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The Alutiiq Museum seeks contemporary works of art for its permanent collection through the support of the Rasmuson Art Acquisition Fund. Works will be selected based on criteria established by the Rasmuson Foundation and the Alutiiq Museum’s art acquisitions guidelines. The museum’s Board of Directors, with help from museum staff and the collections advisory committee, will approve the purchases. Each artist may submit up to five works of visual art for consideration, in any medium. For more information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 907-4876-7004, x24.

ALL SUBMISSION MATERIALS MUST BE RECEIVED BY THE ALUTIIQ MUSEUM BY 5:00 pm, Monday, April 28, 2014

Photo: Parka made by Lalla Williams (left), purchased with funding from the Rasmuson Foundation.

 
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Alutiiq language revitalization has been a focus at the Alutiiq Museum since 2003. After ten years, it is heartening to reflect back on the accomplishments of our Elders, communities, and organizations. Yet, there is so much more to be done. To develop the next steps in language revitalization, we recently cohosted strategic planning sessions with NVA, tribal organizations, and Kodiak College.  Participants from across the Alutiiq nation developed a series of action steps, adopted by the Qik’rtarmiut Alutiit Committee, our regional planning group. Together, we reconfirmed the movement’s mission “To bring back the sound of Alutiiq to the voices of our youth, through the words of our Elders,” and developed overarching strategies to guide efforts:

•  Facilitate and strengthen fluency acquisition for Alutiiq learners and speakers.

•  Grow language education, outreach, and public awareness to support Alutiiq speakers and program efforts.

•  Develop and promote the use of targeted Alutiiq language educational materials.

•  Increase partnerships and communication to strengthen the language movement for a healthy Alutiiq Nation.

•  Celebrate and sustain the many ways of speaking Alutiiq.

To address these goals, the group planned a community engagement campaign for Alutiiq language learning and wellness, an annual symposium to develop partnerships and improve communications, language learning kits built from existing resources, and support for language acquisition outreach that celebrates the many ways of speaking Alutiiq. No one organization can accomplish language revitalization but in partnership and with the commitment of individuals and their families, we are kindling the spark of Alutiiq language in our youth.

These efforts are underfunded. You can show your support by donating to the Alutiiq Language Fund and by participating in community language activities. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to discuss the many ways you can learn Alutiiq, or visit the Alutiiq Language web site or the Alutiiq Museum's language learning web pages.

 
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Want to practice speaking or just explore the possibilities of learning Alutiiq? The Alutiiq Museum hosts Community Language Night every Tuesday from 6:30-8:00 pm.  People of all ages and familiarity with the language are welcomed. This is a great place for beginners of any age to start learning Alutiiq.

At Kodiak Middle School, teens can participate in the Alutiiq Culture Club, an afterschool activity scheduled Thursdays from 3:30-4:30 pm.  Founded by Teri Schneider and Meagan Mickelson at KIBSD, with support from Taletha Gertz of Native Village of Afognak and Marya Halvorsen of the Alutiiq Museum, this program shares cultural activities with youth.  Crafts, field trips, and now language learning games are among the fun activities.  Kodiak High School student can also take an Alutiiq language class.  Led by Candace Branson and Gayla Pedersen, this seminar style, yearlong course focuses on conversational skills and cultural awareness.  And through the Alutiiq Studies program at Kodiak College, Dr. April Laktonen teaches Alutiiq 101, assisted by Candace Branson, as well as many other Alutiiq Studies courses and services.

Every Thursday morning some of Kodiak’s youngest residents gather at the Native Village of Afognak.  From 8:30 – 9:30 am, children under age three participate in Wamlita, an hour of games, songs, and activities that feature the Alutiiq language.  Led by Marya Halvorsen, Alisha Drabek, and Lynda Lorenson, this weekly class for infants and toddlers is just one of the growing number of accessible, fun, and effective opportunities to learn the Alutiiq language.

Other partner language outreach: Susie and Denise Malutin, through NVA, teach Alutiiq crafts and songs in their After School Program, where students can learn some Alutiiq too. NVA is now piloting Preschool and Kindergarten language lesson outreach into public schools, led by Lynda Lorensen and Sean Hales. This summer at Dig Afognak kids can enroll in an Alutiiq Language and Dance Camp at the end of July 2014. In Anchorage there is also a growing movement to learn Alutiiq led by John Yakanak and Misty Gardner in partnership with NVA, the Alaska Native Heritage Center and Alaska Pacific University.

All of these opportunities reflect the gifts, commitments and collaboration of community organizations, such as the Native Village of Afognak’s Teacher Mentorship Project through a grant from Administration for Native Americans (ANA) Grant # 90NL0530-01-00, the Afognak Native Corporation, the Alutiiq Heritage Foundation, Kodiak College, the Kodiak Island Borough School District, and Natives of Kodiak, Inc.

Photo:  An Alutiiq language lesson underway.

 
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People often ask how many archaeological sites there are on Kodiak.  The answer, we don’t know.  While the archipelago has an incredibly rich archaeological record, with about 1,000 recorded prehistoric sites, it also has a lot of uninvestigated territory.

“Past research has focused on specific areas of the islands,” said Alutiiq Museum archaeologist Patrick Saltonstall.  “Until recently, most surveys were on the coast, and focused on specific bays. This means that there are big gaps in our knowledge.”

For land managers, like Koniag, Inc. this uneven coverage can make it difficult to care for ancestral settlements, the deposits of animals remains, artifacts, and ancient houses that preserve information on the history of Kodiak Alutiiq people.  Managers need to know where these sensitive deposits lie in order to protect them from everything from development to digging bears. This summer the Alutiiq Museum hopes to fill some of those gaps for Koniag, Inc. by surveying areas of corporation lands that have not been fully investigated.

Saltonstall explained.  “We have a grant from the National Park Service to look at three areas of Koniag lands.  Last fall we investigated corporation holdings on the coast of northern Afognak Island and found 11 previously unrecorded sites.  This summer we will be visiting the Sturgeon River valley and Uyak Bay to find and evaluate sites.”

Saltonstall’s research involves walking over areas likely to hold sites and documenting finds with notes, photos, and video.  “Our methods are low tech,” said Saltonstall, “but the resulting data are enormously valuable to preserving Alutiiq heritage.  We learn how people used the landscape, and at the same time, we understand how modern forces like erosion, are eating away this irreplaceable record.” 

Following the survey, the museum will combine information from their surveys with data from previous research on Koniag lands in the Karluk River valley.  This will create a comprehensive site inventory for Koniag, along with recommendations for site management.   Already, the archaeologists are seeing patterns in site destruction.  “On Afognak Island many of the early sites seem to have been washed away.  We are finding mostly small, late prehistoric settlements, villages from the past 500 years.”

Photo: Patrick Saltonstall and Mark Rusk survey Koniag, Inc. lands at Karluk Lake.

 
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Catherine West, Boston University
Samantha Dunning, University of Alaska Anchorage
Courtney Hofman, University of Maryland

How long have ground squirrels lived on Chirikof Island?  Were they native to the island, taken there by Native people, or a recent introduction?  A team of researchers asked these questions after a trip to Chirikof Island in the summer of 2013.  Inspired by Don Clark’s work on Chirikof, where he found ground squirrel bones in archaeological sites, we wondered if we could figure out two things:  1) by dating those bones, could we tell how long ground squirrels have been on Chirikof? And, 2) by looking at the ancient DNA in the archaeological bones, could we tell if the ancient squirrels were related to the squirrels living on the island today?

To answer these questions, we collected animal bones from archaeological sites along Chirikof’s coastline. People living on Chirikof left the evidence of their hunting and gathering activities in the trash, or midden, beside their villages.  In these middens, which are as old as 2000 years, we found ground squirrel bones.  By carefully collecting and documenting the bones, we were able to radiocarbon date examples and to analyze their ancient DNA.

The results were exciting!  While some people have thought that Russian or American visitors introduced the squirrels to Chirikof Island, we found archaeological squirrel bones dating to more than 2,000 years old.  We don’t know yet if Alutiiq people brought squirrels to the island, or they made their own way, but ancient DNA analysis indicates that the squirrels living on Chirikof today are likely the direct descendants of those living there 2,000 years ago.  This means that this long-lasting population has thrived on stormy Chirikof for thousands of years.  The next step is to try to figure out where the squirrels came from.

Photo: Chirikof Island ground squirrel, summer 2013.