Sealaska Heritage


<<back to news page



October 30th, 2014

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor its annual noon lecture series to celebrate Native American Heritage Month in November.

Topics for the brown-bag lunch series will range from a story about the theft of a prominent totem pole by the famed Hollywood actor John Barrymore to sealing camps in Yakutat.

The lectures will be held from 12-1 pm in the 4th floor boardroom at Sealaska Plaza in Juneau. Attendees are invited to bring their own lunches. The talks also will be videotaped and posted online.

Lectures 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 California. Dr. 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 Fairbanks

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

The Search for Early Habitation Sites on Ancient Shorelines
Jim Baichtal
Forest Geologist, Tongass National Forest

The key to understanding early settlement patterns in southeast Alaska is tied to understanding the effects of glacial ice on the land and sea levels. As the glaciers advanced during the last ice age the weight of the ice depressed the earth’s surface beneath it. Ahead of the ice a glacial forebulge formed that rolled across the landscape. As the glaciers grew the global sea levels fell. As the glaciers melted, sea level rose, the forebulge collapsed and the lands depressed by the weight of the ice rapidly rebounded. The first inhabitants in Southeast Alaska were living on this rapidly changing landscape. A model to predict where the habitable shorelines were through time is being developed and tested. This has revolutionized archaeological inventory across the region. Application of the model has yielded the 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. Many of these older sites are inland from the present shore in locations that were hitherto considered low probability for cultural resources.

‹Sealaska Heritage Institute was founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance TlingitHaida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

CONTACT: Chuck Smythe, Director of Culture and History, 907.586.9282