May 27, 2014

215 Years Since the Russian American Company Established Headquarters in Sitka

I grew up in Kodiak walking passed the Baranov House Museum practically on a daily basis. Across from the ferry dock, near the church, and the old KANA building (which is no longer there), the museum once served as the Russian-American Company's storehouse and commissary. The museum was named after the chief functionary of the Russian colonial project at the time, Alexandr Baranov. He arrived in Kodiak in 1790 and hammered out the economies and social order of Russian America.  

"Portrait of Aleksandr Andreevich Baranov, first Russian Chief Manager of Alaska, 1790-1818."
This week on May 25, 1799 Baranov moved the center of Russian America from Kodiak Island to Sitka where the Russians would name New Archangel. The name "Sitka" for the town originates from the the Tlingit word  Sheet’ká, a contraction of "Shee At'iká" meaning "People on the Outside of Baranof Island", whose call themselves Sheet’ ká X'áat'l. Below is a photo of "Sitka" and the Baranov residence in 1885.

 "Baranov's Castle, Sitka, Alaska, ca. 1885." ASL-P01-2199
Baranov had constructed a large castle that was finished in 1835, but as you can see in the photograph below by 1885, 23 years after the United States took control of the Alaska region, the residence was in dilapidated condition. Strangely enough, the nation built "experiment stations" on the sight where the residence once stood by 1899.

"The Old Baranof Castle as it appeared about 1890." ASL-P20-140 
215 years later Sitka is a city of approximately 9,000 people, and as part of the United States, it sits in Southeast Alaska. In the early 20th century, as mentioned in a previous post this area of the world, the coastal Tlingit homeland, would become the Tongass National Forest. Below is a short tour of contemporary Sitka, centuries after Russian colonialism.

May 26, 2014

Alaska Native Representation and Knowledge at NAISA 2014: The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association Conference Austin, Texas

See you in Austin!
The Native American and Indigenous Studies Conference will be held in Austin this weekend and my Alaska grown colleagues Professor Jeane Breinig, Associate Professor of English, Associate Dean for the Humanities University of Alaska Anchorage, Professor Maria Shaa Tlaa Williams, Director of Alaska Native Studies, and I will be conducting the panel "Alaska Native Knowledge, Activism, and the Academy." In the conference program you can find the panel listed as "145. Alaska Native Knowledge, Activism, and the Academy [P62]: Meeting Room 416A." It is truly exciting to be able to take part in this wonderful conference with a cohort of brilliant and friendly Indigenous Alaskans. Please come say cama'i, you don't even need to bring Salmon. Below you will find the program information for the panel. Quyanna. 
Diagram of the Indigenous Self by Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley, Ph.D.
Alaska Native Knowledge, Activism, and the Academy [P62]: Meeting Room 416A
2:00 PM – 3:45 PM Saturday May 31

In 2013 the first Alaska Native Studies conference was held at University of Alaska Anchorage, bringing over 350 participants from throughout the state and beyond to discuss issues central to Native Alaska. This conference marked the convergence of Alaskan Indigenous scholars, and their allies, creating a space of inquiry and intellectual self-determination focused distinctly within the Alaska region. The conference was a result of a landmark movement to start the Alaska Native Studies Council in 2012, which drew from a history of Indigenous knowledge activism for its foundation. This panel examines the obstacles and successes faced in the articulations of Indigenous knowledges within institutions of higher learning operated by the State of Alaska. The panel also traces the roots of Alaska Native intellectual, academic, and political activism, as well as the barriers faced in the creation of an Alaska Native Studies Council, Journal, and annual conference.


Thomas Michael Swensen, Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies
Institutional affiliation: Colorado State University


Name: Jeane Breinig, Associate Professor of English, Associate Dean for the Humanities
Institutional affiliation: University of Alaska Anchorage


Maria Shaa Tlaa Williams, Director of Alaska Native Studies
Institutional affiliation: University of Alaska, Anchorage
Title Paper 1: Formation of the Alaska Native Studies Council
Abstract Paper 1: In Spring of 2012 Alaska Native faculty initiated a new organization that was established to empower our place in academia. One of the outcomes of
our nascent group was the first ever Alaska Native Studies Conference that
was held in April 2013 and hosted by the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Academia remains a gatekeeper and placeholder in western knowledge
structures. As Indigenous knowledge finds its place within academia, we,
as Indigenous faculty have to create our own space and place. The
presentation will address how and why Alaska Native faculty established a
new organization and how we are 'dis-establishing' the hierarchy within
academia - making programs that place Indigenous worldview at the center.

Thomas Michael Swensen
Title Paper 2: The Alaska Native Studies Movement
Abstract: Along with the emergence of the Alaska Native Studies Council, Alaska Native scholars, and their allies, are working within Native communities, universities, and aligned organizations, to promote the study of Alaska Native knowledge and culture as never before. Additionally, Alaska Native scholars are also being hired to tenure track positions throughout the contiguous “Lower-48” and Alaska Native graduate students are pursuing doctorates at record numbers. This critical mass draws from understudied Indigenous Alaskan histories and cultures of activism that have grown distinctly from activism elsewhere in the nation. How does this long-brewing movement contribute to the field of Native American and Indigenous Studies? This paper examines thematic linkages of sovereignty and self-determination Alaska Native studies asserts within the broader field as well as the possible interventions undertaken by these claims.

Jeane Breinig
Institutional affiliation: University of Alaska Anchorage
Title Paper 3
Transforming the University: Alaska Natives and Higher Education
Abstract: In this panel presentation, I will discuss the process by which Alaska Natives are beginning to gain visibility and voice within the University of Alaska system, consisting of three major campuses in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. This presentation includes historical background related to Alaska Natives presence in academia and the roadblocks faced when attempting to make a central place within the university system. Numerous programs and services, ostensibly created to serve Alaska Natives, have existed since the university was formed, yet only a few have made a significant difference with Alaska Native student success. This presentation proposes reasons and offers potential strategies for moving beyond the stasis.