AHS Blog  |  News

National Author, Environmental Historian to Open Fall Conference

Date Posted: August 14, 2022       Categories: News

Professor Bathsheba Demuth, a cutting-edge environmental historian whose first book won numerous national awards, will be the keynote speaker at this October’s Alaska Historical Society’s annual conference, which is co-sponsored by the Cook Inlet Historical Society.

Demuth will speak on the topic, “History from a Dogsled: The Yukon and the Stakes of Telling the Past,” at the Anchorage Museum at 7 p.m. on October 6, 2022. 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.

Her presentation will be followed by a book-signing for her book, Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait. Her talk also will be live-streamed by the museum. In addition to kicking off the AHS conference, Demuth’s presentation will be part of the Cook Inlet Historical Society’s regular lecture series at the museum.

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. When not in Alaska, she lives in Rhode Island.

This year’s multiple-day Alaska Historical Society conference (Oct. 7-8 and 13-15; virtual through the Crowdcast streaming application) will focus on the theme, “Conflicting Visions of Alaska History.” From the first European exploration of Alaska, the region’s history has been subject to widely diverse and often conflicting accounts, from Russian coercion of Alaska Native peoples in the sea otter trade to conflicts about oil development and Native land claims. Numerous presentations over portions of six days will focus on those issues. Other conference workshops will focus on Native American boarding schools, Alaska Native land claims and community-based history.

Conference registration is $50 and opens August 15.

For more information about Bathsheba Demuth and her presentation, see the Alaska Historical Society’s July 7, 2022 Press Release, “National Author, Environmental Historian to Open Fall History Conference.”

2022 Annual Conference

Date Posted: July 7, 2022       Categories: News

Alaskans burn President Jimmy Carter in effigy during the Alaska lands battle, circa 1978. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Collection. Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Conflicting Visions in Alaska History
Alaska Historical Society Annual Conference
October 6-8 and 13-15, 2022

The Alaska Historical Society will be hosting their 2022 annual conference on October 6-8 and 13-15, 2022, in collaboration with the Cook Inlet Historical Society. An in-person reception and keynote presentation by environmental historian Bathsheba Demuth (“History from a Dogsled: The Yukon and the Stakes of Telling the Past”) will occur at the Anchorage Museum on October 6 at 7pm and will be live streamed. The rest of the conference presentations and panel discussions will be virtual through the Crowdcast streaming application. Some in-person tours may also be available in Anchorage.

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 will include a panel on Alaskan boarding schools, featuring former students at Mount Edgecumbe and other schools.

The conference also highlights the importance of recent history. Panels are planned on the rollout of ANCSA and preparations for the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline, both of which occurred within the last 50 years. We plan to offer mini- workshops in methods of studying, archiving, interpreting and teaching recent history.

Conference registration is $50 and registration is now open.

For more information, including a program schedule, go to the AHS conference webpage.

For more information about Bathsheba Demuth and her presentation, see the Alaska Historical Society’s July 7, 2022 Press Release, “National Author, Environmental Historian to Open Fall History Conference.”

For more information or questions, contact: Rachel Mason, Program Chair, rachel_mason@nps.gov

2022 AHS Awards: Request for Nominations

Date Posted: July 7, 2022       Categories: News

Do you know individuals and groups which have done a worthy project, made long-term contributions to local history, made historical materials better known, or written a book that has contributed to the understanding and preservation of Alaska’s history this past year? It is time to nominate these folks for recognition by the Alaska Historical Society.

Each year the Alaska Historical Society recognizes, through its awards program, individuals, historical societies, and public institutions for outstanding research, writing, and promotion of Alaska history. AHS invites nominations for its 2021 awards.

The James H. Ducker Alaska Historian of the Year Award is given to an Alaska resident for publication of significant new material about Alaska’s past published the last sixteen months. history during the past year. Historian James Ducker edited the Society’s scholarly journal Alaska History for 30 years.

The Esther Billman Certificate of Excellence award is given to local or state historical society, museum, government agency, or other organization for a project or series of projects contributing to the preservation and understanding of Alaska history. Esther Billman’s service as curator at the Sheldon Jackson Museum is commemorated by the award.

The Evangeline Atwood Award is given to an individual for significant long-term contributions to Alaska state or local history. Evangeline Atwood was one of the founders of the Alaska Historical Society.

The Barbara Smith Pathfinder Award is given to an individual or individuals for indexing or preparing guides to Alaska historical material. Barbara Smith, a historian, archivist, and exhibit curator prepared invaluable guides to Alaska Native, Russian Orthodox, and Russian American records.

The Elva R. Scott Local Historical Society Award is for a special achievement of a community historical society or museum to make the local people and historical events known. Elva Scott was a founder of Homer’s Pratt Museum, and after moving to Eagle was the newsletter editor, tour guide, and official of its historical society.

The Student and Beginning Professional Travel Scholarship Awards are cash awards given to help individuals attend and participate in the Alaska Historical Society’s annual meeting and conference.

The Contributions to Alaska History Award recognize an individual or groups that have made  singular and significant recent contributions to the promotion and understanding of Alaska history.

A letter of nomination with sufficient detail and supporting materials should be sent to the AHS Awards Committee, members@alaskahistoricalsociety.org or mailed to P.O. Box 100299, Anchorage, AK 99510.  Nominations for the Ducker Award must include a copy of the publication for the committee’s use.

Nominations are due August 30, 2022.

Denaina Place Names Project

Date Posted: May 5, 2022       Categories: News

Chanshtnu place name marker designed by Ahtna artist Melissa Shaginoff. Photo courtesy of Anchorage Park Foundation.

The Alaska Historical Society is honored to endorse an effort to introduce Native place names to parks and trails in Alaska to expose more Alaskans and visitors to the invaluable contributions of Native people to our state.

The Denaina Place Names Project in Anchorage recently installed a sign at downtown Anchorage’s Westchester Lagoon. The “Chanshtnu” sign shares the Dena’ina place name for nearby Chester Creek, which means “Grass Creek.” Support for this project has been provided by the Anchorage Park Foundation and the Rasmuson Foundation.

To learn more about the Chanshtnu sign project, watch the Indigenous Place Names Project video by Alyssa Yax Adi Yadi London for Culture Stories.

Alaskana Collection at Loussac Library

Date Posted: April 22, 2022       Categories: News

As part of its continuing efforts to advocate for the preservation and public access of Alaska historical materials, the Alaska Historical Society has partnered with the Cook Inlet Historical Society to request Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson to proceed expeditiously to create new space in the Anchorage Loussac Library to protect and display the library’s historical collection. “Without timely action by your administration on this issue, Anchorage could lose federal grant funds and an opportunity to renovate space for this collection, an effort to which community members have dedicated significant time and creative energy over the past several years,” the societies wrote.

View full letter.