to 1963 Hope served in the Alaska Territorial House of Representatives and State Legislature. For twenty-six years (1940-1966), he served as the president of the Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indians of Alaska, a federally recognized tribal government. He was also active in other national and state organizations, and was a member of the National Congress of American Indians and active in Alaska Federation of Natives. He died in Sitka in 1968.

Ellen Hope Hays is the daughter of Andrew P. Hope (1869-1968). She is a Tlingit Indian activist, community leader, and cultural educator. She is of the Raven moiety, Kiks.ádi Clan, and of the X’aaká Hít (Point House). Her Tlingit name is Yaa Yeil Tin. She obtained her basic education from Sheldon Jackson Boarding School in Sitka. Early on she became active in Tlingit affairs at Sitka. She joined the Alaska Native Sisterhood, worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, worked for the National Park Service, became superintendent of the Sitka Totem Park, worked for the Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indians of Alaska, and became active in the Alaska Federation of Natives. As of 2010 Hays resided on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Ellen Hope Hays was also interviewed about her life and work as part of Alaska’s Project Jukebox, and the audio for her interview can be listened to by clicking here.

Overall, this collection documents the activities of these two individuals, and others who worked for the same causes, as they sought to support and fight for the rights of Alaska Natives. To view a descriptive inventory of the collection’s contents, click here. The collection is open to public research for educational purposes.

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, December 14, 2010

Angoon leader concludes Sealaska lecture series with historical bombardment account

As Native American Heritage Month has come to a close, Sealaska Heritage Institute concluded its lecture series Monday with a lecture on the importance of Tlingit communications and understanding.

Cyril George Sr. spoke to a packed room on how failure to communicate led to problems between Angoon Natives and the federal government that last to this day. George is a clan leader of Deisheetaan of Angoon and Kaakáak'w Hít. He spoke on how proper communications and cultural understandings are integral to Tlingit relations, both in the past and today.

The focus of his story regarded an 1882 incident when the U.S. Navy bombarded Angoon based on such misunderstandings, an incident for which Angoon Natives are still awaiting a formal apology.

This bombardment followed the death of a Native shaman who was accidentally killed on a whaling vessel. The Angoon people demanded payment for this death in accordance with Tlingit law, but were seen as a threat and attacked.

SHI's Head of Special Collections & Adjunct Instructor of History at UAS, Zachary Jones, added the funerary celebrations were also misinterpreted as preparations for war, which further incited the Navy to the attack which ultimately killed several children and destroyed much of the village and food supplies.

George recalled that "The main point is from the first time I hear this bombardment story, we were always told it was an accident. We need to set the record straight," he said on how even though it was based on an accident, the devastation was based on cultural misunderstandings and continue along similar lines today.

"The Navy has not apologized," George said.

Jones said it was an example of how Tlingit cultures have been misunderstood and resulted in shooting first and sometimes asking questions later.

"In looking at the historical documents of the individuals who perpetrated this attack, you can see how they spent a lot of time justifying what they had done, more time than was necessary," said Jones.

The Navy did pay $90,000 following a 1973 damages lawsuit. George said the insulting aspect of this is that the amount not only valued the property at their 1880s values instead of accounting for a century of inflation, but also, in a way, valued the deaths of seven children within this amount.

George said the Navy acknowledged its attack should not have happened, but never apologized.

George also shed light on different connections he's encountered to the incident. He told of how his work led him to talk to several people through the years that felt the effects from the attack, including a woman who found a letter from a relative that gave a first-hand account of it.

A commemoration of the event was put on in 1982. "I got to talk to some of the old people on how they hurt," said George.

To illustrate how much Tlingits value cultural understanding, he expressed how appreciative they were on Angoon when a descendant of one the Navy personnel in the attack came forward to offer a personal apology for his relative's role some years ago.

Elder John Martin gave a tribute to the speaker at the speech's end and said George showed a refreshing perspective on history that demonstrated a need for people to learn to understand each other, linking the past and the present. He said the bombardment story brought out the importance of respect and understanding between cultures. He said this incident also helped introduce Tlingit law to the United States, saying "respect comes from individuals in any man's world."

"It was about setting the record straight from an accurate historical perspective of bombardment and parables and little stories about the duty and love of Tlingit culture," said Tlingit storyteller Ishmael Hope. "He's one of the last tradition bearers that can tell traditional stories in both Tlingit language and English. He's a living cultural treasure and these people, they're like diamonds in the rough because you only have written accounts of things Cyril just knows and he talks about."

George's granddaughter and Sealaska Corp. director Barbara Cadiente-Nelson said as an elder, he serves as a conscience and a voice to those past who suffered the injustice that stemmed from cultural misunderstanding and differences. She said he expressed that hardship and that no matter what the government said it did to alleviate the suffering, it struck a deadly blow to the community. She said his speech expressed the Tlingit virtues of respecting all things and living those values.

Besides this historical incident, George gave several personal stories that helped illustrate Tlingit values. George's speech also likened the bombardment to the loss of language, culture and traditions, and that Angoon is doing its part to recover it by living those values. He said he hopes as time goes on, these traditions will become more widely known and respected.

"Now there are people interested in learning our way and we're thankful," said George.

Martin said these personal stories demonstrated a methodology of survival with a message to try not to violate Tlingit laws of respect.

George was mayor of Angoon for many years and interim director of the original SHI board of directors. He has also been a Kootznoowoo Permanent Fund trustee and chaired the Kootznoowoo Heritage Foundation.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Native leader explains Tlingit education's relevance for all societies

Tlingit educational values have kept its clans alive since before European contact in Alaska, and Tlingit leaders recognize how the pillars of that education are important to Native and non-Native students alike, a speaker discussing Native education said Monday.

David Katzeek, who goes by Kingeisti, is a leader of the Eagle Thunderbird Clan of Klukwan. He's spent years discussing education with students across Alaska for years, and shared the insights of that journey as part of Sealaska Heritage Institute's lecture series.

Kingeisti detailed how the spirit of encouragement and intelligence has kept Tlingit prosperous generation after generation. What's more, he said this spirit isn't for Tlingits only. It should be something encouraged in all children to help them reach their full potential.

Through anecdotes and lecture, Kingeisti explained how Tlingit clans are studied more for culture and not education, but this is inadequate because that "culture includes education."

He said even ancient clans survived with a strong utilization of math, science and history. Even today, Tlingits become lawyers, teachers, ministers and business people, all drawing from the midst of how they were taught and their ancestors were taught.

"We have had an impact on society from the beginning and the hard part is people don't want to accept that instead of just acknowledging our culture," he said.

He discussed traditions of the Tlingit educational system that have built that impact. The system focuses as much on the students' selves as much as reading and writing.

One of these main points is human beings have a unique ability to learn to listen for a purpose. He said this ability to learn to listen requires students to really focus, to not just hear what someone is saying but really comprehend it and to think about it if not immediately understood.

"When students are taught as respected human beings instead of being talked at, and these are two different things, students will respect you and want to work and understand more," said Kingeisti.

This respect is another pillar. Kingeisti explained respect is needed to practice and utilize intelligence because every human possess it.

"Every human that has that power to listen will find its not hard to learn," he said.

This notion of intelligence in every child measured through encouragement rather than judged by a single test score is another foundation of Tlingit education.

"Intelligence is probably one of the most traditional things any human being has," he told the audience.

He said Tlingit students are recognized as being precious and intelligent, and this can be lacking some other educational systems. He said when young people realize how precious they are, they really start to focus and control their minds, bodies and spirits.

"Basically to accept that if a man learns to listen he'll learn and gain knowledge, and accepts that he is intelligent and he'll gain more intelligence," he said.

Another pillar he discussed was the concept of "woocheen," which means "working together."

"The most important thing for me is that these particular truths are timeless. Truth never gets old. It's just as right now as it ever was. Truth is truth," he said.

Kingeisti has also worked in management and Tlingit cultural consulting since 1971 and served as president of Sealaska Heritage Institute for 12 years.

Watch the full lecture online here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Did you miss one of our lectures?

No problem--you can watch it online! Videos of lectures by Madonna Moss, Dan Monteith, and Zachary Jones are now posted in our video library. Check back soon for more coverage of lectures sponsored by Sealaska Heritage Institute in celebration of Native American Heritage Month!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A New Look at an Old Battle

"It was called the "Kake War" of 1869 but few people today know of it, said Zachary Jones, archivist with the Sealaska Heritage Institute and Adjunct Instructor of History at University of Alaska Southeast.

Among those who are aware of it are the Kéex' Kwaan Tlingit of the Kake area, as well as other areas where related battles were fought, including Sitka, Wrangell and Cape Fox.

Jones spoke of his research as part of a series of talks held at the Sealaska Building during Native American Heritage Month. He's been using Tlingit oral histories to add to the official record of the clashes, and has been filling in a picture that's been based mostly on Caucasian written records.

The picture history paints does not reflect well on the U.S. Army, he said.

"This is a situation where the U.S. Army attacked the Tlingit people," he said.

In 1869, the United States had just purchased Alaska from Russia, but the residents of Alaska, including the Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska, weren't happy about that, Jones said.

"Was the land for sale?" asked Nora Dauenhauer, who already knew the answer.

Jones said one of the reasons for difficult relations between the Tlingits and the U.S. Army, which has been put in charge of the newly acquired territory, was the Tlingits didn't think their ancestral homeland was the Russians' to sell.

The military commander in Alaska, Jefferson Davis, served as governor of the area and enforced the rule of the United States with the cannon of the U.S.S. Saginaw, a gunboat operated by the army.

Davis, unrelated to the Confederate president of the same name, noted at the time the Native people didn't like the U.S. intrusion on their lands.

"The Tlingit do not like the idea of whites settling in their midst without being subject to their jurisdiction," Davis reported in 1869.

Those resentments, as well as communication errors, led to clashes at Sitka during which unarmed Kéex'' Kwaan who were visiting there were killed, and then retaliatory killings that escalated things, Jones said.

Davis sent the Saginaw to punish the Kéex'' Kwaan, but it arrived to find several communal houses apparently vacant, Jones said.

Failing to find anyone to fight, the soldiers shelled the village and burned the houses, destroying stocks food and plank houses needed for shelter.

Sadly, one fatality was documented, Jones said.

"An old lady was burned in the fire because she was too old and frail to rise from her bed (and flee) and most likely assumed that the soldiers wouldn't hurt her," he said.

The soldiers reported their actions had not killed anyone, which was reported in the official account, but Jones said he learned from oral histories not only of the Kake death but the Tlingit side of how the conflict developed.

The previous colonial narrative of the U.S. Army fighting "criminal" Alaska Natives has been reassessed, broken down, and corrected with oral histories that explain the Tlingit side for the first time, Jones said.

These includes a series of errors by the army, and their brutal - and likely illegal under the laws of war - retaliation on the innocent Tlingit, he said.

Contact Zachary Jones by clicking here.

Watch the full lecture online here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Southeast Native Radio Collection Open to Public Research

The Sealaska Heritage Institute Special Collections Research Center has a recently acquired collection of recordings that is now available to the public. The Southeast Native Radio Recordings Collection was acquired by SHI from Juneau’s KTOO-FM radio station in April 2010 and Stephanie Brown, Assistant Archivist, recently finished processing the collection (organizing it according to archival standards).

Southeast Native Radio was a program which ran on KTOO-FM in Juneau, Alaska from 1985-2001. The collection contains programs from the show, which broadcast everything from performances by music groups to discussions of serious issues which were important to the Native community. The collection is an invaluable resource for Alaska Natives who wish learn more about their heritage and various issues affecting their community. The collection is a valuable resource for researchers studying Native history and an educational resource for those who are not Native as well, as it provides an opportunity for them to learn about cultures and ways of life they might not be very familiar with. Those interested in the collection can access the finding aid by clicking here. SHI is proud to make this collection available to the public for educational purposes.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a noon lecture series, dance performances, and a Native art market to celebrate Native American Heritage Month in November.

The brown-bag lunch series will focus on topics such as Tlingits and combat and Native history and language. The program this year will include dance performances at the Juneau-Douglas High School by groups from Washington State and Angoon. A Native artist market will be set up in the commons of the school during the afternoon of the performances.

The celebration of Native dance, art, culture and history are free and open to the public, said SHI President RositaGit-Hoan Dancers of Washington StateWorl, adding she hopes attendees will learn more about Southeast Native cultures.

“I hope they learn more about Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people. I hope they learn about the history of our region. I hope they know also that we’re still alive and that our cultures are still here and still vital,” she said.

November is appropriately Native American Heritage Month—during this month, our nation celebrates Thanksgiving, and we should be reminded that Native Americans played a major role in the origin of Thanksgiving, Worl said, noting the colonists were celebrating their successful settlements and their survival. They acknowledged the Native Americans and the land and food resources they obtained from them; it was a history repeated as the colonists moved westward across America, said Worl, adding she hopes teachers in November show “For the Rights of All”—a recently released documentary about the civil rights movement in Alaska for which the institute is developing complimentary curriculum.

The lecture series will kick off Oct. 25 with a lecture by Fiona McDonald of University College London, a visiting scholar to the institute who is studying button blankets for her research on woolen trade blankets in the Pacific Northwest and New Zealand. Other lectures include (Print Schedule & Lecturers' Abstracts):

Professor of Anthropology Madonna Moss from the University of Oregon will present on Friday, Nov. 5. Her topic will be “Pre-Contact Tlingit Warfare: What Do We Really Know?”

Professor of Anthropology Dan Monteith from the University of Alaska Southeast, will present on Monday, Nov. 8. His topic will be “Tlingit Oral Narratives and Deep History.”

SHI Archivist Zachary Jones (who is also an Adjunct Instructor of History at the University of Southeast) will present on Monday, Nov. 15. His topic will be “Un-silencing the Past: Reassessing American Military Relations with the Tlingit in 1869.”

Professor of Slavic Languages Edward Vajda from Western Washington University will present on Monday, Nov. 22. His topic will be “Languages Across Bering Strait: My Siberian Odyssey and the Reconnecting of Asia and America.”

Professor of Molecular Anthropology Brian Kemp from Washington State University will present on Monday, Nov. 29. His topic will be “Just Because You Have Studied One Native American Population, You Haven’t Studied Them All: Insights from DNA about Prehistory in the Americas.”

SHI will round out the events in December with presentations from traditional scholars. David Katzeek, leader of the Shangukeidí Clan of Klukwan, will present on Monday, Dec. 6. His topic will be “The Traditional Tlingit Education System.”

Cyril George, Sr., leader of the Deisheetaan Clan of Angoon, will present on Monday, Dec. 13. His topic will be “Tlingit Oral Traditions.”

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 lunches.

SHI will sponsor three dance group performances on Nov. 5 at the Juneau-Douglas High School. The Git-Hoan Dancers of Washington State and the Xudzidaa Kwáan Dancers of Angoon will perform at 10 am for elementary students, 1 pm for junior high and high school students, and at 7 pm for the community. (Print Flyer)

“This is another opportunity for the public to see our regalia in movement—used by people, not just a sterile photo of clan objects in a magazine or a book or in an exhibit, but now you can really see how our people use their ceremonial objects,” Worl said.

SHI will also sponsor a Native Artist Market from 5 pm-9 pm in the commons.

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.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Local radio host Cy Peck, Jr., has donated to Sealaska Heritage Institute a major collection of recordings capturing the words of Native Elders and leaders.

The recordings, which have been digitized, include interviews with many Native Elders and leaders, including Cy Peck, Sr., Matthew Fred, Austin Hammond, Charlie Jimmie, and Walter Williams to name a few.

“I think it’s found a home here,” said Peck at a recent ceremony in Juneau where the collection was formally presented to the institute. “I want everyone to know where to come and hear the Elders speak in their original way they spoke at potlatches and ceremonies and honoring people.”

The collection consists of mostly audio recordings that date to between 1978 and 1985 and document the fledgling First American Emphasis Week, a celebration of Native cultures recognized in places throughout the country. The Johnson O’Malley Program (JOM) joined with the Indian Studies Program to celebrate the event for the first time locally in March of 1978, and the organizers were overwhelmed by an unexpected, huge turnout of Native people, who came from across Alaska and the Lower 48, said former JOM Project Director Sharon Vavalis-Olsen.

“We didn’t think we’d have that many people attend, and I can remember my JOM staff running around trying to find out how they were going to keep the coffee pot filled and how we were going to get juice, and how we were going to feed all these people that we didn’t expect,” said Vavalis-Olsen, who estimated the crowd at 1,500 people.

It was during that time—when Peck had access to Native people from across the region—that the recordings were made. The recordings were broadcast locally, then flown to Fairbanks and broadcast there, said Peck, adding the event wouldn’t have happened without help from many volunteers, organizations and businesses.

The donation ceremony at Sealaska Plaza was attended by Elder and Deisheetaan Clan Leader Cyril George, who noted a resurgence of interest about Native cultures among young people in recent times. Many years ago, the Elders saw the Native way of life slipping away, George said.

“Now it’s a different story I’m seeing with our young people—interest in our language. Our way of life,” said George, who donned regalia and a Clan hat for the event.

The institute will take care of the recordings and ensure they are available to SHI’s patrons, said SHI Archivist Zachary Jones.

“We are grateful—Sealaska Heritage Institute is—and honored to have them. We realize the importance of what they are,” said Jones, adding the collection also includes a box of materials donated by Ray Peck that includes programs, newspaper clippings, correspondence and other items documenting the event.

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.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sealaska Heritage Institute's Visiting Scholar Program

Sealaska Heritage Institute sponsors a Visiting Scholar Program for graduate students enrolled into an accredited educational institution or professors engaged in research that advance knowledge of Tlingit, Haida or Tsimshian culture, language, arts, or history. SHI will provide visiting scholars with logistical support, access to SHI’s library, archival collections, and ethnographic collections, and the support of SHI staff for the scholar’s research. In some situations, SHI can provide an honorarium and support toward a book publication.

Scholars who participate are required to adhere to traditional protocols and laws in respecting clan ownership and clan attribution. Scholars will be required to provide SHI with a gratis copy of their final research paper, dissertation, or publication, as well as provide one public lecture at SHI or in Southeast Alaska on their research.

For further information contact the
Head of SHI Special Collections Research Center.

Button Blanket Project
SHI Visiting Scholar, Fiona McDonald, is conducting a research project in which she will investigate how button blankets are made, how they are used today and how they become at.óow. She will interview and record and/or film button blanket markers and those who receive the blankets. She will provide those she will interview the questions she will ask one week in advance of the scheduled interview.

We think this is an important project that will record the continuing importance of button blankets. If you are interested in being interviewed or know of someone who could make a contribution to this project, please contact

Copies of the recordings will be held in SHI Archives and available for educational purposes. Fiona will also make her written work available to SHI.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reassessing the Native history of Metlakatla

I recently came across an online version of an essay that caught my attention by Mique’l Askren, a graduate student working toward her Ph.D. in Art History at University of British Columbia. Mique’l (pronounced my-key-el) Askren is Tsimshian and Tlingit from Metlakatla, Alaska, and I recently met her at SHI’s Celebration 2010 where we discussed her research. In addition to her scholarly work, she is a member of Git Hayetsk Dancers, an internationally renowned Northwest Coast dance group based out of Vancouver, BC.

In regards to the essay she recently composed, entitled "Bringing our History into Focus: Re-Developing the Work of B.A. Haldane, 19th Century Tsimshian Photographer," she discusses the problems with the colonial narrative of Metlakatla’s Native history. By using photographs taken by Tsimshian photographer Benjamin Alfred Haldane (1874-1941) and other sources, she offers a new perspective on Metlakatla’s past. She shows how Tsimshian at Metlakatla did not abandon their cultural values and practices for Christianity after moving to Metlakatla in 1887, but retained them, and even held cultural celebrations against rules of the religious community. Overall, it’s great to see scholarship that makes use of archival resources and challenges current perceptions of Native history. To read the article you can click here.

Image shown below is a view of Metlakatla circa 1895, SHI Special Collections.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lecture by Robert Davidson now available online

If you missed Robert Davidson's lecture at Celebration 2010, you can now watch his talk in its entirety online. Robert Davidson's lecture drew a huge crowd at Celebration 2010. Robert Davidson is an internationally-acclaimed Haida artist and one of Canada's most respected and important contemporary artists. His lecture--Being Successful is no Accident: The Business of Art--is not only for artists. In his talk, he incorporates important life lessons that can be appreciated by people from all walks of life. (Robert Davidson's Lecture) (Video Library)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lecture by Dr. Brian Kemp now available online

If you missed Dr. Brian Kemp's lecture on DNA samples collected during Celebration 2008, you can now watch his talk in its entirety online. Dr. Kemp summarized his findings at Celebration 2010 in a talk sponsored by Sealaska Heritage Institute. Researchers screened participants' mitochondrial DNA for the genetic markers that define haplogroups A, B, C, and D--if you participated in the study, click here to view your results. The results from the first phase of the study were released in December 2008. Kemp's lecture in June emphasized the second phase of the study, which focused on genetic variation among Alaska’s Natives and other indigenous populations, genetic continuity of populations in Alaska and their relationships to other indigenous populations, and reconstruction of population history. (Dr. Kemp's Lecture)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Digital Cultural Objects Collection

SHI Special Collections is working to put digital images of its ethnographic collection online. This link routes researchers to a selection of online photographs showing the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian art held by SHI Special Collections. SHI’s cultural objects collection contains materials of various genres and of a wide date range, from ancient stone items to modern art created by practicing Native artists. This web album will continue to grow as materials are added by Special Collections staff. (Cultural Objects Collection)

Friday, June 18, 2010

SHI 2009 Annual Report Now Available Online

View a pdf version of its 2009 annual report or, to request a hardcopy, contact Kathy Dye, (Video)

Sealaska Corporation Buys Land For Cultural Center

Juneau, AK - Sealaska Corporation has purchased a downtown lot and plans to donate the site to the nonprofit Sealaska Heritage Institute for a planned Southeast Alaska Native Cultural and Visitors Center.

The lot, known locally as “the pit”, was the former site of the Skinner Building, which was destroyed by fire in 2004. The property, located across the street from Sealaska’s headquarters, was purchased from a private owner and will be turned over to the institute for a cultural center.

The center is a priority of Sealaska’s board of directors, said Chief Executive Officer Chris McNeil, noting that the hugely popular Celebration event showcases the cultures for a few days every other year, and the center would allow the cultures to be showcased year-round.

“We believe that we have an obligation to show our commitment to support this project and to enable SHI to secure additional funding for the project,” McNeil said. “This is a worthwhile project and a project of that nature merits that we make a significant contribution towards its fulfillment, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Sealaska Heritage Institute is very grateful to Sealaska’s board of directors for making the donation, said Marlene Johnson, a trustee of the institute.

“This donation is a huge step towards making the much needed cultural center a reality,” Johnson said.

As part of the purchase agreement, the current owner agreed to resolve issues related to damaged sidewalks on the perimeter of the lot before Sealaska officially takes ownership, likely by mid July.

“After the current owner fulfills his obligations, Sealaska Corporation plans to landscape the lot, so it’s attractive in the interim before ground is broken for the center;” said Executive Vice President Rick Harris.

The center will be a first-rate institution for the study of Native cultures, preservation of historical papers and ethnographic collections, and the cultivation of Native culture, arts and languages. The project will create more than 80 jobs during the two-year construction phase and generate millions of dollars in spending for payroll, benefits, and goods and services.

In 2010, the State of Alaska appropriated $2 million to Sealaska Heritage Institute for the center. Those funds will be used for the planning phase of the facility. The institute has launched a fundraising effort to build the facility, which will cost an estimated $16 million.

Sealaska Corporation founded Sealaska Heritage Institute in 1980 to administer its educational and cultural programs. Sealaska has continued to be the institute’s largest sponsor. 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.

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.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

San Jose SLIS to Award Scholarships to American Indians and Alaska Natives

The San Jose School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) is partnering with the American Indian Library Association (AILA) to launch Circle of Learning — an initiative designed to recruit and support American Indians and Alaska Natives who are interested in earning a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree.

The scholarship program is designed for Native students who want to earn a fully online ALA-accredited MLIS degree. Scholarship recipients will receive financial assistance and other support, including mentoring, career advisement, field experiences, involvement in professional conferences and workshops, and interaction with Native leaders in the profession.

Because all courses are delivered fully online, students will be able to live anywhere while earning their MLIS degree. Circle of Learning’s unique blended approach of online curriculum delivery and face-to-face social and professional interactions will help ensure that scholarship recipients receive personalized support and develop a professional network that will benefit them in the years ahead.

The Circle of Learning scholarship program is made possible because of a generous grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. IMLS announced the award on June 15, 2010. View their announcement here:

The Circle of Learning advisory committee is finalizing application criteria. Details regarding eligibility for scholarships and application materials will be available on the project website by August 3, 2010. Students will need to be admitted to the School’s MLIS program in order to receive scholarship funding, and the individuals selected to receive scholarships will be eligible to start receiving tuition reimbursement for courses taken during the Spring 2011 semester.

For more information regarding the Circle of Learning project, including application information and deadlines, please visit the project’s website at

For more information about SLIS and how to apply to the School’s fully online MLIS program, visit

To learn more about the American Indian Library Association and its initiatives to improve library and information services for American Indians, visit

For information regarding this announcement, please contact Lisa Valdez at

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Seven artists have taken top awards at the fifth Sealaska Juried Art Competition in Juneau for best contemporary and traditional Native art.

The winners, chosen by juror David Boxley, an internationally recognized Northwest Coast Native artist, are:

Traditional Art

Best of Show- “Tlingit Helmet” by Wayne Price
1st Place- “Copper Child” by Lily Hudson
2nd Place- Untitled Ravenstail Weave by Shgen George
3rd Place- “Spruce Root Hat” by Merle Anderson
Contemporary Art

Best of Show- “Cedar Bark Hat Box” by Merle Anderson
1st Place- “Crisco Berry Surprise” by Corey Stein
2nd Place- “Cycle of Life” by Chloe French
3rd Place- “Raven and the Beauty of Eagle Spirit” by Lance Twitchell

Twenty other artists also were chosen to exhibit their work in the show. Those artists included:

Anna Ehlers
Calvin Morberg (Honorable Mention)
Catherine "Kitty" Young
Clara Haley
Deborah Head (Honorable Mention)
Dolly Garza (Two Honorable Mentions)
Harmony Hoss
Kathy Polk (Two Honorable Mentions)
Lani Hotch
Malcolm Miller (Two Honorable Mentions)
Michael Beasley (Honorable Mention)
Mike Dangeli (Honorable Mention)
Myles Edgars (Honorable Mention)
Opal Olsen
Pauline Jim (Honorable Mention)
Preston Singletary (Honorable Mention)
Ralph Wolfe
Ray Peck
Richard Beasley (Honorable Mention)
Vivian Benson (Honorable Mention)
Twelve-year old Patrice DeAsis also was singled out for an Encouragement of Recognition mention for her entry, a Chilkat weaving.

Images of these art items can be viewed by clicking here.

Best of Show, traditional winner Wayne Price said the wood for his Tlingit War Helmet came from an alder tree that knocked out the power in Juneau for half a day.

“That wood has had 25-thousand volts go through it, and it didn’t crack when I carved it. So it really had a really good start,” Price said.

Corey Stein took first place for contemporary art for her beadwork, and said the award came at the right time.

“Sometimes you need that self esteem pat on the back really bad and the timing for me was perfect. I really needed this,” Stein said.

Lily Hudson took first place for traditional art for her Chilkat weaving, which her small daughter will wear in the Toddler Regalia Review.

“The competition was really intense. I shouldn’t be surprised at the caliber of work that's in the show, but man I’m keeping company with amazing artists,” Hudson said.

Their work will be on exhibit at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center through June 27. Some of the pieces are available for purchase.

SHI founded the competition in 2002 to promote the development of Southeast Alaska Native arts. The goals of the Juried Art Show are:

-To encourage and enhance the creation and production of Southeast Alaska Native objects of artistic value which have fallen into disuse and are becoming rare.

-To stimulate and enhance the quality of artistic work among our Native artisans.

-To encourage the development of new forms of art of purely Southeast Alaska Native form and design.

To ensure an objective judging process, the names of the artists were not included with the photos of objects viewed during selection.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a Native nonprofit founded by Sealaska Corp. in 1980 to administer the corporation’s cultural programs. The mission of the Institute is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures.

CONTACT: Rosita Worl, SHI president, 463-4844

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


First-Ever Alaskan Haida Phrasebook Also Released

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has published a new series of learners’ dictionaries for the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian languages and the first-ever Alaskan Haida phrasebook.

The dictionaries are the product of years of documentation with assistance from Elders fluent in Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. The phrasebook was written by Dr. Erma Lawrence, one of the few remaining fluent speakers of Alaskan Haida.

“We’ve been working on language restoration for nearly 10 to 12 years, and I would say for a greater part of this we’ve been working on these dictionaries. So, they’re pretty broad in scope, and to have three of them released all at the same time I think is fairly significant,” said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“We know it’s going to have a lot of use, not only in the classroom but by people who are just interested in learning a little bit more about our culture.”

All of the dictionaries include sections translating Native words to English and English words to the Native languages.

The Dictionary of Alaskan Haida is the most comprehensive dictionary for the Alaskan dialect of Haida, with over 5500 entries. It contains several thousand example sentences gathered from the last remaining fluent speakers in Alaska.

The Dictionary of Tlingit is the first to include nouns and verbs and all the minor word categories such as adjectives, adverbs, and interjections in a single resource. The vast majority of the verb forms have never before been documented or published. It also includes example sentences for most of the entries, which illustrates the words in a context.

The Dictionary of Shm’algyack (Tsimshian) includes the majority of the common vocabulary and will be invaluable to beginning and intermediate students of the language. Sentence examples with sound will guide the user along the path of a deeper understanding of how our ancestors thought and their use of words.

The Tlingit dictionary was compiled by linguist Keri Edwards with assistance from Anita Lafferty, John Marks, June Pegues, Helen Sarabia, Bessie Cooley, David Katzeek, and Fred White. The Haida dictionary was compiled by linguist Dr. Jordan Lachler with assistance from Dr. Erma Lawrence, Claude Morrison, the late Woodrow Morrison and the late Anna Peele. The Tsimshian Shm’algyack dictionary was compiled by Donna May and Tony Roberts, who worked with the late Ira Booth, Lillian Buchert, Frances Duncan, Bernard Guthrie, Solomon Guthrie, Russell Hayward, Harold Hudson, and Charles Ryan, all of whom initiated the project. Mel and Ruth Booth, John Dalton, Doris Reece, and Conrad Ryan, Sr. contributed their knowledge to complete the project.

Complementary searchable, online dictionaries with audio of words and phrases are also being developed and will be made publicly available in the future.

The Alaskan Haida Phrasebook was written by Dr. Erma Lawrence and edited by Dr. Jordan Lachler, a Haida linguist. The book was compiled over a four-year period as part of SHI's ongoing Haida language project. The more than 4,000 sentences in this book cover some of the most common topics of Haida conversation, such as food, family, weather, health, traveling, fishing, working, music, and many others. It is the most comprehensive phrasebook to date for any Alaskan Native language, and will be a great aid to new learners.

The dictionaries were funded through a grant from the Administration for Native Americans, and the phrasebook was funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and support from Sealaska Corporation.

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: Rosita Worl, SHI President, 463-4844; Dr. Jordan Lachler, 907-228-5168 or; Keri Edwards, 321-2529 or; Donna May Roberts,

Friday, April 23, 2010


Sealaska Corporation has repatriated thirty-three cultural objects from a Massachusetts museum on behalf of Tlingit clans in Southeast Alaska.

Most of the objects were repatriated on behalf of the Yakutat Tlingit and title will be officially transferred to them at a future ceremony, said SHI President Rosita Worl, an anthropologist who assisted in the repatriation.

The collection underscores the creativity and talent of our ancestors, Worl said.

“I mean the pieces are extraordinary,” Worl said. “It demonstrates the sophistication and the uniqueness of our art--but more than that--really the cultural values that gave rise to this artistic tradition.”

The objects were collected in the 19th century by Edward G. Fast and purchased by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in 1869. The collection comprises a wide range of objects, including a wooden warrior’s helmet (above), masks, rattles, tools and pipes. Most of the objects were used by shamans, Worl said.

“The pieces are mostly shamanic items, and of course shamanic items are very sensitive to our people. We have strict rules and protocols about the handling of shamanic objects,” said Worl, adding Native people believe shamanic objects have powers that could harm people who do not respect the protocols.

Worl oversaw the repatriation at the museum with two Eagle and Raven members of the Council of Traditional Scholars, a panel founded by the institute to advise on programs. The objects, which arrived in Juneau in March, were repatriated through a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

The Yakutat Tlingit will decide whether to take the objects home or to sign a memorandum of agreement to leave them at Sealaska Heritage Institute, which has expanded its holding facility through grants and donations from Sealaska Corporation, the Rasmuson Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. SHI enlarged its facilities to accommodate a growing number ethnographic collections and archival materials acquired in recent years. The institute employs a professional staff to care for cultural objects and archival materials. Staff hopes to eventually have additional space for public exhibitions of its collections.

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.