The Alaska Historical Society presented their annual awards recognizing accomplishments in history at their annual business meeting on October 14, 2022.
Longtime Alaska journalist and author Tom Kizzia has been honored as Historian of the Year. Kizzia, a former Anchorage Daily News reporter and author of the recent book, Cold Mountain Path, was recognized both for his current book and long career documenting Alaska history.
“Through lyrical writing and solid historical research, the book tells the story of McCarthy, one of Alaska’s boom towns gone bust in the mid-20th century,” said the AHS in its recognition. The Society was also impressed that Kizzia directed some of the book sale proceeds to the McCarthy-Kennecott Historical Museum.
Kizzia’s award, formally known as the James H. Ducker Historian of the Year Award, is named for longtime Alaska Professor James Ducker, who served for 30 years as editor of the Society’s journal, Alaska History.
Other awards announced at the AHS annual meeting include:
Anchorage attorney Donald Craig Mitchell, received the Evangeline Atwood Award for Excellence, given to an individual for significant long-term contributions to Alaska history. Mitchell was recognized for his books contributing to our understanding of Alaska Native history, the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and specifically his most recent book, Tribal Sovereignty in Alaska: How it Happened, What it Means.
The Anchorage Museum received the Esther Billman Award, given to a society, museum or organization for a project contributing to the preservation and understanding of Alaska history during the past year. It honors the longtime curator of Sitka’s Sheldon Jackson Museum. The Anchorage Museum was recognized for its long-standing commitment to preserving Alaska history and presenting it to Alaskans and out-of-state visitors alike in compelling and innovative ways.
Fairbanks historian Karen Brewster received the Barbara Sweetland Smith Pathfinder Award. The late Barbara Smith was a long-time historian, archivist and exhibit curator who specialized in documenting Alaska-Russia history. Brewster was recognized for her diligent work as editor of the Society’s landmark Guide to Sources for the Study of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. She spent hundreds of hours fact-checking, verifying sources, proofreading and editing the contributions of many others for the 1,000+ page guide.
The Gastineau Channel Historical Society of Juneau was awarded the Elva Scott Local Historical Society Award, which recognizes an historical society or museum for its programs, newsletter, publication or a significant recent accomplishment. Scott was a founder of Homer’s Natural History Society and Pratt Museum, and then active member and long-time editor of the Eagle Historical Society’s newsletter. The Juneau-based society was recognized for the current edition (Volume 27, No. 1) of its Gastineau Heritage News, which highlights the dozens of newspapers published on both sides of the Gastineau Channel over the past 135 years.
AHS presented three awards in the Contributions to Alaska History Award category, which recognizes individuals or groups for projects, publications and other efforts that have significantly promoted and added to understanding Alaska history:
Historian Katherine J. Ringsmuth of Eagle River was recognized for seven years of work creating and directing the NN Cannery History Project to document cannery work, people and place. Her exhibit is entitled, “Mug Up: Language of Cannery Work,” and is on display at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau.
Diane Olthuis of Hope was recognized for her years of dedicated service as director of the Hope & Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum, president of its historical society and president of the Kenai Peninsula Historical Association. Olthuis is the author of several books, one on local trapper Harry Johnson and another a survey of the buildings of Hope.
Archivist R. Bruce Parham of Anchorage was recognized for his work on the Society’s Guide to Sources for the Study of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and for the guide he helped prepare for the centennial of women’s suffrage in the United States. Parham also has been active with the Cook Inlet Historical Society for years, serving as its secretary and helping with its monthly programs and special conferences, including the one commemorating the Anchorage Centennial.
The Terrence M. Cole Student and Beginning Professional Travel Scholarship Award was awarded to University of Alaska Anchorage senior Ava Martin. She was recognized for a paper presented at AHS’s annual conference entitled “The Historic Environment and Best Practice in Scotland and Alaska,” drawing on her year-long study of the heritage, tourism and historic preservation practices in Scotland. The award is named for the longtime UAF history professor and author of several books.
The Morgan and Jeanne Sherwood Award for best article published in Alaska History, AHS’s historical journal, was awarded to retired UAF professor William Schneider. His article, “When a Small Typo Has Big Implications” looked at the federal trust responsibility to Alaska Natives, initiated in 1867 when the U.S. acquired Alaska. The late Professor Sherwood was a longtime Alaska historian and he and his wife endowed this award with a $500 annual prize.
AHS awarded two special certificates this year to Alaskans who contributed to Alaska’s history over their careers:
Patience Frederiksen, recently retired director of the Alaska State Library, Archives and Museums, was recognized for enormous assistance to AHS, making staff available and providing important background information on state budget issues.
The late Gary C. Stein was recognized for work as an Alaska historian in the 1970s and ’80s and service as AHS president. He published numerous articles and book reviews in the Society’s journal and published his seminal work on Dr. James Taylor White of the U.S. Revenue Marine Service in Alaska.
The special President’s Award was awarded to William Schneider of Fairbanks for his ground-breaking initiative on the Guide to Sources for the Study of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and his overall contributions to the AHS, where he has been a longtime board member and former president. The award, presented by the AHS president, is better known as the “beaver log award” because it is an authentic log felled by an Alaska beaver. This year’s log came from the Upper Yukon River.