Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_SHI to sponsor lecture on mystery Native girl who touried nation, met Harriet Tubman

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Free event to be offered virtually, in-person on Nov. 23

Nov. 19, 2021

(About the Lecturer) (Flyer

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a lecture on Tuesday on a quest to find the name of a Native girl who toured the country and met Harriet Tubman as part of a series on Southeast Alaska Native history in honor of Native American Heritage Month.

The talk, "What's in a Name?"—The "Indian Girl" from Ft. Wrangell who met Harriet Tubman, will be given by Phillip Hesser, Ph.D., an author who has written extensively about Tubman, a slave who escaped and helped others gain their freedom as a “conductor” of the Underground Railroad.

Who was that nameless "Indian Girl" who toured the United States and met Harriet Tubman in the late 1880s in New York? Hesser posed in an abstract on his lecture.

In his talk, Hesser will tell about his quest to find Ft. Wrangell Alaska Native Shik-Sha-Ni, her "adoption" as Fanny McFarland, her schooling in New Jersey in the name of her benefactor as Frances H. Willard, and her short life upon her return to Alaska at the Sitka Training School.

Shik-Sha-Ni made a name for herself—giving voice to Tlingit language and culture and chronicling her work at Sitka. Hesser will explore the lives of Tubman and Willard and how these remarkable women lost their names and much of their past, yet revealed so much about lives in upheaval.

The lecture is scheduled at noon Alaska time, Tuesday, Nov. 23. All lectures will be streamed at 12 pm to the Sealaska Heritage YouTube channel. This talk will also be presented in person in SHI’s clan house to attendees who show proof of vaccination cards. A Q&A session will follow.

About the Lecturer

Dr. Phillip Hesser has taught in the US and Africa and served with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Academy for Educational Development. Most recently, he taught at Salisbury University and Wor-Wic Community College. He now spends his time delving into the deep history of Delmarva and the Chesapeake Bay watershed and running the Dorchester marshes with his pint-sized retriever Marshall and hound Bayly. Indulging his interests at the intersection of landscape, life and livelihood, he wrote What a River Says: Exploring the Blackwater River and Refuge (Cambridge, MD: Friends of Blackwater, 2014) and co-wrote (with Charlie Ewers) Harriet Tubman’s Eastern Shore: The Old Home Is Not There (Columbia, SC: History Press, 2021).

This program is provided under the Preparing Indigenous Teachers and Administrators for Alaska Schools (PITAAS) program and funded by the Alaska Native Education Program.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Kathy Dye, SHI Communications and Publications Deputy Director, 907.321.4636,