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.