AHS Blog

150th Anniversary of the Alaska Treaty of Cession Statewide Calendar of Events

Date Posted: September 30, 2016       Categories: News

alaska-150th-logoThe 150th anniversary of the Alaska Treaty of Cession is 2017. On March 30, 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward and Russian Envoy Edouard de Stoeckl signed the treaty in Washington, D.C. Less than seven months later, on October 18, the ceremonial transfer took place at Sitka and the U.S. replaced the Russian administrators.

To commemorate the significant event, the Alaska Historical Society is coordinating a Statewide Calendar of Events, promoting discussions by posting a series of articles and images and documents on our website.

The public is invited to submit material to our Statewide Calender of Events by using our on-line Event Submission Form. Please direct questions and concerns to Anna Lee at members@alaskahistoricalsociety.org.

 





2017 Conference Registration

Date Posted: August 15, 2017       Categories: News

Registration is now available for the 2017 Alaska Historical Society/Museums Alaska Annual Conference being held from September 27-30 at the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage, Alaska.

Go to the Conference Website to see the latest information about the keynote speakers, the program, the venues, events, accomodations, and to register.

Act Now: Early bird registration rates of $225 for AHS members apply until September 5. 

A full conference registration includes the evening events (Wed. and Thurs. receptions and Fri. banquet), Fri. lunch, continental breakfasts, and coffee breaks. 





2017 Conference Schedule

Date Posted: August 14, 2017       Categories: News

A preliminary Schedule at a Glance is now available for the 2017 Alaska Historical Society and Museums Alaska joint conference to be held from September 27-30, 2017  at the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage, Alaska.

Stay tuned for more information about the conference and how to register.

Schedule at a Glance – Anchorage Conference 2017
Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017
7:30AM-4:30PM Registration – Museum Atrium
8:30AM-12:00PM Pre-Conference Museums Alaska Workshop – Sink Mounts – Art Lab Pre-Conference Museums Alaska Workshop – Connecting to Your Audiences – Auditorium
1:00PM-4:30PM Pre-Conference Museums Alaska Workshop – Care of Feathers – Art Lab
5:00PM-6:30PM Museums Alaska (MA) Board Meeting – East Conference Room
Alaska Historical Society (AHS) Board Meeting – Reynolds Classroom
7:00PM-9:00PM Opening Reception – Anchorage Museum
Thursday, September 28, 2017
7:00AM-8:00AM Breakfast Roundtables – Jumpstart Your Day or Tourism and Historic Communities- Museum Atrium
7:30AM-5:00PM Registration & Info Desk: Museum Atrium
7:30AM-8:30AM Continental Breakfast – Museum Atrium
8:30AM-10:00AM Welcome &   Museums Alaska Keynote: Prison Sentences: Exploring the Line Between Neutrality and Advocacy at Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Sean Kelley – Auditorium
10:00AM-10:30AM Morning “Mug Up” – Atrium
10:30AM-12:00PM Concurrent Sessions
Museums Alaska Alaska Historical Society
Organizational Stability through Community Collaboration – 4th Floor Museum Cleaning Basics – SASC CCR AHS Russian America – Reynolds Classroom AHS Frontier Trailblazers – Auditorium AHS Territorial Days – Art Lab
12:00PM-1:15PM Lunch on your own OR Foraker Lunch Round Table Muse – Atrium
1:30PM-3:00PM Concurrent Sessions
Museums Alaska Alaska Historical Society
Neutrality v Advocacy : Conversations Following the Keynote- 4th Floor Story Time Fun with Museum Explorers – SASC CCR AHS Russian America – Reynolds Classroom AHS Personal Histories – Auditorium AHS Business and Politics – Art Lab
3:00PM-3:30PM Afternoon “Mug Up” – Atrium
3:30PM-5:00PM Concurrent Sessions
Museums Alaska Museums Alaska
Museums Alaska Annual Meeting – Auditorium AHS Russian America / Alaska Purchase – Reynolds Classroom AHS Alaska’s Fisheries – 4th Floor AHS Local Histories – Art Lab
5:00PM-6:00PM Alaska Historical Society and Museums Alaska Joint Board Meeting – Reynolds Classroom
6:00PM-8:00PM Community Reception – Aviation Museum
TBD
Friday, September 29, 2017
7:00AM-8:00AM Breakfast Roundtables – Promoting Healthy Work-Life Balance or Present & Future of Local and Regional Archives- Museum Atrium
7:30AM-5:00PM Regis. & Info Desk: Museum Atrium
7:30AM-8:30AM Continental Breakfast – Museum Atrium
8:30AM-10:00AM Welcome & AHS Keynote: Willie Hensley – Auditorium
10:00AM-10:30AM Morning “Mug Up”- Museum Atrium
10:30AM-12:00PM Concurrent Sessions
Museums Alaska Alaska Historical Society
Thinking Inside the Box – Auditorium Engaging Communities: Programs at the Anchorage Museum – 4th Floor AHS Russian America / Alaska Purchase – Reynolds Classroom AHS Facing Controversy – SASC CCR AHS General Session – Art Lab
12:00PM-1:15PM State of the State Lunch – Atrium
1:30PM-3:00PM Concurrent Sessions
Museums Alaska Alaska Historical Society
Conservation on the Move -4th Floor Supporting Museums and Cultural Heritage Through Legislation – Art Lab AHS Alaska Purchase / Alaska Natives – Auditorium AHS Far North Perspectives – Reynolds Classroom AHS Financial Planning For Non-Profits – Reynolds Classroom
3:00PM-3:30PM Afternoon “Mug Up”- Atrium
3:30PM-5:00PM Concurrent Sessions
Museums Alaska Alaska Historical Society
Peace of Mind Through Inventory – Reynolds Classroom Investigating Innovative Inquiry: Topics in Museum Education – 4th Floor Alaska Historical Society Annual Meeting – Auditorium
5:30 PM Silent Auction Ends
6:00PM-9:00PM Awards Banquet: Alaska Native Heritage Center
Saturday, September 30, 2017
7:00AM-8:00AM Breakfast Roundtables – Advocate for Your Museum – Museum Atrium
8:00AM-9:00AM Continental Breakfast – Museum Atrium
8:00AM-1:00PM Regis. & Info Desk: Atrium
8:00AM-9:00AM Museums Alaska Board Meeting – Reynolds Classroom
Alaska Historical Society Board Meeting – ECR
9:30-11:00 Concurrent Sessions
Museums Alaska Alaska Historical Society
Facilitating Community Dialogue on Challenging Topics – 4th Floor Community Collaboration in Exhibits – Reynolds Classroom AHS Russian American Expeditions of Dr. Mikhail Malakhov – Auditorium AHS
11:00-11:45 Museum Q&A – 4th Floor
12:00-12:30PM Closing Comments – Auditorium
1:00PM-6:00PM Post-Conference Tours




Alaska Out of the Vault: Examining the Treaty of Cession through Unexpected Objects

Date Posted: July 18, 2017       Categories: 49 History

By Anjuli Grantham

A puffin skin parka. An Alutiiq whaling lance. A can of salmon from Klawock. A mountain howitzer and artillery shell. These are not the kind of artifacts that immediately bring to mind the Treaty of Cession, like William Seward’s cape or Emanuel Leutze’s iconic painting, Purchase of Alaska, might, for example. Nonetheless, as I started researching and producing Alaska Out of the Vault, a podcast that examines Alaska in the decades around the Treaty of Cession, I was more interested in discussing what was occurring in Alaska— not in Washington, DC— and what themes and transitions were afoot rather than the big, iconic moments on which we tend to focus our attention (ahem, Alaska Day).

Photo courtesy Anjuli Grantham

While there are countless compelling objects and stories that relate truths about Alaska in the 1800s, I selected these objects based on the broad, and hopefully unexpected, stories that they communicate.

The mountain howitzer became a medium for the story of the US Army in Alaska in 1868-1870 and the transitions  that occurred both at Fort Kenay (sic), the Dena’ina village of Shk’ituk’t, and within the lives of Vladimir and Evgenia Stafeef (alternate spellings abound), an Estonian employed by the Russian-American Company and his Dena’ina wife.

When the US purchased Alaska, the nation was amidst Reconstruction. It was determined that Alaska would be managed as a military district until Congress created legislation for local civil government (which took another seventeen years, by the way). Alaska became part of the Military Division of the Pacific, and Army units were sent to Kenai, Kodiak, the Pribilofs, Wrangell, Sitka and Tongass to open posts. But Battery F didn’t make it to the old Russian trading post called Nicholas Redoubt when or how they intended. While sailing near Port Graham the Torrent hit a reef, sending the ship down and the crew, soldiers, and their families to the beach. They salvaged three of the four mountain howitzers with which they traveled before being rescued and spending the winter in Kodiak.

The next year, 1869, they made it to the trading post, which was about a mile from the Dena’ina village of Shk’ituk’t, according to anthropologist Dr. Alan Boraas. For this episode, I spoke with Dr. Boraas about Dena’ina interactions with Russian fur traders and the US Army troops. Moreover, several primary sources from Fort Kenay are shared, including one that details when the American yard was adopted as the standard unit for trade, and an evocative letter from Vladimir Stafeef, in which he recounts his indecision about paths forward in the new American Alaska. Finally, retired state archaeologist Dave McMahan recounts the 2008 recovery of materials from the Torrent shipwreck, including the mountain howitzer on exhibit at the Alaska State Museum.

The Alutiiq whaling lance with Cyrillic letters is a lens to consider a relatively unknown Alaska Native whaling tradition and to explore how Alutiiq, Yankee, and Russian whalers interacted with one another and the so-called Kodiak Grounds, which corresponds to the Gulf of Alaska, in the 19th century.

In an interview with archaeologist Patrick Saltonstall, we discuss the archaeology and history of the Alutiiq whaling tradition. In the late prehistoric period through the late 19th century, Alutiiq whalers were shamans. They used talisman, magical practices, and mummy fat mixed with monkshood and then smeared on slate lances to execute the hunt. Examples of these lances are exhibited at the Alaska State Museum, Baranov Museum, and Alutiiq Museum. With historian Ryan Jones, we learn how whales were central to the economy of Russian America and Russian-American Company control of Alutiiq labor. Whalers had to give ½ of every whale to the company, which then distributed the materials and meat to outposts and hunting camps. Jones describes how the incursion of Yankee whalers impacted Native whaling and belatedly inspired the Russian Empire to finance its own commercial whaling venture. The Russian-Finnish Whaling Company was mostly a failure, and the tense relations among American whalers, Russian officials, and Native villages did not presage the diplomacy of the Treaty of Cession. Regardless, Americans came to use Alaska’s natural resources on a large scale for perhaps the first time, as whale oil lit cities and lubricated gears in New England.

Unangan puffin skin parka, circa 1880s. Photo courtesy of Alaska State Museum.

A puffin skin parka with elaborately embroidered hems and cuffs elucidates the work of Alutiiq and Unangan women in Russian America. This parka, also exhibited at the Alaska State Museum, was collected by the surgeon of the USS Resaca, a Navy ship sent to Alaskan waters while the crew convalesced from an outbreak of yellow fever. Coincidentally, the vessel arrived in Sitka in time for the transfer ceremony, where it stayed until January of 1868. In this episode, I not only examine possible ways that an Alutiiq or Unangan garment made its way to Sitka, but what the puffin parka says about the internal economy of Russian America.

Russians were dependent on the labor and goods of the Alutiiq and Unangan to produce sea otter pelts for international markets and to feed, clothe, and pay those incorporated within the Russian American colonies. The work of women was central to this. Elderly, infirm, and adolescent men were sent to puffin rookeries to snare a company-established quota of birds. Women then prepared and sewed the skins into parkas, which were used as a form of currency by the Russian-American Company.

For this episode, I spoke with Alaska State Museum conservator Ellen Carrlee about the difficulties in attributing the origin of this parka, historian Katherine Arndt about the use of Alutiiq and Unangan labor in Russian America, and Alutiiq skin sewer Susie Malutin about the Alutiiq skin sewing tradition. The show ends in Sitka, with a triumphant news report about the US purchase, although it is quite clear that these American newcomers had little idea about the complex and tragic economic system that they were eager to supplant.

Finally, through a can of Klawack (sic) Brand salmon, we learn of the dramatic transitions within Southeast Alaska spurred by the industrialization of Alaska’s salmon industry, and how Senator Charles Sumner’s vision for Alaska’s maritime resources came true. In 1878, the North Pacific Trading and Packing Co processed the first can of salmon in Alaska in Klawock, on Prince of Wales Island. Previously, the site of the cannery was known as Hamilton’s Fishery, named after Scottish proprietor George Hamilton, who had come to Southeast Alaska in the years immediately following the US purchase and married a Haida woman.

Photo courtesy Kathy Peavey

In this episode, we hear from Fred Hamilton, the 96 year old grandson of the founder of Alaska’s first cannery. We learn about the sophisticated methods that Tlingit people employed to harvest salmon and manage salmon rivers from anthropologists Dr. Steve Langdon. Dr. Langdon’s research shows that Tlingit management of the Klawock fishery persisted for a time following its commercialization. From Dr. Dennis Demmert, we learn how life changed for the Tlingit of Prince of Wales Island when the cash economy began to pervade the area. We also hear the words of Senator Charles Sumner, who advocated for the Alaska Purchase and pointed to Alaska’s marine resources as a great boon for the nation.

Over these four episodes, then, we learn of how Alaska Natives were impacted by the Russian-American Company, how the transition to American military rule played out on the ground, and how American businesses and capitalism transformed lives and cultures. Please listen, and if you like what you hear, please share with your friends and colleagues. You can listen to the podcast at my website, www.anjuligrantham.com/alaskaoutofthevault, or find Alaska Out of the Vault wherever you listen to podcasts.

I would like to thank the Alaska Historical Commission, Alaska Office of History and Archaeology, Kodiak Public Broadcasting and the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums for their support of this podcast, in addition to the many whom I interviewed and helped with my research.





Alaska Out of the Vault Podcast

Date Posted: July 17, 2017       Categories: News

With a grant from the Alaska Historical Commission, Anjuli Grantham has produced a special podcast called “Alaska Out of the Vault” that examines Alaska in the decades around the Treaty of Cession. It focuses on what was occurring in Alaska–not in Washington, DC–and what themes and transitions were afoot rather than the big, iconic moments that tend to receive the most attention.

Unangan puffin skin parka, circa 1880s. Photo courtesy of Alaska State Museum.

Anjuli selected objects to communicate stories that relate truths about Alaska in the 1800s, and conducted interviews with anthropologists, historians, museum curators, and Alaska Native people to help provide broader context. Four episodes cover how Alaska Natives were impacted by the Russian-American Company, how the transition to American military rule played out on the ground, and how American businesses and capitalism transformed lives and cultures.

You can listen to the podcast at www.anjuligrantham.com/alaskaoutofthevault, or find “Alaska Out of the Vault” wherever you listen to podcasts.

For more information, contact Anjuli Grantham at www.anjuligrantham.com.





Soliciting Award Nominations

Date Posted: June 7, 2017       Categories: News

The Alaska Historical Society is soliciting nominations for its 2017 Awards given annually at our conference. This year’s conference is September 27-30, 2017 in Anchorage. The available awards are listed below. See the Alaska Historical Society Awards page for lists of previous winners.

Nomination deadline is August 15, 2017.

Please send nominations to Michael Hawfield, Awards Committee Chair, mchawfield@alaska.edu.

ALASKA HISTORICAL SOCIETY ANNUAL AWARDS

The Evangeline Atwood Award is given to an individual for significant long-term contributions to Alaska state or local history. The award is named for one of the founders of the Alaska Historical Society who wrote, supported, and advocated for Alaska history from the 1940s into the 1990s.

The Elva R. Scott Local Historical Society Award recognizes a community historical society or museum for its newsletter, a publication, programs, or other significant recent accomplishment. Elva Scott was a founder of Homer’s Pratt Museum and for over 20 years the tireless, creative and talented editor of the Eagle Historical Society newsletter.

The Jim Ducker Historian of the Year Award is given to an Alaska resident for publication of notable new material about Alaska history this past year.

The Barbara Sweetland Smith Pathfinder Award recognizes contributions to the discovery and description of resources relating to Alaska history.

The Esther Billman Certificate of Excellence recognizes a state or local society, museum, government agency, or an organization that has completed a project contributing to the preservation and understanding of Alaska history during the past year. Esther Billman’s efforts to preserve Alaska history and develop the Sheldon Jackson Museum are commemorated by the award now given in her name.

Contributions to Alaska History Award recognizes an individual or individuals who have made singular and significant recent contributions to Alaska history.