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.
Upcoming Session Topics:
March 21: Conservation and Development Can Co-exist: Historic Examples
April 18: Alaska: The Canary in the Coalmine for Climate Change
The panel will focus on what Alaska’s history can teach us about the relationship between
economic growth and our interests in stewarding Alaska’s lands and waters for present and future
generations. This panel will look to debates spanning issues such as damming the Yukon River to
Alaskan responses to oil and gas development, and if the binary between conservation and
development serves the complexities of decisions facing Alaska’s residents and lands.
– Jen Rose Smith, dAXunhyuu (Eyak, Alaska Native), assistant professor of Geography
and American Indian Studies at the University of Washington.
– Karlin Nageak Itchoak, Inupiat, senior regional director of the Wilderness Society for
Alaska and of Inupiaq heritage.
– James Magdanz, independent researcher specializing in hunting and fishing economies
– Moderated by Bathsheba Demuth, Dean’s Associate Professor of History and
Environment and Society, Brown University.
Alaska is often referred to the canary in the coalmine for climate change – or rather, Ground Zero
for predicting the direction and impacts of climate change. How can current and historical
records help us better understand the differences between these terms, the roots of climate
change as seen in Alaska, and what we may see in the future?
– Rick Thoman, climate specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and
Policy at UAF and the lead author of the 2023 Arctic Report Card.
– Ken Tape, climate change specialist and research associate professor at the University of
– Jackie Qataliña Schaeffer, director of Climate Initiatives for the Alaska Native Tribal
– Moderated by Molly McCammon, an Alaska Historical Society board member and
senior advisor at the Alaska Ocean Observing System.
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.
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.