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Renaissance Man

A conversation with Northwest Arctic culture camp administrator Dale Stotts

By Carmen Davis

Dale Stotts

Katyaaq Tribe Director Dale Stotts has administered culture camps for the Alaska Humanities Forum and Northwest Arctic Borough 

School District’s cultural immersion projects since 2012. The camps are part of the Alaska Humanities Forum’s Creating Cultural Competence of Rural Early Career Teachers (C3) Project, which introduces K-12 educators to the heritage, traditions, and values of the people of the Northwest Arctic region.

Share a bit of your background and how it relates to your efforts in creating culture camps for youth and teachers.

Having grown up in the 1950s and 60s in numerous parts of rural Alaska, my upbringing and most of my adult life has been a “culture camp” of sorts. Me and my cousins grew up whaling. Mom was from Barrow, Dad from Billings, Montana. He was a career scientist and later a station officer in charge with the National Weather Service in Alaska. Dad had wanderlust and put in for new duty stations every couple of years. Consequently, my older brother and I grew up all over Alaska, from my hometown of Barrow, to Gambell on St. Lawrence Island. Other stops included NakNek to McGrath, Kotzebue to Bethel, and back to Barrow before being sent to Mt. Edgecumbe High, which was then a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school in Sitka.

The Thrill of Historical Discovery

By J. Pennelope GoforthOne of the lost ACC ledgers discovered by J. Pennelope Goforth

History is sometimes found in the most mundane of places, from old business ledgers stuffed in a Nordstrom shopping bag to a pictorial scrapbook tucked into a nautical chart cabinet.

Three years ago I discovered a set of lost Alaska Commercial Company (ACC) business ledgers written in the 1870s. They were in a basement in Snohomish, Washington, quietly waiting in a shiny silver Nordstrom bag. As soon as I saw them I knew they were some of the rarest business documents from the ACC Aleutian District. The Cash Sales and logbooks of daily events at the company trading posts have since proved to be invaluable time capsules of the culture of the Unanagan during the transition from Russian domination to American territory.

Not long after finding the ledgers, I presented a proposal to the Alaska Humanities Forum to transcribe and digitize all six ledgers. The ACC and the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Community Development Association matched funds, and the fascinating details of Aleutian life emerged. One of the most satisfying parts of this undertaking for me has been helping modern day Aleuts find details about their ancestors through the listings of hunters in the Winter Hunting Party of 1886.

A Tale of Two Boom Towns

Nathan White's Bear Sled on Hope's Main Street, 1917The Alaska Humanities Forum recently announced the winners of the 2016 Governor’s Awards for the Humanities, which honor Alaska individuals and organizations for their distinguished service to the humanities. The awards will be presented January 28 in Juneau. The honorees include: Cyrano’s Theatre Company; Alaska State Museum Curator of Collections Steven Henrikson, and Iñupiaq language instructor Lucy "Ahvaiyak" Richards.

This year’s Governor’s Awards feature a new category, Alaska Studies Educator of the Year. The inaugural awardee is Marc Swanson, educational curriculum developer for the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area.

Swanson developed a Trails Across Time Curriculum and an award-winning "That Was Then, This is Now" video series, an in-depth, engaging Alaska Studies course of study that challenges students to explore the wonders of the national heritage area using lessons that “recognize that much of Alaska’s history is recent and can still be found in the remains of old cabins and in the stories of our elders.”

Here’s an excerpt from a Trails Across Time lesson on the mining communities of Hope and Sunrise. To access the full lesson, click here.

Tough Love on the Koyukuk:

Recollections of Sidney Huntington (1915-2015)

By Anne Hanley

Anne Hanley and Sidney HuntingtonOn Dec. 11, 2015, Koyukon Athabascan leader Sidney Charles Huntington was laid to rest on a bluff overlooking the Yukon River. The spot was near where he used to run a trap line and not far from the site of his fish wheel. He was 100 years old.

When an elder dies, a bridge between the past and the future is washed away. Sidney’s death leaves a huge, gaping chasm. He knew the chiefs and the medicine men. He knew the animals and the rules for how to show them respect. He knew old ones who hunted bears with nothing but spears and who spoke the old Koyukon high language. He knew missionaries and traders and miners. They’re all gone and now he’s gone too, but, lucky for us, he left a book.

If you haven’t read his biography Shadows on the Koyukuk, written with Jim Rearden in 1993 and still in print, treat yourself to a good yarn about a good man whose life encompasses a huge swath of Alaska history.

Sidney was born in 1915 around the time when the first non-Native settlers were moving into the Country. His mother was a traditional Athabascan woman; his father was a trader and a gold-seeker. “Half Indian,” as he called himself, and half white, he faced discrimination from both sides.

I once spent a morning at the Sidney C. Huntington School in Galena interviewing students about Sidney. They were shy and not as vocal as I’d hoped. As I was leaving, a resource teacher chased after me.  “I have something to say about Sidney,” she said. “I moved to Galena two years ago and Sidney was one of the first people I met. He told me, ‘Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you don’t belong here. If you live here, you’re one of us.” That was Sidney. He would not tolerate discrimination, perhaps because he endured so much of it growing up.

2016 Governor's Awards Announced

Once a year, a select few Alaska citizens and organizations that exemplify great art and devotion to the humanities are recognized for enriching the culture of the state.

The Alaska State Council on the Arts and the Alaska Humanities Forum are pleased to announce the eight recipients of the 2016 Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities.

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The Third Weaver

An Anchorage teacher reflects on her Educator Cross-Cultural Immersion experience at Atka Culture Camp

By Christine Terry

Before I applied for the Alaska Humanities Forum’s Educator Cross-Cultural Immersion program this past summer, I thought the fact that I was a 60-year-old grandma who had only been in Alaska for one year made me a long shot. Also, I wasn’t 100 percent sure I wanted to go. I don’t like to camp. I don’t like to be cold. I am shy in new social situations. I haven’t gone without a daily shower in decades.  But I recognized what a unique opportunity ECCI was, and I was willing to venture outside my comfort zone.

After finding out I would be going to Atka for my ECCI experience, the first thing I did was figure out exactly where Atka is geographically. It’s 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage, on Atka Island, in the middle of the Aleutian chain. Next I researched some of the history of the island. In brief, Russian

 fur traders made first contact in 1741. Then in 1787, they forced the men of Atka to hunt and held the women and children hostage to make the men comply. Later, during World War II, the Japanese attacked the westernmost Aleutian island, Attu, taking the Alaska Native population as prisoners. The American government evacuated the population of Atka to the mainland and burned their town to foil the Japanese.

New Leadership Anchorage Cohort Announced

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