Identity, Language & Culture

Bissett, Hallie. “I am Alaska Native.” Recent UAA graduate and current MBA student, Dena’ina Athabascan Hallie Bissett discusses her struggle to understand her indigenous identity. She not only comes to terms with her culture, but also realizes how central it is to her life.

Breinig, Jeane. “Alaska Native Writers, Alaska Native Identities.” Jeane Breinig, Ph.D., Haida, is currently a UAA Associate Professor of English. In this essay, Breinig discusses how four Alaska Natives writers portray aspects of their contemporary identities, while still maintaining connections to their respective cultural traditions.

Bruchac, Joseph W. III. “We are the In-betweens: An Interview with Mary TallMountain.” Studies in American Indian Literatures, Series 2, Vol. 1, Num.1 (Summer 1989). Interview with nationally renowned Koyukun-Athabascan writer (who was adopted into a white family at the age of six) about her life and writings.

Burch, Ernest S., Jr. “From Skeptic to Believer: The Making of an Oral Historian.” Ernie Burch, Jr. Ph.D., social anthropologist, specializes in the early historic social organization of the Inupiaq. In this essay, he argues for the validity of using Native oral histories to truly understand the historical record. He contends that oral histories are often ignored or misunderstood by academics, and argues for their inclusion in research projects.

Fast, Phyllis. “Alaska Native Language, Culture and Identity.” Essay, 2008. Phyllis Fast, Ph.D., Athabascan, is UAA Associate Professor of Anthropology. She is also an author and an artist. In this essay, Fast discusses the value of pre-colonial religious traditions and language, as well as the post-colonial impact of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971 and the ANCSA 1991 Amendments of 1988.

Hensley, Willie. “Speech at Bilingual Conference.” Anchorage, 1981. William Hensley, Inupiaq, architect of ANCSA, reflects on key issues regarding the relationship between schooling, education and the future of Alaska Native cultures in a 1981 speech to the annual Bilingual/ MultiEducation Conference.

Jacobson, Steven A. “Central Yup’ik and the Schools.” This handbook was designed to assist school districts in providing effective educational services to students from the Yup’ik language group. This is one of three handbooks developed to increase school districts' and school personnel's understanding of selected Alaska Native language groups.

Maclean, Edna Ahgeak. “Why Don’t We Give Our Children to Our Native Languages?” Edna Maclean, Ph.D., Inupiaq, former president of Iligsavik College, provides an overview of the effects of education on Alaska Native languages, a discussion of the State of Alaska's approach to bilingual education, and suggestions for ways to revive and maintain Alaska Native languages.

Oquilluk, William. “People of Kauwerak: Legends of the Northern Eskimo.” William Oquilluk, Inupiaq from Point Hope (1896-1972), wrote down these stories of his people when he was concerned they would be lost without written documentation. This excerpt from his book focuses on one of the disasters that befell the people.

TallMountain, Mary. “Indian Blood.” Poem by nationally renowned Koyukon Athabascan writer.

Thompson, Chad. Athabaskan Languages and the Schools: A Handbook for Teachers. Jane McGary, Ed. Alaska Native Language Center, 1984. Chad Thompson, Ph.D., linguist, describes the job of a linguist and provides an overview of Athabascan languages.

Williams, Brad. “A Bridge Between Two Worlds: the term half breed gets a new definition.” True North, Spring 1999. Brad Williams, reporter for True North, interviews several “mixed identity” Alaska Native citizens, including Jack Dalton, Tim Gilbert, and Priscilla Hensley, who describe their struggles to come to terms with who they are today.

Other Web sites of Interest Alaska Native Language Center:

Internationally recognized, the ANLC was established in 1972 by state legislation as a center for documentation and cultivation of the state's 20 Native languages. Housed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, ANLC publishes research in story collections, dictionaries, grammars, and research papers. ANLC also maintains an archival collection of more than 10,000 items.



Online Readings Please visit our web site at for a variety of supplemental readings, including the following:

Feedback from Margi Brown, President and CEO, Cook Inlet Region, Inc.
September 2008 letter from Margi Brown, President and CEO, Cook Inlet Region, Inc., to UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer.

Arnold, Robert. Alaska Native Land Claims. Anchorage: Alaska Native Foundation, 1978. Though dated, a key text about the history and politics of the Native land claims in Alaska. Out of print.

Bigjim, Frederick Seagayuk and James Ito-Adler. “Letter to Howard: An Interpretation of the Alaska Native Land Claims.” Anchorage: Alaska Methodist University Press, 1974. Early concerns about the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act written as letters to the editor from fictional characters.

Fast, Phyllis. “A Legacy of Sharing” in Sakuuktugut: Alaska Native Corporations by Alexandra J. McClahanan. Anchorage: CIRI Foundation, 2006. Discusses how traditional Native value of sharing has been incorporated into modern practices of Alaska Native corporations.

Hensley, William L. Iggiagruk. What Rights to Land Have the Alaska Natives? May 2001. Paper written by Inupiaq land claims leader Willie Hensley as a graduate student in a UA Constitutional Law class in 1966. Researching and writing this paper sparked Hensley’s lifetime of activism on behalf of Native peoples and their lands and cultures.

Mallott, Byron. “One Day in the Life of a Native Chief Executive,” Alaska Native News (October 1985) vol. 2, page 22. Tlingit leader Byron Mallott describes an ordinary day as a CEO of an Alaska Native corporation, with activities both similar to and distinct from non-Native corporations.



Alaska Natives Commission, Final Report, Volume III, “Alaska Native Subsistence”

Angasan, Trefon. “Subsistence is What Connects You to the Land.” Essay by Bristol Bay Native Corporation shareholder and former co-chair of the board of directors of the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN).

Attungana, Patrick.”Whale Hunting in Harmony.” Translated remarks by Inupiaq whaler Kimmialuk (English name: Patrick Attungana) in an article in the June 1985 issue of magazine Alaska Native News magazine, published in the 1980s.

Burwell, Mike. “Hunger Knows No Law: Seminal Native Protest and the Barrow Duck-In of 1961.” United States Department of the Interior, Mineral Management Service. Paper presented to the 2004 Alaska Historical Society detailing the protest by Alaska Native people against federal control over their hunting rights, and, therefore, their lands and lives.

Burwell, Mike.“The 1976 Decline of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd.” 2006. Research paper written for UAA Anthropology class which details the sources of tension between rural Native subsistence hunters and non-local game management decision-making entities and policies.

Merculieff, Ilarion “Larry.” “Heart of the Halibut.” Essay by deputy director of the Alaska Native Science Commission, former Alaska commissioner of Commerce and Economic Development, and former chairman of the board of the Aleut Corporation describing his coming of age as an Aleut youth by internalizing the wisdom of his Elders for subsistence fishing for halibut.

Pingayaq, Teresa. “Girls Do Not Get Seal.” Essay by student from Chevak enrolled in English 106 at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, 1973, describing the unusual occurrence of capturing a seal as a girl, since most girls did not hunt.

Climate Change

Cochran, Patricia. “Alaska Natives Left Out in the Cold.” BBC News, January 5, 2007. Article by Inupiaq executive director of the Alaska Native Science Commission and the Inuit Circumpolar Conference arguing that inaction by government agencies is forcing Native communities to adapt to the rapid effects of climate change on their own.

Mustonen, Tero. Stories of the Raven: Snowchange 2005 Conference Report. Anchorage, Northern Forum, June 2006. Report on conference held in Anchorage, Alaska to gather indigenous observations of effects of climate change in Alaska and identify necessary action steps. Published by the Northern Forum, a non-profit, international organization of subnational or regional governments from 10 northern countries.

Economic Development

Alaska Natives Commission Final Report, Volume II, Economic Issues and Rural Economic Development, 1998-2004.

Berger, Thomas R., Village Journey: The Report of the Alaska Native Review Commission, October 1985.

Ongtooguk, Paul, ANCSA: What Political Process? Alaska History and Cultural Studies Curriculum Project, Alaska Humanities Forum.


Tribal Government

Achieving Alaska Native Self-Governance: Towards Implementation of the Alaska Natives Commission Report. May 1999, The Economics Resource Group and the Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage. Report addressing such questions as: Can Native self-governance do a better job of dealing with Native problems than non-Native efforts have done? What should be the extent of such governance? What forms should it take?

Anderson, Loren. “What Defines Tribes in Alaska?” 2008. Essay by Alaska Native Heritage Center’s Alutiiq cultural ambassador.

Cornell, Stephen and Joseph P. Kalt. “Alaska Native Self-Government and Service Delivery: What Works?”, Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, 2003. Examines the debate that challenges the rights of Native peoples to determine how they will live their lives, manage their resources, and govern their affairs, and specifically addresses the question “What works?” with respect to the delivery of needed services to Alaska Native people and communities.

Leggett, Aaron. “Native Tribes in Alaska.” 2008 Essay by Alaska Native Heritage Center’s Dena’ina cultural historian.

Mitchell, Donald Craig. "Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie: Statutory Construction or Judicial Usurpation? Why History Counts." Alaska Law Review 14, no. 2 (1997): 353-441. Review of the legislative history determining the sovereignty status of Alaska Natives and the existence of “Indian Country” in Alaska.

Strommer, Geoffrey D. and Stephen D. Osborne. "’Indian Country’ and the Nature and Scope of Tribal Self-Government in Alaska.” Alaska Law Review 22, no. 1 (2005): 1-34. In response to the questions raised by the 1998 Supreme Court ruling that effectively denied the existence of Indian Country in Alaska, this article offers “1) an analysis of Alaska tribes' current jurisdiction, including areas of uncertainty due to their unique status as ‘sovereigns without territorial reach;’ and 2) a range of proposals designed to resolve those uncertainties and anomalies by at least partially restoring the ‘Indian country’ status of, and thus tribal territorial jurisdiction over, some tribal lands in Alaska.”


Effects of Colonialism

Bissett, Hallie. “I am Alaska Native” Recent UAA graduate and current MBA student, Dena’ina Athabascan Hallie Bissett discusses her struggle to understand her indigenous identity. She not only comes to terms with her culture, but also realizes how central it is to her life.

Burch, Ernest S. Jr. “The Inupiat and the Christianization of Arctic Alaska.” Etudes/Inuit/Studies 18, nos. 1-2 (1994): 81-108. “In 1890, when the first missions were established in Alaska north of Bering Strait, not a single Native in the region was a Christian. By 1910 Christianity was nearly universal.” This paper by a Smithsonian Institute anthropologist documents the course of these changes and presents an explanation of why they occurred as they did.

Covenant Restriction drafted in 1948 in Anchorage
 List of restrictions regarding property rights drafted in 1948 for Airport Heights subdivision in Anchorage, Alaska, including an article which excludes all non-whites from owning property in the area. Similar restrictions existed in many other areas of Alaska as well.

Hope, Herb. “Kiks.adi: Survival March of 1804” from Will the Time Ever Come? A Tlingit Sourcebook, by Andrew Hope and Thomas Thorton. Anchorage: Alaska Native Knowledge Network, 2000.

Jim Crow Laws Warranty Deed 1953
Warranty deed which outlines property ownership and dwelling rights for a tract in the Turnagain Heights Subdivision in Anchorage Alaska. Article 5 refused to allow ownership or dwelling to non-whites except in the case of servants employed by the owners.

Marston, Muktuk. “Beam in Thine Own Eye” in Men of the Tundra: Alaska Eskimos at War. New York: October House Inc. 1969, 1972. Firsthand documentation of racial injustice and segregation in Nome, Alaska by major in the United States Army Air Corps and delegate to the Alaska Constitutional Convention.

Merculieff, Ilarion “Larry.” “The Aleut Mouse that Roared, Parts I and II.” Essays, 2003. Personal recollections of Aleut deputy director of the Alaska Native Science Commission and former city manager of Saint Paul Island, Alaska, describing the extraordinary tensions and devastating social and economic effects brought on by the United States government’s abandonment of St. Paul in 1983. The government pull-out came in response to demands from the animal rights movement and a weakened market for the fur seal pelts that had long been harvested by a captive Aleut work force. These two pieces tell the story of a remarkable 48 hours out of that tumultuous year.

Peter, Evon. “The Colonization of Alaska Natives.” Essay by the executive director of Native Movement and former chief of the Neetsaii Gwich'in people in Vashraii K'oo (Arctic Village).

Ulmer, Fran. Speech to the Alaska Legislature Honoring Elizabeth Peratrovich,1992 Speech by then Representative (and now UAA Chancellor) Fran Ulmer honoring Tlingit civil rights activist, May, 1992.

Other Resources

Lekanoff, Anatoly. Aleut Internment. Audio tape. Recollections of an 11-year-old Aleut boy from the Pribilof Islands on the internment of the Aleut people during WWII.

McBride, Rhonda. Consider This, “Jim LaBelle, Native Boarding Schools,” #135. VHS recording of Channel 7 KSKA program hosted by McBride. Interview with UAA adjunct professor of Alaska Native Studies on his boarding school experience at the Wrangell Institute. 28 minutes.

McBride, Rhonda. Wrangell Institute: Legacy of Shame. Award-winning 3-part video series by KTUU Channel 2, 2003. Details incidents of repeated sexual abuse at a remote Alaska boarding school. Includes interviews with former students and follows them back to the Wrangell Institute where they participate in a healing convocation sponsored by the Episcopal Archdioceses in Fairbanks.


Education & Healthcare


Barnhardt, Ray, and Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley. “Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Alaska Native Ways of Knowing.” Anthropology and Education Quarterly 36, no. 1 (2005): 8-23. Article by Dr. Oscar Kawagley (born at Mamterilleq, now known as Bethel, Alaska) and Dr. Ray Barnhardt, two highly esteemed University of Alaska Fairbanks professors, which “seeks to extend our understandings of the learning processes within and at the intersection of diverse worldviews and knowledge systems” and to “move the role of Indigenous knowledge and learning from the margins to the center of educational research.”

Cotton, Stephen. “Alaska's Molly Hootch Case: High Schools and the Village Voice.” Documents the landmark court case in 1972 which provided for the establishment of a high school in 126 villages (unless people in the village decided against it), and effectively spelled the end of the regional boarding school program in which most Native students had to leave home to attend high school. Should we also cite the original publication in which this article appeared?


Haycox, Stephen. “Desegregation in Alaska's Schools: Alaska Yesterday.” Article by UAA Professor of History Stephen Haycox outlines the historical problems of segregation in Alaskan schools and the struggle toward integration. First published in the Anchorage Times, January 26, 1986.

Hirshberg, Diane and Suzanne Sharp. Thirty Years Later: The Long-Term Effect of Boarding Schools on Alaska Natives and Their Communities. Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, September 2005. Research study that examines the positive and negative impacts of 61 Alaska Native individuals who attended boarding schools or boarding home programs between the late 1940’s and early 1980’s

Hopson, Eben. “Inupiaq Education.” Mayor, North Slope Borough, Barrow Alaska, 1975 Speech by Inupiaq leader Eben Hopson, chief architect of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, about the need for the Inupiat to maintain control over the education of their children. The piece begins with an introduction by Doreen Spear, Hobson’s granddaughter, who won the 2002 UAA Alaska Native Oratory Society declamation competition by performing her grandfather’s speech.

Ilutsik, Esther. “Oral Traditional Knowledge: Does it Belong in the Classroom?” Sharing Our Pathways 7, no. 3. (Summer 2002).

Kleinfeld, Judith, and Joseph Bloom. A Long Way From Home: Effects of Public High Schools on Village Children Away from Home. Center for Northern Educational Research and Institute of Social, Economic and Government Research, University of Alaska, 1973. Study of the discontinued state regional boarding programs for Alaska Native high school students which required most village students to attend school a long way from home.

LaBelle, Jim. “Boarding School Historical Trauma among Alaska’s Native People.” Essay by UAA adjunct professor which examines the traumatic impacts of the Wrangell Institute Boarding School and the significant role the Episcopal Church of Alaska played in recognizing, implementing, and organizing a "Healing Convocation" for some of its parishioners. It also discusses the broader aspects of historical trauma among Alaska's indigenous people, beginning in the late 1880s and continuing through most of the l900s. Topics include: the introduction of western illnesses and diseases, western education (boarding schools), and forced western Christianity. The author’s personal experience informs the essay.


Ongtooguk, Paul. “Aspects of Traditional Inupiat Education.” Discussion of some of the myths and realities of traditional Inupiaq education by UAA Assistant Professor of Education Paul Ongtooguk, an Inupiaq from Northwestern Alaska.

The Nelson Act. This legislation created racially segregated schools in Alaska.


Alaska Natives Commission, Final Report, Volume III, Native Tribal Government, Section II, Tribal Sovereignty and Federal Indian Law and Policy

Other Web sites of Interest

Alaska Native Knowledge Network Curriculum Resources

Resources for compiling and exchanging information related to Alaska Native knowledge systems and ways of knowing.