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Lecture Series


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Lecture Series

SHI sponsors lectures by students and scholars doing research on Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian languages, cultures and history. Lectures generally are held at Sealaska Plaza in conjunction with Native American Heritage Month and at or near Centennial Hall, in conjunction with Celebration. They are videotaped and posted online. The lectures at Sealaska Plaza are free and open to the public. For noon lectures, guests are invited to bring a bagged lunch. For more information or to submit a request to give a lecture, contact SHI Culture and History Director Chuck Smythe at 907.586.9282 or (Sponsorship)

2014 November Lecture Series (Flyer)

12-1 pm, Sealaska Plaza, 4th Floor Boardroom (bring your own lunch)

Wednesday, Nov. 5

Kooteeyaa: The Travels and Travails of a Tlingit Totem Pole From Tuxican
(Takjik’aan), Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska
Dr. Stephen J. Langdon
Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA)

In 1931, famed Hollywood actor John Barrymore traveled on a 120-foot yacht to the unoccupied Tlingit village of Tajik’aan on Prince of Wales Island.  Under his direction, the crew stole a prominent pole, one of the few remaining in the village and transported it back to CaliforniaDr. Steve J. Langdon, anthropologist from UAA, will discuss the pole, its theft, its subsequent travels and trophy display in Hollywood on the estates of Barrymore and later that of fellow actor Vincent Price, followed by its incongruous transfer to the Honolulu Museum of Art in 1982.  Dr. Langdon will discuss the search for the pole and his discovery of it in the basement of the museum in early 2013. He will provide an update on current efforts by the Klawock Cooperative Association (IRA government of Tajik’aan descendants) to repatriate the pole. 

Tuesday, Nov. 18

At the Glacier’s Edge: People, Seals, and History at Yakutat Bay
Dr. Aron Crowell, Alaska Director, Smithsonian Institution Arctic Studies Center at the Anchorage Museum, and Judy Ramos, Assistant Professor, Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development, University of Alaska Anchorage

As glaciers that once filled Yakutat Bay retreated its waters teemed with seals and fish, and Alaska Native peoples of three different cultures – Eyak, Ahtna, and Tlingit – arrived to make a new way of life together.  Harbor seals that gather by the thousands in the bay’s floating glacial ice have always been the most important resource, from 1000 years ago to the present day. Now the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe, the Smithsonian Institution’s Arctic Studies Center, the National Science Foundation, the Sealaska Heritage Institute, Sealaska Corporation, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Park Service are partnering on research into the unique history of the Yakutat people and their relationship to one of Alaska’s richest ecosystems. Archaeologists are uncovering dwellings, artifacts, and animal bones at sealing camps and village sites, revealing ancestral lifeways; elders are recording place names and centuries-old oral traditions; geologists are tracking the glaciers’ movements through time; and hunters are sharing knowledge about seals and seal hunting, from past to present.  Yakutat students are working with the scientists, to help rediscover the traces of their grandparents' way of life on the land. Hear how this fascinating story of collaborative research comes together in a joint presentation by anthropologist and archaeologist Dr. Aron Crowell (Smithsonian Institution) and indigenous knowledge researcher Judith Ramos (University of Alaska Fairbanks).

Tuesday, Nov. 25

Changing shorelines and the Search for Early Habitation Sites
Jim Baichtal
Forest Geologist, Tongass National Forest

An extensive literature search and years of field reconnaissance have resulted in a dataset of over 450 shell-bearing raised marine deposits throughout Southeast Alaska. It includes site location, elevation, and description when available, and over 250 radiocarbon dates beginning at ~48,000 ¹⁴C yr BP. Interpretation of this data gives insight on the timing and complexity of isostatic crustal adjustments that resulted from glaciation and deglaciation, eustatic sea level change, and subsequent tectonic uplift. From this data, preliminary relative sea level curves have been developed for much of Southeast Alaska allowing for modeling of the paleoshorelines through time. The modeling suggests a peripheral forbulge developed west of the ice front along the whole of the coast of Southeast Alaska expanding the area of previously modeled coastal refugia. Using the hypothesized paleo-high tide to predict the elevation where early Holocene archaeological sites may be found has resulted in discovery of over 74 locations with archaeological material, 17 of which date from 6,890 to 9,280 ¹⁴C yr BP. Initial investigation of these sites indicates that they are extensive and rich in microblade technology. These older sites are inland from the present shore in locations that were hitherto considered low probability for cultural resources.