The Americanization of Alaska: Panel Recording
Beginning with the 1867 transfer of Alaska from Russian to American administration, the federal government extended its authority over the territory. Was this “Americanization” positive with new government services or an unwelcome colonization? Americanization had both enormously positive and negative impacts which continue today. The unsettled relationship between the federal government, the state and Native groups deserves closer discussion as Alaskans consider ideas such as resource management and policies relating to Alaska Natives under federal trust.
Recording – please note, you will need to login/ register to access the recording below
About the Panelists
ROSS COEN is a lecturer in the Department of History, University of Washington, and editor of Alaska History, the semi-annual journal of the Alaska Historical Society.
MARY EHRLANDER is an emeritus professor of history, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and former director of UAF’s Arctic and Northern Studies Program. Her new book, with Hild M. Peters, is Hospital & Haven: The Life and Work of Grafton & Clara Burke in Northern Alaska.
IAN HARTMAN is a professor and chair of the history department, University of Alaska Anchorage. He teaches modern American history with an emphasis on issues related to economic and racial inequality.
CHARLES WOHLFORTH was an Anchorage Daily News reporter from 1988-92 and a regular opinion columnist from 2015- 19. He served on the Anchorage Assembly. He has written books about Alaska, science, history and the environment.
About the Critical Issues Lecture Series:
To help raise the level of civil discourse across Alaska, the Alaska Historical Society (AHS) launched this four-part lecture and panel discussion series. “Today in Alaska, as in much of the rest of the country, our civic discourse has deteriorated to a point where sensible public policy is not only enormously challenging, but often unachievable,” said William Schneider, University of Alaska Fairbanks professor emeritus and recent past president of the Alaska Historical Society. “By demonstrating how knowledge of history can inform and improve current public policy debate, we hope to raise the level of discussion so an informed public can encourage decision-makers to draw on history to make fact-based policy which serves the broadest diversity of Alaskans,” Schneider said.
The AHS is Alaska’s largest statewide organization dedicated to the informed exchange of ideas through a factual appreciation of Alaska’s history. It is partnering with the Cook Inlet Historical Society and the Anchorage Museum on the series. The Atwood Foundation has provided a generous grant to cover costs. Other supporting organizations include the League of Women Voters, the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolf Debate Program and OLE!, an Anchorage-based nonprofit which offers educational classes.
Future Sessions will address:
March 21: Conservation and Development Can Co-exist: Historic Examples
April 18: Alaska: The Canary in the Coalmine for Climate Change
Alaska Native Sovereignty: Panel Recording
This was the first of a four-part lecture and panel series about major public policy issues facing Alaska. The sessions, scheduled at the Anchorage Museum, are designed to combat the often willful distortion of history and create a more productive environment in which to arrive at sound public policy.
The first program, entitled “Alaska Native Sovereignty,” considered the history of the relationship between Native groups and the federal government. The landmark 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was broadly seen as the settlement of longstanding Alaska Native land claims. Some contend the act greatly limits Native sovereignty, while others point to Native assertion of sovereignty in self-government and active management of vital services such as health care delivery.
The first program featured three experts on Alaska Native sovereignty: Alex Cleghorn, David S. Case, and Rosita Kaaháni Worl. The moderator is William Schneider, oral historian, anthropologist, and professor emeritus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The panel discussed the topic at hand and took questions from both a live and on-line audience. Alaska students are encouraged to participate in all of the sessions.
About the Panelists
David Case is a legal scholar, attorney, and author. He has over thirty years of practice representing Alaska Native tribal, corporate, and municipal legal interests. Case’s book, written with David A. Voluck, Alaska Natives and American Laws, was originally published in 1978 and is now in its third edition. It is cited and quoted by scholars and the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
Alex Cleghorn is an attorney and is chief operating officer of the Alaska Native Justice Center. Cleghorn, of Alutiiq and Sugpiaq descent and a tribal citizen of Tangirnaq Native Village, previously served as assistant attorney general and special assistant to the Alaska Attorney General, where he led and coordinated efforts to build collaborative relationships between the state and Alaska tribes.
Rosita Kaaháni Worl is a Tlingit scholar and anthropologist. Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, has conducted research throughout Alaska and the circumpolar Arctic. Her current research contributions have focused on the role of Native corporations and the issues surrounding cultural inclusion and ways Native corporations represent cultural values.
Ian Hartman and David Reamer Honored as Historians of the Year
Two prominent Anchorage historians who wrote the ground-breaking book, Black Lives in Alaska: A History of African Americans in the Far Northwest, were named historians of the year by the Alaska Historical Society over the weekend at its annual conference on the Kenai Peninsula.
University of Alaska Anchorage history professor Ian C. Hartman and public historian and Anchorage Daily News columnist David Reamer were awarded the James H. Ducker Historian of the Year Award. It is named for longtime Alaska historian James Ducker, who served for 30 years as editor of the Society’s journal, Alaska History.
The book, published by University of Washington Press, opens with little-known accounts of Black whalers and fugitives from slavery who came to Alaska in the mid-1800s. It details Blacks in Alaska’s gold rushes, their service in Alaska with the military during World War II and the Cold War and discusses the racial mistreatment Blacks encountered in Alaska and their actions to achieve their civil rights.
The authors involved many Blacks who live and work in Alaska today. The Society said the work is well and carefully documented and details important but little-known historical developments in Alaska. The award carries a $250 cash prize for each author.
Other awards announced at the AHS annual conference include:
Seward historian, author and columnist Doug Capra was awarded the Evangeline Atwood Award for Excellence for his books, plays, articles and newspaper columns that contribute to documenting and interpreting the history of Seward and the eastern Kenai Peninsula.
The award remembers a founder of the Alaska Historical Society who wrote, supported and advocated for Alaska history from the 1940s into the 1990s. Capra taught history at Seward High School and worked as an interpreter at Kenai Fjords National Park.
The Anchorage Park Foundation and the Native Village of Eklutna, with special recognition of Aaron Leggett, won the Esther Billman Award for the Anchorage Indigenous Place Names Project. The partnership project started in 2018 to install markers throughout the Municipality of Anchorage to acknowledge the Indigenous names for geographic places. The most recent is “Nuch’ishtunt” – the place protected from the wind – installed at Point Woronzof. Other markers have been installed at Potter Marsh, Westchester Lagoon, Muldoon Park and the mouth of Ship Creek.
The posts include artwork, preserve the Dena’ina language and explain the site’s cultural significance and history. The project could not have been possible without Aaron Leggett’s leadership. Leggett is curator of history at the Anchorage Museum and president of the Native Village of Eklutna.
Billman was the longtime curator of the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka. The award recognizes a society, museum, government agency or organization for a project contributing to the preservation and understanding of Alaska history during the past year.
The Alaska Jewish Museum was awarded the Elva Scott Local Historical Society Award for its virtual exhibit, From Purchase to Prosperity: The Jewish Founders of the Alaska Commercial Company, co-curated by Leslie Fried and J. Pennelope Goforth.
Scott was a founder of Homer’s Natural History Society and Pratt Museum, and after moving to Eagle was newsletter editor, tour guide and officer of its historical society. The award recognizes a historical society or museum for its programs, newsletter, publication or a significant recent accomplishment.
The Jewish Museum exhibit looks at Alaska’s history through West Coast risk-taking Jewish businessmen who engaged in commerce following the departure of the Russians and established a company that still operates in Alaska today. The exhibit tackles the complicated relationship between Western commercial enterprise and diverse Native peoples and the impact of colonialism on them. The website includes documents, images—several in 3D, and a bibliography. Information is clearly presented, and the site is well-designed to easily navigate through the exhibit.
The Society made four awards in its Contributions to Alaska History Awards, which recognize individuals and groups for projects, publications and other efforts that have significantly promoted and added to understanding Alaska history.
Ketchikan Museums was recognized for its newsletter and website’s Artifact of the Month column. The feature is a highlight of the quarterly email newsletter from the Tongass Historical Museum and Totem Heritage Center. Each Artifact of the Month has a photo of an object used in Ketchikan, often related to a current exhibit, and a story about how it was used.
Fairbanks historians Leanna Prax Williams and Rebecca Heaton received the award for coordinating and advocating for Alaska History Day. The program, in partnership with National History Day, has promoted learning and applying historical skills to Alaskan students for over 30 years. Williams and Heaton, who worked with the Fairbanks History Fair for more than five years, stepped up to undertake coordinating the state competition. Under their leadership, entries nearly doubled this year and at least 800 students participated in some way.
Anchorage educator Alice Tower Knapp received a Contributions to Alaska History Award for her book, On Track!: The Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage. A retired school librarian and lifelong Nordic skier, Knapp spent her Covid years going through scrapbooks, newsletters, photographs and administrative records of Anchorage’s Nordic ski association that started in 1964. She details early races and hosting national competitions, the popular backcountry and Junior Nordic programs, the growth of ski jumping and biathlon programs, and club events like the annual Ski Train, Ski for Women, and Tour of Anchorage.
Fairbanks historian Chris Allan was recognized for a long list of significant contributions to the AHS over the past two decades. His contributions include writing 14 engaging articles that have been published in the journal Alaska History, authoring the regular oddments in our newsletter, generously providing content for our website including eight Eyewitness Series booklets that showcase voices of the past, finding beaver logs and making auction donations.
Allan served two terms on the Board of Directors, was president for two years, program chair, oversaw a redesign of the website, and is frequently called on to answer obscure inquiries that come to the Society. He works for the National Park Service as historian for Gates of the Arctic and Yukon-Charley Rivers parks and preserves.
This year’s recipient of the Morgan and Jeanie Sherwood Award for best article in the last volume of Alaska History, the peer-reviewed journal of the Alaska Historical Society, went to Ray Hudson for his article “The Imaginary Frontier and Its True Poverty: The Aleutian Islands at the End of the Nineteenth and Beginning of the Twentieth Centuries.”
Hudson lived and taught at Unalaska for about 30 years and has written articles and published books about the people and place. The late Professor Sherwood was a longtime Alaska historian and he and his wife endowed the award with a $500 annual prize.
The Society also presented a special award to acknowledge the enormous contributions of board member Rachel Mason, an Anchorage National Park Service historian. Mason has served as an officer, program chair, awards chair, member of the newsletter staff and in about every other capacity with the society.
Her historical research is often of difficult research topics. Three of her ground-breaking studies include Seward’s red light district, coordinating publication of Nick Golodoff’s memoir about the Attuans internment in Japan during World War II, and documenting the “lost Aleutian villages” that Unangan residents taken to Southeast Alaska internment camps during World War II were not allowed to return to.
The final award is the President’s Award, known as the Beaver Log because it comes with an authentic log felled by an Alaska beaver. This year’s award went to Kaila Pfister, a new member of the AHS board.
She was recognized for excellent service including her efforts to have the Society use technology to spread the word about Alaska history including the Society’s website, Facebook postings, and overseeing technology at the annual conference which was both live in-person and Zoomed. Pfister also has served on the logo and journal redesign committees and will be leading the organization through a redesign of its website this coming year.
The Alaska Historical Society is the state’s only statewide historical association dedicated to preserving and educating Alaskans about the state’s history.
The Alaska Historical Society is reviving its annual conference silent auction. The auction is the organization’s primary fundraiser to support its many programs. All auction items
have been generously donated by supporters and friends.
Look inside to explore the treasures to be had. Many are books—some familiar, some rare and unusual. There are lots of great and quirky ephemera items. Take this opportunity to build your Alaskana collection or to acquire items to give as gifts. At the same time, you will be supporting the Alaska Historical Society.
The auction items will be displayed in the Book Room at the conference with bid sheets. There will also be several boxes of bargain books for sale. Several authors plan to bring books and will be signing and selling them too.
Those not attending the conference are welcome to submit bids through our email firstname.lastname@example.org. The AHS website www.alaskahistoricalsociety.org will be updated Friday evening and Saturday noon with the current high bids—in case remote bidders want to increase their bids. The auction will close Saturday at 5 p.m.
How the Auction Works
- All bids must be for a minimum of 50% of the listed estimated value.
- Bidding is open to all. Invite friends and family to bid!
- THE AUCTION ENDS AT 5 P.M. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2023.
- Successful bidders attending the conference should pay and take their items after the
auction closes or Sunday morning. Successful remote bidders will receive an email the
following week with instructions on how to pay. After payment is received, the items
will be mailed.
Remember to Bid early and often – the auction ends at 5 p.m. on Saturday!
Press Release: Historical Society to Launch Lecture/Discussion Series to Enhance Alaska Civil Discourse
Topics Include Americanization of Alaska, Native Sovereignty, Climate Change, Conservation and Development
News Release Contact: David Ramseur, President
July 17, 2023 907-317-3657
To help raise the level of civil discourse across Alaska, the Alaska Historical Society (AHS) is launching a four-part lecture and panel discussion series focused on major public policy issues facing Alaska. The sessions, scheduled to kick off this fall at the Anchorage Museum, are designed to combat the often willful distortion of history and create a more productive environment in which to arrive at sound public policy.
“Today in Alaska, as in much of the rest of the country, our civil discourse has deteriorated to a point where sensible public policy is not only enormously challenging, but often unachievable,” said William Schneider, University of Alaska Fairbanks professor emeritus and recent past president of the Alaska Historical Society.
“By demonstrating how knowledge of history can inform and improve current public policy debate, we hope to raise the level of discussion so an informed public can encourage decision-makers to draw on history to make fact-based policy which serves the broadest diversity of Alaskans,” Schneider said.
The AHS is Alaska’s largest statewide organization dedicated to the informed exchange of ideas through a factual appreciation of Alaska’s history. It is partnering with the Cook Inlet Historical Society and the Anchorage Museum on the series. The Atwood Foundation has provided a generous grant to cover costs. Other supporting organizations include the League of Women Voters, the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolf Debate Program and OLÉ!, an Anchorage-based nonprofit which offers educational classes.
Each session will feature a small panel of experts who will discuss the topic at hand and take questions from both a live and on-line audience. Alaska students will be encouraged to participate.
The series will tentatively kick off in October with a focus on the “Americanization of Alaska.” Starting in 1867 with the transfer of Alaska from Russian to American control, the federal government extended its administration over the territory. Americanization had both enormously positive and negative impacts which continue today. The unsettled relationship between the federal government, the state and Native groups deserves closer discussion as Alaskans consider areas such as resource management and policies relating to responsibilities to Alaska Natives under the federal trust.
Subsequent sessions will address:
Alaska Native sovereignty and equality for all – The landmark 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was broadly welcomed as the settlement of long-standing Alaska Native claims. Some contend the act greatly limits Native sovereignty while others point to Native assertion of self-governance and an active role in contracting for management of vital services such as health care and education.
Historic examples of how conservation and development can co-exist – Alaska is recognized as a state with rich natural resources vital to the nation. Since Statehood in 1959, resource development has been vital to the state. Similarly, conservation advocates and their organizations have played a role to ensure responsible development. This session will assess the historic record by pointing to examples that apply to present and future development.
Alaska: the canary in the coalmine for climate change – Many scientists consider Alaska Ground Zero for predicting the direction and impacts of climate change. This session will examine research produced in Alaska and how it speaks to the present.
The AHS has long been concerned about how the willful distortion of history and rampant misinformation shape public opinion and has driven the electorate both in Alaska and nationally into corners of extremism where reasonable compromise on vital public policy is too frequently unattainable. The Society has taken public positions on controversial public policy issues and with this series, hopes to strengthen Alaskans’ appreciation of our history and raise the level of our civil discourse.
More details about the series will be released closer to the first session in the fall.
Alaska History Day is coming up in April – please consider volunteering a few hours of your time as a judge!
What is Alaska History Day?
It is the Alaska statewide contest for National History Day. NHD is a year-long academic program focused on historical research, interpretation and creative expression for 6th- to 12th-grade students. By participating in NHD, students become writers, filmmakers, web designers, playwrights and artists as they create unique contemporary expressions of history.
When is it?
Judging for Alaska History Day will be April 3-10, with results announced April 14, 2023.
Who can be a judge?
You! We are looking for educators, historians, librarians, and others interested in serving as judges for our online contest. You don’t need to be an expert in a topic to be a judge! And since this contest is virtual, you can volunteer from anywhere you can connect to the internet. Why be a judge? Volunteering as a judge is an excellent way to support education in Alaska. You are helping our students gain crucial skills: problem solving, critical thinking, research and reading skills, self-confidence, and more.
What does an AHD judge do?
After a judging orientation, you will review student projects and offer constructive feedback; then, work with your fellow judging team members to rank the entries.
How to sign up?
Fill out the judges’ information form here.
You will also need to register as a judge here so you can access student entries.
Keep an eye out in your email for additional updates and scheduling.