Thank you to all those who attended the 2022 Alaska Historical Society Annual Conference on October 6-8 and 13-15, 2022!
The Alaska Historical Society hosted its 2022 annual conference on October 6-8 and 13-15, 2022, in collaboration with the Cook Inlet Historical Society.
Bathsheba Demuth is an associate professor of History and Environment and Society at Brown University where she specializes in the lands and seas of the Russian and North American Arctic. Her interest in the north began when she was 18 and moved to the village of Old Crow in the Yukon Territory of Canada, where she spent several years mushing, hunting, fishing, and otherwise learning the ways of the taiga and tundra.
She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brown University, and master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Her writing has appeared in publications from The American Historical Review to The New Yorker. Floating Coast was named a best book of 2019 by Nature, National Public Radio, Kirkus Reviews and Library Journal, among others. A current Carnegie Foundation Fellow, she is working on a book about the environmental pasts of the Yukon River.
Demuth’s talk, History from a Dogsled: The Yukon and the Stakes of Telling the Past” looked at the intertwined, co-dependent lives of people, dogs and salmon along the 19th century Yukon River for examples of how to tell more capacious, polyvocal narratives—and the stakes of doing so for and about Alaska, a place where the politics of who speaks the past has bearing on present conflicts over land, meaning, and the possibilities of the future. Her presentation, which you can watch below, was followed by a book-signing for her award-winning book, Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait.
Conference Theme: Conflicting Visions in Alaska History
Alaska history provides numerous examples of conflicting visions. Russian colonizers coerced Native labor to pursue sea otters for a profitable commercial trade, disrupting the Native subsistence economy and decimating populations. Following the U.S. purchase of Alaska, conflicts arose as fortune-seekers reaped profits from this resource-rich territory, often with disastrous consequences to the indigenous people already occupying Alaska. The discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay and the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) and Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act set the stage for legal battles over land and resource use.
Other conflicting visions in our history revolved around education. For example, the practice of removing Alaska Native children from their communities and taking them to boarding schools, intended to educate and “civilize” them, harshly curtailed the transmission of Native language and culture. The conference included a panel on Alaskan boarding schools, featuring former students at Mount Edgecumbe and other schools.
The conference also highlighted the importance of recent history. Panels on the rollout of ANCSA and preparations for the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline, both of which occurred within the last 50 years, also occurred and were recorded for later viewing. For more information or questions about the 2022 conference, contact: Rachel Mason, Program Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 6, 7- 8 p.m.: Keynote Lecture- History from Dogsled- The Yukon and the Stakes of Telling the Past
Ask someone from the Lower 48 what they know about the Yukon River, and most will invoke the Klondike gold rush, or perhaps the writing of John McPhee. Even in Alaska, celebrations of extraction frequently overshadow public commemoration of other, particularly Indigenous, histories. This talk looks at the intertwined, co-dependent lives of people, dogs and salmon along the 19th century Yukon River for examples of how to tell more capacious, polyvocal narratives—and the stakes of doing so for and about Alaska, a place where the politics of who speaks the past has bearing on present conflicts over land, meaning, and the possibilities of the future.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7, 9- 10:30am: Contested Figures and Events in AK History
David Ramseur, Moderator
Russ Vanderlugt – Dean of Alaskan Experts? The Conflicting Legacies of William Dall and Ivan Petroff
Jim Barnett – Looking Again, Re-examining the Legacy of Captains Cook and Vancouver in Alaska
Betsy Longenbaugh and Ed Schoenfeld – Viewing History Through the Lenses of Murder
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7, 11- 12:30pm: Conflicts Over Alaska Native Sovereignty
Judy Bittner, Moderator
William Schneider – The Struggle for Recognition of Sovereignty and the Federal Government’s Responsibility to Alaska Natives
Stephen Haycox – Competing Visions of Tribal Sovereignty in Alaska
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2- 3pm: The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Guide: Recognizing the ANCSA and its History
Sue Sherif, William Schneider, Karen Brewster
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7, 4- 5:30 p.m. Panel Discussion on Teaching ANCSA
Charleen Fisher, Michael Hawfield, Jennifer Romer, Michael Hoyt
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8, 9- 10:30 a.m.: Reflecting on Alaska through Canvas and Pen
Rachel Mason, Moderator
Doug Capra – The Turbulent Genesis of Rockwell Kent’s Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska
Sheila Sparks Ralph – Vic Sparks, Skagway’s Sourdough Artist
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8, 11- 12:30pm: Regional Solutions to Uniquely Alaskan Challenges
Wendy Ranney, Moderator
Spencer Abbe – The Committee Discusses Prophecy: City Planning for Earthquake Recurrence after 1964
Leslie McCartney – Kotzebue Communities of Memory Project Jukebox
Daniel Monteith – Time Capsule, Treasure Trove: Alaskan Voices of Living on the Land, 1972-1979
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8, 4- 5:30pm: Different Ways of Presenting History
Averil Lerman, Moderator
Sabena Allen – Climate Change, Oral History, and Conflicting Notions of Knowledge: A Methodological Approach
Rachel Mason – Anthropology and History: Different Postulates about the Possibility of Objective Truth
David Reamer – Public History Practice in Alaska: Lessons Learned from Eager Consume
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13, 9-10:30am: Different Ways of Presenting History
Wendy Ranney, Moderator
Adam Kersch – Infectious Diseases, Race, and Settler Colonialism on Sheet’ká Kwáan
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13, 11- 12pm: Atwood Resource Center and the Anchorage Museum Tour
Virtual tour with Heather McClain, Chloe Nielsen, Monica Shah
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2- 3:30pm: Conflicts in Alaska Native Health and Education
Rebecca Paulson, Moderator
Mary Ehrlander and Hild Peters – Health Conditions among Alaska Natives in the Early 20th Century
Benjamin Jacuk – A Reindeer in Caribou’s Clothing: Sheldon Jackson’s Alaska Boarding Schools and Structural Violence
Taiyoh Itoh – The Cornerstone on Troth Yeddha’: Alaska Native Activism in Higher Education
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13, 4- 5:30pm: Russia & Alaska: A Conflicted History
Gunnar Knapp, Moderator
Ian Halter – Suspicion and Triumph: Remembering Alaska’s Cession in Russia and the United States
David Ramseur – The Thaw and Refreeze of the Alaska-Russia Ice Curtain
Brandon Boylan – Alaska in the Context of Russia’s War on Ukraine
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 9- 10:30am: Environmental and Historic Preservation
Erik Johnson, Moderator
Heather Feil – To Preserve Unimpaired … Evolution of Alaska’s National Parks
Ava Martin – The Historic Environment and Best Practice in Scotland and Alaska
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 11am- 12pm: Workshop: Preserving Paper Documents and Photographs on Shoestring Budget
With Presenter Rachel Cohen
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 4- 5:30pm: Panel Discussion: History and Public Outreach
Ian Hartman, Francesca DeBruck, Julie Varee
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15, 11am- 12:30pm: Conflicts Over Transportation
With Moderator Karen Brewster
Mark Moore – Researching R.G. LeTourneau’s Overland Trains: Stories from the North
Leanna Prax Williams – Altering Course: Alaska’s Aviation Industry and the 1938 Civil Aeronautics Act
Philip Wight – Whose Haul Road? How the Dalton Highway Became Public, 1968-2001
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2-3:30pm: Explorers, Olympians, and Drinkers
With Moderator Averil Lerman
Pierce A. Bateman – “Our Anchorage, an International Host:” A History of Alaska’s Bids to Host the Winter Olympic Games, 1942-Present
Douglas L. Vandegraft – Bars and Alcohol in Alaska: Conflict and Controversy
The primary agenda item was consideration of changes to AHS bylaws, which hadn’t been updated since 2009. The board requested members approve changes to permit electronic voting and circulation of information, among other issues. These changes were voted into place during the meeting. Click here to view the AHS Bylaws with accepted 2022 revisions.
The meeting also had reports of the past year’s activities, announcement of newly elected members of the board of directors, a presentation of the society’s annual awards, and a remembrance of our colleagues who died in 2022. There was also time for members to speak on issues of concern to Alaska’s history community and propose programs and projects for the society to undertake.