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Internships Available

The Alutiiq Museum has two summer internships available. Work with our staff caring for museum facilities and collections, or join our archaeological field crew and learn to excavate with the pros at Community Archaeology 2014. No experience is needed for either position. This is a great opportunity to learn more about Alutiiq heritage and the museum profession. For more information contact Brian Fraley, 907-486-7004, x25, or download a job description and an application form below.  Applications are due June 30th by 4:30 pm.

Museum Internship

Community Archaeology Internship

 

Photo:  Andrea Gover, Community Archaeology Intern, 2012

 
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The Alutiiq Museum just received its third National Science Foundation Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) grant.  This new three-year archives improvement project will increase access to Alutiiq language recordings for both researchers and community members.  We named the project Naken-Natmen, “Where from-Where to,” in recognition of its dual purpose ¾to evaluate and protect language recordings collected in the past, and to plan for additional recordings needed to preserve the Alutiiq language.

Dr. April Counceller and Dr. Alisha Drabek will co-lead the project, in collaboration with a new project manager, a graduate student intern, and Elders.  Michael “Nanit’sqaq” Bach joined the Alutiiq Museum crew on May 19 to serve as Language Archives Specialist and project manager.  Bach earned his B.A. in Languages and International Studies, at the College of St. Scholastica and his M.A. in Northern Studies from University of Alaska Fairbanks this May, 2014.  Bach is now an Intermediate fluent Alutiiq speaker and has extensive experience working with archival resources at both the Afognak Tribal Library and the University of Alaska Fairbanks archives.  He will complete digital transfer of audio and video recordings, develop the archive catalog, produce finding aids, and assist in fieldwork and outreach activities.

The growing archive of Alutiiq language recordings at the Alutiiq Museum are challenging to access.  As part of this new project, we will create an online Alutiiq Language Archive Database, cross-referenced with the Alaska Native Language Archive (ANLA), and an Alutiiq Speaker Registry with biographic profiles and recorded samples.  The project will serve as the backbone for the next phase of Alutiiq language revitalization.

Photo:  Michael Bach, Alutiiq Language Archives Specialist

 
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The Alutiiq Museum Store is more than a first class retail outlet, it’s an essential part of the museum’s mission. By providing Kodiak artists with a place to show and sell their work, the store helps Alutiiq arts to thrive.  It promotes knowledge of Alutiiq traditions and encourages artists to keep creating.

To insure that the museum’s store and programs are meeting the needs of artists, we recently formed a Cultural Arts Committee.  This seven-member group will work with Store Manager Cristina Faiella and Executives Director Alisha Drabek as liaisons for the Alutiiq arts community.  The volunteer committee meets quarterly and its founding members include Coral Chernoff, Vickie Era, Jerry Laktonen, Jacqueline Madsen, Susan Malutin, Cindy Pennington, and Hanna Sholl.

One of the committee’s first tasks has been assisting with a revision of the museum store policy.  Artist wanted clearer guidelines on the use of animal products.  From discussions we learned of a need for resources and training on the complicated laws that surround the use of everything from animal pelts to feathers and ivory in artwork. The group also plans to discuss art forms at risk of being lost, ways to support youth arts training in Alutiiq villages, support for artist travel, the use of social media in arts promotion, and many other issues.  Share your ideas for promoting Alutiiq arts by speaking to a committee member or contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 907-486-7004.

Photo:  Artist Hanna Sholl, a member of the Cultural Arts Committee, displays examples of her work in the museum’s gallery.

 
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Seal and sea lion intestine are the featured materials in some of Coral Chernoff’s latest works. Using this lightweight, flexible animal tissue, she has been stitching bags.  With funding from the Rasmuson Foundation Art Acquisition three examples are now part of the Alutiiq Museum’s collection.

These beautiful containers were inspired both by her 2011 trip to view ancestral collections in Russia and her work with natural materials.  Chernoff harvests and processes many of the fibers, features, and animal skins used in her artwork.  In addition to gutskin, each of these bags feature an opening rim reinforced with salmon skin and stiches of deer sinew thread. Two have accents of ptarmigan feathers, and all are highlighted with fringe of silk embroidery floss.

Photo: Gut skin bags by Coral Chernoff, 2013.  Purchased for the Alutiiq Museum’s collections with funding from the Rasmuson Foundation Art Acquisition program.

 
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On May 3, we celebrated an Alutiiq language community workshop at Kodiak College. Keynote speaker Laura Cornelius of the Oneida Nation shared inspiring messages about language revitalization and wellbeing.  Her presentation offered up recommendations for developing motivation in language learners and addressing the legacy of historical trauma that impacts Indigenous language revitalization efforts.  Cornelius has studied the Oneida language, developed education programs, and encouraged cultural discussions about language revitalization and wellness for over 30 years.

More than 50 people participated in the symposium, including adult language learners, students and small children, families, supporters, and Elders.  Together we celebrated the Alutiiq language and the contributions made by our fluent Elders.  We enjoyed performances by the Kodiak Alutiiq Dancers and Randy Cornelius of the Oneida Nation.  Booths featured new learning publications and opportunities, and works by local artists Coral Chernoff and Hanna Palmer Sholl.  The event was co-sponsored by Kodiak College, Kodiak Island Borough School District, the Alutiiq Museum, and the Native Village of Afognak through funding from an ANA Language Grant #90NL0530-01-00 and Afognak Native Corporation.

 
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A new corner of the Alutiiq Center building will soon become an integral part of the Alutiiq Museum.  This summer, collections storage is expanding to a newly outfitted room specially designed for the care of stone objects. A generous grant from the M.J.  Murdock Charitable Trust is making this move possible.

Over the past two decades, the Alutiiq Museum has grown its collections substantially, so much so that the original storage room is no longer big enough to accommodate additional items.  “We are simply out of space,” said Curator of Collections Marnie Leist.  “We’ve done all we can to maximize the use of our storage area, but to continue collecting, we need additional space.” 

The solution–move artifacts that don’t require rigid climate control for their preservation to a new holding area.  Many of the objects in the museum’s care are stone tools–hammers, sinkers, lamps, scrapers, and other durable archaeological pieces. While these tools tell important stories, they don’t require a steady temperature or humidity to insure their preservation.  Paintings, clothing, wooden artifacts, and even paper archives need a consistent climate, but stone tools are less sensitive.

This summer Leist and Collections Assistant Natalie Wadle will undertake the big move.  The goal of the project is not only to shift stone collections to the new space, but to rearrange more delicate objects in the climate controlled part of the repository. Leist explains.

“This is a complicated project.  We have to set up the new storage room, carefully move objects into it, track the location of every item–over 25,000 pieces, and then reorganize materials in our climate controlled repository.  But in the end, our storage will be ready to hold the next generation of collection.  This project is part of our larger effort to renew museum facilities and sustain professional activities in the coming decades.”

Photo: A drawer full of stone lamps in the museum’s storage room.  These are the types of artifacts that will be moved to basement storage this summer, freeing space for new collections in the environmentally friendly repository.


 
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Alutiiq Museum archaeologist Patrick Saltonstall is used to working around bears.  For years he has been hiking through some of Kodiak’s prime bear territory, coexisting with the big brownies as he studies ancient settlements. While Saltonstall has a healthy respect for these powerful creatures, he also has a professional fascinated with their behavior.  What do bears have to teach an archaeologist?

It turns out that archaeologists aren’t the only mammals who enjoy spending time at ancient settlements. As the long days and warm temperatures of spring arrive on Kodiak, bears feed on tender green plants. Ancient villages have nutrient rich soils, fertilized by the gradual decay of age-old garbage. Plants thrive in these soils, growing lush foliage that draws hungry animals. Moreover, the deep, grassy depressions formed by the collapse of prehistoric houses make great bear beds, a natural swale for a well-fed bear to take a nap.  As a result bears are common spring visitors to Kodiak’s archaeological sites, and a serious source of disturbance.

“Bear dig when they're feeding and making beds” said Saltonstall, “putting holes in archaeological sites. And while they hang out at a site, they will walk up and down its banks, creating trails that cause erosion. This sort of damage is particularly common along Kodiak’s large salmon streams.  Bears waiting for fish to arrive hang out around archaeological sites, feeding, digging, sleeping and even fighting.  I’ve seen sites covered with bear holes.  Some deposits are so badly pitted that you can’t make out the house depressions any more.”

What does this mean for an archaeologist?  First, studying the damage caused by bears is helping Saltonstall to fine tune his eyes–to tell the difference between a depression created by a bear and one created by an Alutiiq ancestor.  Second, it’s helping him to understand the forces that alter sites.  Decay and disturbance impact every site, but knowing how to recognize the signs of these forces helps researchers interpret their finds.  And finally, Saltonstall has learned to approach village sites with a little extra care.  Experience tells him he might encounter a snoozing bear in one of the old barabara depressions he wants to map.

Photo: Bears feeding on the shore of Karluk Lake, Spring 2009, by an area of recent digging.

 
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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.