FORUM, Summer 2017

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Tattoo People Community Conversations: Homelessness Alaska Salmon Fellows Five Ways of Looking at Ship Creek


Questions and Conversations


s I travel our state, I listen to Alaskans talk about the challenges we face. I’ve spoken with fishermen in Bristol Bay and Sitka, tribal elders in Kotzebue and Utqiaġvik, parents along the Kuskokwim, and business owners in the Interior. They are passionate and informed. And underneath the details, they are wrestling with the same questions: ones of purpose, meaning, and difference. Alaskans have a lot of questions these days. How do we preserve our cultures and ways of life, while preparing our children and communities to be successful in the contemporary world? How do we address poverty, homelessness, suicide, school dropouts, and addiction in a time of dwindling state finances? How do we recognize our shared responsibility and collaborate to meet our common challenges, while maintaining independence and local control? How do we use our natural resources as directed by our Constitution—for the maximum benefit of all Alaskans—and ensure these resources are available for future generations? How can we engage with neighbors who have become strangers? How can we bridge our political differences while we stay faithful to deep, contrasting convictions? There will be many answers: temporary, improvised, changeable. We don’t yet know what those answers are. But I believe we know how to get closer to them. It requires creating new spaces for taking up the hard questions of our time; spaces for listening, conversation, and engagement; spaces that are creative, intentional, and welcoming. It requires spaces designed by, and populated with, all members of our diverse community. In a world that is increasingly fragmented and complex, solutions and innovations lie not with one leader or one viewpoint, but in the collective power of our diverse communities. It is up to us to start creating these spaces; to start having the conversations we want to be hearing; to start creating the realities we want to live in. It is up to us to plant the seeds of the civil society Alaska deserves. It is up to us to learn what social healing, moral imagination, and civil discourse can look like. Possibilities and connections can emerge at moments when we hold seemingly opposite realities in creative tension. Such change can happen if we come together as Alaskans, listen honestly to each other, and strive to see the world through each other’s eyes. This is civic work and it is human, creative, and vital. This is the work of the Alaska Humanities Forum. ­—Kameron Perez-Verdia, CEO

P.S. A note about the magazine: with this issue, David Holthouse steps aside as editor of FORUM. Five years ago, David reimagined the Forum’s newsletter as a publication to showcase Alaska culture, history, and art. His work and vision have grown the magazine into a unique and respected voice. We record our gratitude to him and welcome his successor, Dean Potter.


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ALASKA HUMANITIES FORUM 161 East First Avenue, Door 15 Anchorage, Alaska 99501 (907) 272-5341 | BOARD OF DIRECTORS Catkin Kilcher Burton, Chair, Anchorage Elizabeth Qaulluq Cravalho, Vice Chair, Kotzebue Christa Bruce, Secretary, Ketchikan Clayton W. Bourne, Treasurer, Anchorage Michael Chmielewski, Member-at-Large, Palmer Joan Braddock, Ph.D., Past Chair, Fairbanks Bruce Botelho, Douglas Jeane Breinig, Ph.D., Anchorage Lenora Lolly Carpluk, Fairbanks Renée Duncan, Anchorage Anne Hanley, Fairbanks Ernestine Hayes, Juneau Dave Kiffer, Ketchikan Peter Metcalfe, Juneau Pauline Morris, Kwethluk Chellie Skoog, Chugiak Kathleen Tarr, Anchorage Kurt Wong, Anchorage

STAFF Kameron Perez-Verdia, President and CEO Ted Leonard, Chief Financial Officer Dennis Blackburn, Education and Youth Program Coordinator Amanda Dale, Education and Youth Program Coordinator Carmen Davis, Director of Education and Youth Programs Kitty Farnham, Director of Leadership Programs Veldee Hall, Special Projects and Grants Manager Nancy Hemsath, Operations Manager and Board Liaison Jennifer Howell, Leadership Programs Coordinator Kari Lovett, Education and Youth Program Coordinator Jann Mylet, Director of Development and Communications Naaqtuuq Robertson, Take Wing Alaska Coordinator Rayette Sterling, Leadership Programs Manager Kirstie Lorelei Willean, Education Programs Coordinator Megan Zlatos, Director of Special Projects and Grants

and Art Director
 Dean Potter Copy Editor
 Nancy Hemsath Contributors Lillian Maassen, Michael Conti, Debra McKinney, Aurora Ford, Brendan Joel Kelley, Gary Scott Groce, Brian Adams, Josh Corbett, Maya Sialuk Jacobsen

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Photo courtesy Merrill Collection, Sitka National Historical Park


These students of the Sheldon Jackson School in Sitka helped build the yacht Princeton Hall in 1941. The vessel was used for missionary work and student transportation. The photo is among artifacts collected for Voices of Sheldon Jackson, a history exhibit in Sitka supported by a Forum grant. See page 38.



Tattoo People Documentary film will depict the revival of traditional Inuit tattooing through the eyes of a practitioner

10 Five Ways of Looking at Ship Creek A group of photographers train their cameras on the Forum’s neighborhood

16 PROGR AM NOTES Leadership Through the Lens Leadership Anchorage marks 20 years of harnessing the humanities to build Alaska communities

18 DONOR PROFILE Quilts and the Humanities Forum donor Eileen Hosey believes the whole is greater than the parts

20 Speaking of Salmon The Forum’s new Alaska Salmon Fellows program encourages dialogue and convergence

26 GR ANT REPORT ‘We Know Full Well the Difficulties’ Alaska Jewish Museum exhibit recounts a fruitless 1939 plan to offer European Jews a refuge in the Last Frontier

32 Look Again People experiencing homelessness in Anchorage share creative visions

34 Community Conversations: Homelessness Three informed perspectives start the conversation; please join it

38 Annual Humanities Grants What to expect from the ten projects receiving major grants in 2017

43 AF TER IMAGE ‘I’m Not Even That Old, You Know?’ Brian Adams photographed Lynden Weyiouanna for his series I AM INUIT ON THE COVER: Greenlandic traditional tattoo artist Maya Sialuk Jacobsen sketched a portrait of Petrine, an elder from Westgreenland. Then Jacobsen added to the drawing the tattooed facial markings Petrine might have had if she had lived at an earlier time. “She has very poor eyesight,” reported Jacobsen, “but her granddaughter could tell her what she would look like with the facial markings.” See page 4.

FORUM is a publication of the Alaska Humanities Forum, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, with the purpose of increasing public understanding of and participation in the humanities. The views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the editorial staff, the Alaska Humanities Forum, or the National Endowment for the Humanities. Subscriptions may be obtained by contributing to the Alaska Humanities Forum or by contacting the Forum. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission. ©2017.

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panning generations and continents, traditional Inuit tattoos bind women together. Every drop of ink set in their skin reclaims what was taken. Every ancestral design they commit to their bodies is a symbol of cultural pride, healing, and strength. After more than a century of suppression, the art of traditional tattooing is seeing a growing revival across the circumpolar region and the world, anywhere colonizers forced indigenous people to abandon their ways. Among those breathing life back into the Inuit practice of hand-poking and skinstitching are two women who live oceans


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apart, Iñupiaq artist Holly Mititquq Nordlum and Greenlandic tattoo artist Maya Sialuk Jacobsen. A combination of fate, it seems, and technology brought them together. Their story and shared passion is being told through a documentary in the making, Tupik Mi, a project the Alaska Humanities Forum helped get off the ground in 2016 with a $10,000 general grant. Tupik means “tattoo” and Mi, short for muit, is “people.” In this documentary, the tattoo people are Inuit women reclaiming what is theirs and, in the process, healing wounds in their souls. With Nordlum as


Documentary film will depict the revival of traditional Inuit tattooing through the eyes of a practitioner

By Debra McKinney

Holly Nordlum’s greatgrandmother, Lucy Saqulin Schaeffer, had tattoos on her chin: a line down the middle with thinner lines on either side. LEFT:

Photo courtesy of Holly Nordlum

RIGHT: Nordlum

is making a documentary film about the revival of traditional Inuit tattooing. Photo by Michael Conti

producer and Jacobsen as tradition bearer, the film will explore a range of issues, from the politics of licensing to Nordlum’s decision to tattoo her face, as her great-grandmother did. Solid and dotted lines now fan across her chin. Since making that lifetime commitment two years ago, she’s discovered they’re more than tattoos; they’re a new life. TATTOOS TABOOED

Inuit women had been tattooing each other for millennia, applying the seamstress skills it takes to turn animal skins into clothing to the skin of their Native sisters. Designs

meant different things in different regions, but generally a girl got her first tattoo—lines on her chin—as a rite of passage, a coming of age, explained Nordlum, who lives with her two sons in Anchorage. Some added tattoos upon reaching other milestones, such as the birth of a child. In general, facial tattoos signified that women were strong, capable, and up to the challenges of life in the Arctic. Christianity put an end to that. It’s right there in the Book of Leviticus: “Ye shall not [...] print any marks upon you.” Shame smothered pride, driving the practice to the brink of extinction. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 2 017


Nordlum, who laughs as naturally as other people blink, grits her teeth thinking about it. She has a lot to say about the cultural corruption Western religion has inflicted upon Native people. As an artist and activist, that injustice is among the reasons she wears her cultural pride on her face for all to see. Her great-grandmother, Lucy Saqulin Schaeffer, who died before Nordlum was born, had tattoos on her chin: a line down the middle with thinner lines on either side. Growing up in Kotzebue with a Norwegian father from the Midwest and an Iñupiaq mother, Nordlum felt most connected to her Alaska Native rather than her Minnesota side. Seven years ago, she decided to honor that heritage by having her great-grandmother’s chin tattoos recreated, not on her face, but tattooed between the first and second knuckle of her ring finger. She couldn’t find anyone to do it the traditional way, by hand rather than tattoo machine. So began her journey to change that. A SHARED PASSION

Meanwhile, 4,300 miles across the Arctic, Maya Sialuk Jacobsen was deep into her own research of traditional Inuit tattooing, which was quashed in her homeland by Danish colonizers for the same reason as in Nordlum’s part of the world. She grew up on the island of Qeqertarsuaq in northwest Greenland, was schooled in Denmark, and was a professional Western-style tattoo artist for 10 years before switching to the Inuit way. In addition to the Kalaallisut she spoke as a child, she knows all the Scandinavian languages plus English, German, and Dutch, which gave her access to archival materials in museums throughout northern Europe. What little she could find about the cultural practice had been interpreted by archeologists, missionaries, explorers—by colonizers. The only information she could completely trust, “unpolluted by white male Christian perception,” came from the 500-year-old graves of six mummified women and two children discovered in Qialakitsoq, Greenland in the early 1970s. Infrared photography showed that five of the six women had facial tattoos varying in location from their chins to their cheeks to their foreheads. Jacobsen studied them intensely and, over time, created the historical and contemporary Inuit designs she now uses in her work and wears on her own skin. For the past six years, she’s done nothing but Inuit designs the Inuit way, but with sterilized modern tools—steel needles, cotton thread, and ink—rather than the slivers of caribou bone, whale or caribou sinew, and soot or gunpowder that her ancestors used.


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First, she mastered skin poking, in which a pattern of holes is poked into the skin and filled with ink. She then learned skin-stitching, making tiny stitches with a needle and ink-soaked thread, using an exit hole to start the next stitch. While Jacobsen was doing her research, a continent away Nordlum was doing hers. A couple of chance encounters brought them together. Stephen Qacung Blanchett, a member of the performing group Pamyua and a community engagement officer at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, met Jacobsen at a Greenlandic film festival in Oslo, Norway in 2015. Living there at the time, Jacobsen invited him and others to her tattoo studio to see her work and the book she’d compiled of Inuit designs. Back in Anchorage a week later, Blanchett ran into Nordlum, who happened to mention her own pursuit of traditional tattooing. He introduced the two via Facebook, and the friendship took off from there. Soon after, Jacobsen was on a plane to join Nordlum for an Anchorage Museum Polar Lab presentation and a series of other tattoo events. Then the two presented together at the Global Indigenous Tattoo Festival in New Zealand. Jacobsen came to Alaska again in 2016, to launch an Inuit tattoo apprenticeship program for a small group of Alaska Native women, with Nordlum as one of three current apprentices. And Nordlum recently traveled to Jacobsen’s part of the world to continue training and planning the documentary. The thought has occurred to Jacobsen that perhaps they were destined to meet, or had met in a previous life, in a different spirit form. “I bet we were crows,” she wrote via email from Svendborg, Denmark where she now lives. “My friendship with Holly is deep and intense. We are sisters.” JOURNEY THROUGH TIME

Tupik Mi is on its way, but has much further to go. Nordlum and her team have set the bar high, and it will take a lot more funding to get there. Originally envisioned as an educational film focused on the apprenticeship program, the history of Inuit tattooing, and people encountered along the way, Tupik Mi has evolved into a deeper, more personal story. It’s become an exploration of loss, identity, and cultural longing seen through Nordlum’s eyes. She grew up in Kotzebue with summers at fish camp, a yard full of sled dogs, and parents (Lucy and Roger Nordlum) who ran the Iditarod and Yukon Quest throughout

ABOVE: The identities of the subject and the maker of this photograph are uncertain. The glass-plate negative was acquired around 1908 by the Lomen Brothers photographic studio in Nome, where it was given the title “Eskimo woman, 1903.” Alaska State Library, ASL-P28-012


Harcharek, from Utqiag• vik, is an apprentice currently studying traditional tattooing with Jacobsen.

Photo by Michael Conti

“ONE OF THE THINGS THAT’S MOST BEAUTIFUL ABOUT IT, IS THAT IT’S PRIMARILY BY WOMEN FOR WOMEN.” the 1980s. Although surrounded by a huge extended family, she ached for a sense of belonging. She calls herself a “white Native;” too white for one world, too brown for the other. “My brothers are both very dark,” she said. “In Kotzebue, I was born with my dad’s features. I had blonde, curly hair. I still have the name ‘Goldilocks’ there.” And there was the time her favorite cousin’s newborn baby wailed as Nordlum cradled him in her arms. “He’s never been held by anybody so white before,” her cousin told her. “I think he’s scared.”

Nordlum knows she didn’t mean to be hurtful, but to her that meant just one thing: You’re not one of us. Same when she’d visit her father’s side of the family in northern Minnesota. Her cousins didn’t know what to make of her, the way she looked, the way she talked, the things that were important to her. She didn’t know what to make of herself. She knows now. Her Inuit tattoos—she has several—have become tethers to the world in which her heart resides. Many of the women she’s encountered through her Tupik Mi project feel this way. The revival of these tatA L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 2 017


toos has created a sisterhood, the markings like a secret handshake among them. Except nothing is secret when worn on the face. “We recognize each other’s markings; we see a sister,” is how Jacobsen puts it. “We know the strength and bold courage that she had to muster to dare to wear her foremother’s markings. It’s still very political and full of conflict. We know and understand this when we mark Inuit women. It brings us closer.” TAPPING INTO THE SOUL

Western-style tattoo machines vibrate and buzz. Inuit techniques are quiet. With either style, poking the skin is like poking the soul. It’s not uncommon for women to get emotional as the pain within seeps out.


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“When you, as a tattooist, puncture someone’s skin and alter their appearance for life, you get an insight into that person’s spirit,” Jacobsen explained. “It is absolutely enhanced when we do traditional markings due to the deeper connection and intention behind the markings. The trail that leads to reconnection is paved with stories from thousands of years ago and tears that come from disconnection... “It is never ‘just a tattoo session’ when you mark an Inuk woman’s face. Never.” Through the way of the needle, women often share their stories during tattoo sessions. That’s one of the major themes Tupik Mi will explore: the power of art to heal. “One of the things that’s most beautiful about it, is that it’s primarily by women for

LEFT: Greenlandic tattoo artist Maya Sialuk Jacobsen. Photo by Michael Conti

TOP: Holly Nordlum tattoos Sarah Whalen-Lunn. Photo courtesy of Holly Nordlum

BOTTOM: Onlookers

watch as Jacobsen, on her first visit to Anchorage, demonstrates skinstitched tattooing on Nordlum. Sarah Whalin-Lunn, in the red plaid shirt, later became an member of the Inuit tattooing apprenticeship program.

Photo by Michael Conti

women,” said Anchorage artist Sarah Whalen-Lunn, a member of the apprenticeship program, along with Nordlum and Jamie Harcharek of Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow). “As Alaska Natives, and as women, we have some of the highest statistics for domestic abuse, rape, murder, all these problems. Something that brings pride back for our women, and helps bring reconnection, is one of the most important things we can do.” Whalen-Lunn has several tattoos, Western and Inuit style. Born in Indiana, she grew up feeling disconnected. She’d like to get her chin tattooed, but has some work to do before making that commitment. “A lot of people are very, very against it,” she said. “There’s the Western stigma around facial tattoos to begin with. “My hesitation stems from growing up very far away from my background. I never really felt Native enough, Inuit enough. I’m 39 years old but I still need to talk to my father about it. [He’s of French Canadian and Irish descent.] He’s very proud of what I’m doing, but as with most fathers he has natural concerns. He doesn’t want people to judge me at first glance.” And then there’s the workplace issue. She does a lot of artwork—visual and performance—but her steady job the past 14 years has been bartending at a busy downtown watering hole. “It’s a place where I am already subject to a wide, wide, wide swath of the population, a swath that feels free to say whatever they want to you all of the time. The onslaught of commentary... it feels like it would be a little deafening.” Her goal is to get to a place where Inuit tattooing is her main line of work. “Then,” she said, “I will celebrate that rite of passage by getting my chin lines.” AMBASSADORS OF UNDERSTANDING

For Nordlum, the decision to wear her heart on her face came after many serious conversations and a great deal of introspection. As it should be, she notes. And, the way she sees it, the decision came with the responsibility to be an ambassador of cross-cultural understanding. People are curious. Even when she’s in a rush, if someone asks about her chin, she tries to take time to explain the significance. Although many see her chin tattoos as beautiful, others don’t. She has a boyfriend now, but while single her dating options took a serious nosedive. She also gets rude looks on a regular basis. People take her picture without asking, like she’s some kind of tourist attraction. She’s had strang-

ers touch her chin. One woman grabbed her as she headed out of a coffee shop and offered to take her to church. That’s never going to happen, she makes perfectly clear. “This isn’t a cry for help.” As an apprentice tattoo artist, she’s done many Inuit designs, but just one chin so far. And only after talking it over for months. Stacey Lucason had been admiring chin tattoos since middle school when she first came across them in a book. Last fall, as a student at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), she took a class from Panigkaq Agatha John-Shields, “Indigenous Epistemologies in Alaska.” The class encouraged her to think hard about her heritage, and traditions that have survived while others have not. “So, over Christmas break, I decided I was going to put it on as makeup, and just have my own reflection time on a tradition that maybe [would have survived] had contact and colonization gone differently and been more like a trade of ideas instead of suppression of all the indigenous ones. I started wearing it—it was actually eyeliner—as a way of taking a few minutes every morning to think about the practice we would still have, and how the world might be different, if indigenous knowledge and practices had been honored and accepted. “After I’d worn it a few months, people kept asking, ‘Are you going to do it? Are you going to make it real?’ I talked to my husband and he’s like, ‘I like it, you like it. It’s your face. You can do that, especially since it’s important to you.’” Nordlum tattooed Lucason’s chin this spring to celebrate the milestone of graduating from UAA with a degree in philosophy. “So it’s not exactly like the traditional marker of adulthood,” Lucason said, “but it feels like a modern marker of adulthood. I’m done with college. I have responsibilities now. I liked the timing of it. “It’s definitely started more conversations with people. I get a chance to talk about who I am and where my family comes from in a way I wouldn’t if I didn’t have it. I get to highlight some positive things about being Alaska Native in a world that doesn’t always talk about Alaska Natives in a positive way. “The first thing when I get up in the morning, the first time I look in the mirror, that reminder is right there. Every time I see it in the mirror, it makes me smile.” ■


Alaskan journalist Debra McKinney is a frequent contributor to FORUM. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 2 017










A group of photographers train their cameras on the Forum’s neighborhood

By Dean Potter


raham Dane, abstract painter and sometime photographer, walks past a headless mannequin; past a woman operating a flaming propane torch; past a derelict taxi reposing in golden light. It’s a cool summer evening near 1st Avenue and Orca Street in Anchorage’s industrial Ship Creek district. Dane’s black jacket is spattered with paint and mended with tape. He holds a camera and studies the ground. “Patches and patterns in asphalt are fascinating. And I like oil stains,” he confides. “The best places for dented doors are loading bays.” To Dane, Ship Creek is a place to find decay: rust and cracks, scratches and patches. These he photographs close up. Then he continued on page 12


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“Low Tide.” C print. Linda Infante Lyons, 2016.

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“Ship Creek road drawing (#6).” Graham Dane, 2017.

assembles the photos into gridded artworks he calls combinations or patchworks. “A lot of the time, I don’t know how a photo is going to be used,” he says as he snaps the shutter. “Not until I get them on the computer and move them around.” Dane explains: “When I photograph something, I’m interested in its formal properties. Even when I’m producing photography, I’m thinking about painting.” Like his paintings, his photographic combinations—collectively titled In front of your nose, under your feet—explore the relationship of order and chaos. Meandering cracks and stains contrast with straight, deliberate lines, and with the window-like structure of his prints. After an hour’s shoot—150 photos—he’s about one block from where he started. “I wander around. I never know quite what I’m going to get. There’s a random element,” he


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explains while scrutinizing the weathered surface of a shipping container and a coil of rusty chain. A bell and whistle sound from the nearby Alaska Railroad yard. “I love the sound of the railroad,” Dane declares. He was born and grew up in the United Kingdom; for a time, he resided across the street from a busy train station in Maidenhead, near London. “One of the things I miss is the sound of trains, especially the expresses passing through,” he recalls. “Ship Creek is an under-appreciated part of Anchorage. Let’s be honest: it’s ugly. It has a sense of abandonment. But there’s something about it...” He trails off and regards the utilitarian structures surrounded by haphazardly piled odds and ends. “I’ve always liked industrial buildings,” he notes. “In England, the interesting industrial architeccontinued on page 14

EPICENTER Graham Dane Matt Johnson Petra Lisiecki Linda Infante Lyons Don Mohr Opening reception: Friday, Sept. 8, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Exhibition runs through Nov. 3 Alaska Humanities Forum 161 East First Avenue, Door 15 Anchorage

“King Salmon #2.” 13 x19 inches, Mega Pro Plate. Don Mohr.

Don Mohr: Primal and Timeless Don Mohr, a Professor Emeritus of history at the University of Alaska Anchorage, has an active alternate career as a fine artist, working primarily in foundobject sculpture and installation. He is a director of the International Gallery of Contemporary Art in Anchorage. “A dozen years ago,” Mohr tells FORUM in an email, “I woke up one morning completely obsessed with photography. My interest in photography mirrors my other artistic interests in that I am striving to communicate something on a visceral level. Something primal. Something timeless.” Mohr finds a primal and timeless subject in fish. “The only thing that really interested me about Ship Creek,” he writes, “was the fish in it. I have done many works using fish. They are so perfectly adapted that they fascinate me.” Like many of his works, the Ship Creek project is collaborative. He works with Andrea Tesch, manager of

ADF&G’s William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery, photographing salmon that have returned to the hatchery and are awaiting harvest. “This gave me portraits of live, mature king salmon with all their scars,” Mohr writes. He composites portraits of salmon with images of surface currents from Ship Creek. Then it gets complicated. To finish a piece, Mohr initiates a second collaboration, this time with Minuteman Press, “a printer who very generously helped me to put expensive machinery to purposes for which it was never intended.” Rather than use printing-press “plates”— thin sheets of plastic—to transfer ink to paper, Mohr incorporates the plate itself into the piece. As a laser burns away the plate’s black surface, the image of the fish is etched in its silvery gray interior. “For me,” Mohr concludes, “the attraction is that this very latest technology results in an object that looks very like a tintype, one of the oldest photographic processes.”

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“Lifeline.” Matt Johnson, 2017.

ture is from 150 years ago. It’s brick and stone. But in Alaska, nothing was built to last. So, you get decay, but also a sense of adaptation. You get bizarre juxtapositions.” Juxtapositions—bizarre and sublime—will be in evidence at the show Dane is organizing in September at the offices of the Alaska Humanities Forum. Called Epicenter, the show will feature the work of Dane and four others—Matt Johnson, Petra Lisiecki, Linda Infante Lyons (married to Dane), and Don Mohr. Dane notes the variety of perspectives: “Each of us approaches this one small location, Ship Creek, with a totally different sensibility and vision.” “Linda and I, over the last couple of years, have wandered around the area with cameras. We’ve both been drawn to it as a subject for photography,” Dane recounts. “As we talked to a few friends, they expressed interest in the idea themselves.” While they’re all producing photography-based artworks, three commonly work in other media as well. Like Dane, Lyons is also a painter. Mohr is well known as a found-object sculptor and installation artist. Back in the twilight on 1st Avenue, a duck waddles down the street. Dane surveys the environs: “In Ship Creek, in the evening, everything slows down. You’re not dealing with hustle and bustle. You’re just looking. That’s why I’m interested in details. Most of the time we don’t see them; we rush past.” Dane approaches a dumpster: “This one’s too clean,” he says, and walks on. ■

“Each of us approaches this one small location, Ship Creek, with a totally different sensibility and vision.”

Dean Potter is the editor and art director of FORUM.


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Matt Johnson: A Thing and a Place Matt Johnson has a theory: “A person, place, or thing has no meaning until it has a relationship with another person, place, or thing.” His photography explores how context impacts meaning. At a recent Alaska Humanities Forum opening reception, Graham Dane invited Johnson to join the Ship Creek group. “I agreed on the spot,” Johnson relates. “It’s an area of much history, grit, and visual appeal.” After several reconnaissance trips, Johnson hadn’t settled on subject. So, acting on his theory, he decided to bring a thing to a place, and see what meanings might emerge. The thing is a folding wooden ruler. It has appeared in other contexts—Resurrection Bay, Eklutna Lake—in Johnson’s images, as part of his ongoing photo series Time and Materials. The project makes use of tools and other artifacts inherited from his father and grandfather. And the place? “I carried a bucket of tools to a lightly populated region of Ship Creek. Avoiding the heavy bird population, I stumbled upon an area of cracked mud that appealed to me conceptually, as well as visually. I decided to make this area the touchstone for my images made for this exhibit.” Johnson is a director of the Alaska Photographic Center. He has shown work in solo, group, and juried exhibitions throughout Alaska for 25 years. His recent honors include a grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts and a Juror’s Merit Award in the All-Alaska Biennial at the Anchorage Museum (which also holds his photographs in its collection).

Linda Infante Lyons: Seagull Attack Lyons, a painter and photographer, operates out of a studio in Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood, not far from Ship Creek. Her luminous and smoothlycontoured landscape paintings are in the collections of several institutions, including the Anchorage Museum; the Museum of the North, in Fairbanks; and the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository (Lyons is Alutiiq). Lyons is interested in the social and civic context of art. She decorates dumpsters and concrete barriers around the neighborhood. She takes artist residencies in schools and villages. She photographs street life in Cuba and paints landscapes in Denali National Park. Among her public commissions are a large exterior wall mural in Mountain View and a series of Ship Creek photographs on permanent exhibition in the Boney Courthouse in Anchorage. Lyons wrote on her blog of her interest in Ship Creek: “I’ve long been fascinated with the juxtaposition of old Anchorage structures and modern downtown structures in this area. The Quonset huts, the sharply-angled industrial storage buildings, and the shiny downtown hotel and business buildings are traversed by railroad tracks and bisected by king salmonfilled Ship Creek. The creek meanders through the city and empties into the treacherous mudflats and tidal flux of Cook Inlet. Added to this are menacing flocks of nesting seagulls that patrol and launch attacks from industrial rooftops.”

“Under the Bridge.” Petra Lisiecki, 2017. This is a test photo Lisiecki took with her iPhone while scouting locations for her Ship Creek project (to be completed later this summer). This image won’t be in the exhibition. “However, I like the industrial and slightly surreal scenery for a salmon fishing spot,” Lisiecki said.

Petra Lisiecki: Angles on Anglers “People and faces are always what draw me,” Petra Lisiecki explains. The Anchorage photographer commonly finds subjects in the worlds of theater, performance, and the arts. Previously, Lisiecki worked with the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, and frequently photographed the Anchorage Opera, with whom she published a book in 2002, Anchorage Opera: 40 Years, 40 Images. But her work is not limited to the footlights. “Living in a place like Alaska, the landscape inevitably became my subject as well,” she wrote to FORUM from a trip to South Africa. “Ship Creek, to me, is a fascinating spot. Right in the middle of town, a wonderland of fish riches arrives punctually every year.” One of her neighbors fishes there regularly; he shares his catch with her family. When searching for a human subject for her Ship Creek photographs, the fisherman was a natural. “Performers are the best sitters for a portrait,” Lisiecki opines, “but anyone who excels at something—a sport or gardening or any job, really—becomes comfortable during a portrait, given a little time. That includes fishermen.” ■

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Leadership Through the Lens Leadership Anchorage marks 20 years of harnessing the humanities to build Alaska communities


he Alaska Humanities Forum’s Leadership Anchorage program (LA) marked an anniversary this spring with the graduation of its 20th cohort. The leaders honored at the May event join a network of 350 alumni who have undertaken the program’s journey of self-examination, cultural engagement, and focused community action. LA was founded in 1996 by a group of citizens who discerned a need for “civic entrepreneurs” in Anchorage. Among the founders were Steve Lindbeck (at the time, executive director of the Alaska Humanities Forum), Doug North, Dennis McMillian, Leroy Bingham, Lynne Ballew, Diane Kaplan, and Carol Heyman. “They saw the city was rapidly becoming more diverse, but its leadership wasn’t,” said Kitty Farnham, the Forum’s present Director of Leadership Programs. Lindbeck concurred. “From the first year of the program, we were trying to bring people of color and people from across the different aspects of our community into leadership roles,” he recalled at a June celebration of the program’s anniversary. Another aspect of diversity was also important, according to Lindbeck. “We made a deliberate decision we would pick people from across the spectrum of leadership,” he said. “We included both newcomers and people with a lot of experience, so that each of them could learn different kinds of lessons from the others.” LA got off the ground with a grant from the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, as part of its campaign to bring diversity to community leadership. LA was one of 12 programs to be funded, from 75 proposals nationwide. Twenty years later, LA is thriving. What accounts for its longevity? Three vital factors, according to Farnham: the program is supported by the community; it adapts with the times; and LA is, uniquely, grounded in the humanities.


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At the celebration, Lindbeck reflected on the importance of the humanities to leadership development. “The way we organize our lives is by narrative,” he said. “We tell stories, through history and literature and philosophy and oral histories and films and research and writing—all the ways the humanities help us encounter who we are as human beings.” Addressing questions of identity is vital to the program’s goal of bringing diversity to leadership, he suggested. The humanities offer powerful tools for simultaneous inquiry into the self and the community.

“When you’re learning in a complex world, you have to find partners and focus on collaboration.” With each cohort, participants meet regularly over a seven-month period to learn together through the lens of the humanities. Details have changed in response to the evolving needs of the community, new technologies, and the Forum’s growing experience in leadership development. But the core components of LA endure: readings and reflections linked to current issues facing the city; community-based, small group projects; and engagement with leaders as personal mentors, speakers, and presenters. Some of LA’s readings hint at “the lens of the humanities”: The Prince, by Niccolò Machiavelli; Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing; The Drum Major Instinct, a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Yuuyaraq: The Way of the

Human Being, by Harold Napoleon. LA sessions might meet at the Anchorage Museum, catch a performance at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, or learn from leaders at the Native Village of Eklutna. Lindbeck described an unconventional lesson in leadership given by a jazz pianist. “He brought the group to a string quartet and had them observe how teamwork functions in music. They saw the importance and richness of improvisation, excellence, and high standards.” It sounds like an education in the liberal arts, and it is, but there’s more. Director Farnham explained: “The projects are really important, because that’s where the academic, head learning becomes heart and hand learning.” LA participants form partnerships with supporting organizations that need help planning, managing, marketing, or researching new projects. Among many others, LA has partnered with Mountain View Farmers’ Market, the “Pick.Click. Give.” social media campaign, McLaughlin Youth Center’s volunteer mentor program, TEDx Anchorage, Anchorage School District’s historical archives assessment, and Anchorage Skate Club (see page 17). “When you’re learning in a complex world,” Farnham pointed out, “you have to find partners and focus on collaboration.” “Leadership Anchorage has changed lives,” Lindbeck observed. “It’s changed lives in other organizations and institutions. And it’s certainly changed the Alaska Humanities Forum.” An example of LA’s influence within the Forum is the Alaska Salmon Fellows program initiated this summer (see page 20). Techniques honed in LA will help build relationships among constituencies concerned with salmon. LA earned support as its alumni permeated the city and created legacies among organizations and leaders. “Anchorage chose

Photo courtesy Anchorage Skate Club

to invest in the future of its leaders,” Farnham observed. “The community said, ‘This program is good; we want it to continue.’” Members of the community, including LA alumni, contribute to the program financially, and share their time and expertise as presenters or mentors. The Atwood Foundation, TOTE Maritime, Alaska Airlines, and the National Endowment for the Humanities also support the program. What does the future hold for LA? “We certainly expect to continue for the next 20 years,” projected Farnham. “Our community continues to grow and expand. Developing leaders is a continuous need.” ■ APPLY Leadership Anchorage 21 seeks participants from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and interests —from emerging to established leaders in all sectors, including non-profit, neighborhood, business, government, and ethnic organizations in Anchorage and all of Alaska. Partial needs-based scholarships are available to ensure that cost is not a barrier to attending. Applications due: Sept. 8, 2017 To apply: SUPPORT LA has a 20-year record of success in inspiring, preparing, and connecting leaders for Alaska’s future. Please consider making a donation today. To donate: SUGGEST A PROJECT Do you have an idea for a project that helps support inclusion and equity in our community? Contact: Jennifer Howell, Leadership Programs Coordinator, at (907) 441-5496 or

Make This Happen How Leadership Anchorage helped the Anchorage Skate Club realize a vision “EVERY KID in Anchorage should know how to ice skate.” That’s Jim Renkert’s vision. “Anchorage is a winter city. Kids who skate can spend time outside having fun and being active,” he told Jennifer Howell, the Forum’s Coordinator of Leadership Programs, last summer. As an alumnus of Leadership Anchorage (LA8), Renkert knew the program had deep experience in making the leap from idea to impact. “We need to make this happen.” “Jim’s passion was contagious,” Howell recalls. She and the LA team began to make it happen. Each cohort undertakes a number of projects intended to develop leadership techniques as well as benefit the community. Working in small groups, they “struggle with how to define success, confront assumptions, and develop interpersonal skills,” Howell says. Benefits to the city have been enhanced since the decision, two years ago, that all projects should focus on a common goal: strengthening community through equity and inclusion, in alignment with the Welcoming Anchorage initiative led by the Mayor’s Office. To launch the project, LA worked with Renkert to find a champion. “A champion,” Howell explains, “is someone connected to a community organization that anchors each project and builds

momentum.” They found one: John Monroe, Program Director of the Anchorage Skate Club. The club was poised to expand its after-school skating programs in Title I schools, but faced hurdles with research, planning, and implementation. (Title I is a federal designation that indicates the majority of the families attending a school meet specific income qualifications. These schools are often located in neighborhoods that are ethnically diverse.) A team of four from the LA20 cohort worked with Monroe. “Each participant brought something different to the team, and it was not always the things we expected,” he notes. They developed a plan, surveyed schools, analyzed data, and presented findings and recommendations. “For the Anchorage Skate Club,” Monroe says, “the value has been in finding a clear path for our next step. The team was able to take our very general question, develop specific questions to survey schools, and provide us with a clear and concise picture of which Title I schools were going to be the best fit in growing our programs.” It’s a great example of what LA can do, according to Howell. “Having a Leadership Anchorage team working with you is the chance to crystallize a plan and move it forward with an infusion of creative energy.” ■

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Eileen Hosey




came across a copy of FORUM magazine at work, and I read it and I thought, “Well, this is wonderful! I would like to keep getting this magazine. I think I’ll become a donor!” There are other reasons, too: I really support the humanities, anything to do with cultural diversity and information about culture and the arts in our state.

How do you practice the humanities in your own life?

Photo by Laura Hosey

Quilts and the Humanities EILEEN HOSEY dreamed of Alaska from early childhood. Growing up in Seattle, she listened to her father’s stories of being a fisherman in Juneau in the 1930s. She was bitterly disappointed when, in 1955, a chance for the family to move to Alaska fell through. Finally, in 1970, Hosey stepped off the ferry in Juneau and knew she’d never call anywhere else home. She raised her three children there, earned a liberal arts degree in Alaska Studies at UAS, and built a career in medical office business management. In 2006, Hosey retired to help care for a newborn grandchild. When the child was ready to go off to kindergarten, Hosey decided to go back to work. She found a part-time job at Catholic Community Service in Juneau, in the Southeast Senior Services division. There, she blends her experience in office management with her love for the humanities, developing programs for vulnerable seniors who want to stay in their homes and be independent. In her spare time, Hosey makes quilts for friends and charities, and she plays the marimba.


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One of my hobbies is making quilts with a group of ladies here in Juneau—we call ourselves the Monday Night Quilters. Every year we give some quilts to the Office of Children’s Services. They’ve developed a ceremony where, when children are getting adopted, they get a quilt as part of their adoption ceremony at the courthouse. Also, for the last ten years, a friend and I have been showing fourth graders how to make quilts. We go to one or two classes in the spring, talk to them about the history of quilting, about how practical and necessary quilts always were, and show them how they’re put together. I pick out a simple design, and those fourth graders sit down and each sews a block. Then the class votes where they want the quilt to go—to an elder, to a chronically ill child, to their teacher, to the library. It is just amazing when those kids see the finished product; they cannot believe what they have created as a group. I always remind them, you know, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We’ve also been making quilts for a project in Juneau called Housing First. It’s for vulnerable seniors with substance abuse problems. The philosophy used to be, “get sober, get a job, get a place to live;” but for homeless people who don’t have a place to live, it’s difficult, if not impossible. So, we are building from the ground up, finding units for these people to live in. And we’ve started making quilts for them. Homeless people need some beauty in their lives too, and they need to know that we want them to be warm and out of the weather. What do you find most rewarding about your work with Southeast Senior Services?

I get to see the connection of older people to their families and to their communities; who is connected and who is disconnected.

My job is to reconnect the people to their families and to their communities and help them become a part of it again. That’s the real challenge, and the most important part. Part of my job involves going to Angoon on the southwesterly tip of Admiralty Island, as a care coordinator or case manager. It’s so small, several hundred people, and such a sense of community there. I’ve been so fortunate to be a part of so many of the elders’ lives. I just treasure going there. Then I have clients in Juneau who have lived here since the forties, and they tell stories about the myths of the Alaskan experience, and how that has fed into their lives. They are so rich in experience here in prestate Alaska, statehood, and beyond. I tell almost every single client, you ought to write a book! You have done a lot of work in healthcare throughout your career. Many people might not instantly associate the healthcare field with the humanities. Do you think the two overlap?

I think there’s a tremendous overlap. Our clients start talking about their lives, and then we mirror back to them how important their lives have been and what they’ve accomplished. There is such beauty in these older people. We honor them as human beings, and that’s the goal of my organization. The art of life, that’s what it is. There was one client I had, an older lady who was mostly bedridden, but she loved to sing. One day I went to see her and she was really sad because she had heard that her sister down in Seattle was in the process of dying. So I said, “Nancy, let’s sit here and let’s sing your sister to heaven.” She cheered right up; so we got out the song books and we sat and sang old hymns, Appalachian tunes, everything you could think of, for two hours. It was the longest home visit I’d ever done, and her sister passed away that evening. I re-


Your Humanities Council

Kalaidoscope, quilt by Eileen Hosey. Photo by Eileen Hosey

member that so vividly; it was a momentous thing for me. I’d say I get as much as my clients do from our interactions, or more. It’s a profound experience.

We tend to put up barriers against people we don’t understand, but when you see the commonalities running through us, it is really eye-opening. The more we do and the more we explore the world, the more we realize how we are all connected.

What is it about the Alaska Humanities Forum that matters to you?

It really is just so vital to our state. Especially now, with the budget decline, we need to support those things that touch our hearts. It’s an exponential increase in one’s understanding of the world to be able to express creative ideas and to have access to other people’s creative ideas, too. We tend to put up barriers against people we don’t understand, but when you see the commonalities running through us, it is really eye-opening. The more we do and the more we explore the world, the more we realize how we are all connected. In what ways do you think the Forum impacts people and communities in Alaska?

It honors our diversity. If we don’t have access to the different cultures and art forms, how can we be connected? It connects us rather than disconnects us to our very world. We get caught up in the business of paying our mortgages, buying food, making sure our kids get this and that, and we all get caught up in our own little whirlwinds of responsibilities. The Forum and the variety of cultural experiences it allows us to have bring us together and allow us to open our minds to greater things. The Humanities Forum allows us a greater expansion of our awareness of the world, and that’s really important because it can transcend even our Alaskan experience, and help us to appreciate experiences across the world. We are all more alike than we are different. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. ■ —Interview by Lillian Maassen

The Alaska Humanities Forum is one of 56 humanities councils, located in all U.S. states and jurisdictions, that serve as partners of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). “The preamble to the legislation that created the NEH proclaims that ‘democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens,’” explains Esther Mackintosh, President of the Federation of State Humanities Councils. She continues: This lofty assertion calls for citizens to develop the ability to carefully evaluate and shape decisions about issues they confront in their personal and community lives. It requires citizens to understand their own and their nation’s history in order to fully understand the forces that brought us to our present moment. It asks that citizens recognize and accommodate differences in viewpoint and experience as a necessary prelude to shaping strong communities.

Given this charge, each council develops and leads unique programming to share and preserve the history, culture, and stories of its home state; and to engage, inform, and connect citizens. NEH provides funding to support this work—funding that requires a match in private donations. Here in Alaska, individuals, corporations, foundations, and other partners have stepped up to invest in the Forum. Together, we support programs, events, and projects that encourage critical, creative, and compassionate thinking and dialogue about the future of Alaska. Will you join us?

Make a Gift • Give online at—make a monthly pledge or one-time gift • Call Jann Mylet, Director of Development and Communications: (907) 272-5302 • Mail a check to the Forum: 161 E. 1st Avenue, Door 15, Anchorage, AK 99501 • Double your impact—ask your employer about making a matching gift • Select Alaska Humanities Forum when you Pick. Click.Give. You can still add or amend a gift through August 31 at

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w m’s ne ellows u r o F T he on F s a Salm Alask encourage m a p ro g r d ue a n dialog ence rg c o nv e ga no n e Pa n a s o By R

Photo by Josh Corbett

The first cohort of Alaska Salmon Fellows assembled in May at a lodge converted from an old cannery adjacent to the Kenai River.

“The responsibility of tolerance lies with those who have the wider vision.”



day when Kristine Norosz’s vision widened found her hiking through bear country in the Tongass National Forest, crossing moss-covered terrain along remote Anan Creek. Known for some of the largest runs of pink and chum salmon in Southeast Alaska, Anan Creek near Wrangell attracts visitors eager to see nature from Forest Service observation decks, photo blinds, and covered shelters. More than 200,000 spawning salmon are estimated to return annually to Anan Creek. Norosz was no tourist. A fish biologist who has crewed on commercial fishing boats, she was walking through the rainforest counting salmon for the state. Around her were black bears, brown bears, eagles, and seagulls. She saw tall trees—spruce, hemlock, cedar—and marveled at the re-

gion’s productive, untrammeled ecosystem. But it was the creek’s abundant salmon that impresses her to this day. “I get to the spawning channel, which is really long, and it’s filled with fish,” she recalled. “You could walk on the backs of the salmon. I’ll never forget it.” Norosz, now based in Petersburg, is among leaders from around the state taking part in the new Alaska Salmon Fellows program developed and led by the Alaska Humanities Forum. Just as her vision was enhanced at Anan Creek, the Salmon Fellows program seeks to broaden each participant’s appreciation for the role that salmon occupy in shaping the state’s economy, politics, social connections, and natural environment. In a way, the Fellows seek to build a healthy and diverse ecosystem of their own: an interdependent network of people committed

to sustaining Alaska wild salmon. Participants agree to spend eighteen months listening to, and learning from, each other— attending especially to flashpoints that have long divided Alaskans who care both about wild salmon and the people who depend on them. “We need to honor [salmon] through thoughtful actions, just as we need to treat each other,” Norosz said on being named a Salmon Fellow. “If salmon runs don’t stay healthy, ecosystems suffer. And we’re part of those systems.” Fellows gather at four six-day meetings, and form working groups dedicated to new, collective projects. They each receive a $10,000, no-strings-attached award. Sixteen Fellows were selected from 131 applicants. Their expertise includes guiding, teaching, lobbying, commercial fishing, A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 2 017


research, land management, sport fishing, the social sciences, and Alaska Native tribal advocacy. Diversity is the key to multiplying perspectives: Norosz, for example, directs government affairs for Icicle Seafoods, an international seafood company specializing in Alaska and Pacific Northwest fish. One fellow is a philosopher; another operates a water treatment plant. FROM CONFLICT TO CONNECTION

“Salmon are an Alaska icon, but they have a people problem,” said Kitty Farnham, Director of Leadership Programs at the Alaska Humanities Forum. “We can collect more data on salmon. But if people can’t listen to each other’s perspectives, then we’re missing opportunities to learn from each other and take action. We’re challenging the Fellows to look at conflict differently.” Guided by its mission to foster connections among Alaskans, the Forum reasoned that people could be part of a solution if Alaskans who knew a lot about salmon also knew each other’s stories, ideas, and experiences. This approach is a foundation throughout the Forum’s work, as it develops leaders, prepares youth and educators, and convenes partners for projects that strengthen communities across Alaska. “What’s unique here is that we’re building leadership capacity in the group as well as in individuals,” Farnham said. “The program is a pathway for people to get to know each other and to establish new networks. The whole premise is, we’re better together.” Fellowship program partners currently include First Alaskans Institute, Nautilus Impact Investing, The Salmon Project, and the University of Alaska Center for Salmon and Society. Fellowships are funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, a philanthropic organization with an interest in maintaining healthy wild salmon ecosystems. Salmon-rich waters were among the reasons why the Alaska territory was acquired from the Russians in 1867. Today salmon are targeted in coastal waters from Southeast Alaska to Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet; in Bristol Bay and the ArcticYukon-Kuskokwim region; and in Kodiak and all around the Alaska Peninsula. Salmon are taken by commercial fishing fleets, sport fishermen, and subsistence fishermen who harvest the fish for food as well as to uphold cultural heritage. Farmed salmon operations are banned. Most observers agree that Alaska salmon and the ecosystems they depend on are relatively healthy, especially if compared with regions like Washington, Oregon, and California, where wild salmon have either dwin-


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dled or vanished. Numbers in Alaska vary widely by district, species, and year. In 2016, for instance, pink salmon returns in the Gulf of Alaska were so weak—potentially linked to warm water in the northeastern Pacific Ocean—that a federal disaster designation was approved. The forecast for 2017 is better, but returns of chinook salmon on the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska continue to be lower than average. Fellows are starting work at a time when several uncertainties face Alaskans who rely on salmon for food and income. Worldwide salmon farms, beginning operations only 40 years ago, now market millions of tons of fish annually. In 2016, University of Alaska experts concluded that long-term risks to Alaska salmon include climate change, urbanization, and human population growth. Another study found that over the past 30 years, major changes in both markets and oceans have led to reduced revenue in virtually every Alaska community that depends on fishing. Alaska courts regularly hear challenges to regulations restricting salmon harvests, including rules that specify where and when different sectors of users may take fish.

“If people can’t listen to each other’s perspectives,

then we’re missing opportunities to learn

from each other and

take action.”


Ben Mohr, a Salmon Fellow and land manager for Cook Inlet Region, Inc., an Alaska Native corporation, recalls growing up in Northern California where chinook were a wintertime staple. “Fish were never really my thing,” he says. That changed when he came to Alaska for college, earned a degree in outdoor studies, and tagged along when friends went fishing on the Russian River, about 110 miles south of Anchorage. “I hooked into my first red [salmon] there and pulled it in and haven’t stopped fishing since,” Mohr explains. “That place, where I caught my first fish, is where people have been coming for 5,000 years, 10,000 years— that exact same spot, to do the exact same thing that I did. Shared experiences and values create relationships. It’s part of the reason why I wanted to be part of Salmon Fellows.” After being named in April, the Fellows gathered in person in May at a lodge con-

Early Spring By Anjuli Grantham (from “2017 Seasonal Poetry Series”) Make an elixir of shoots, pollen, unthawed earth and drink it, quick. It will purge the lingering plaque and hasten transitional anxiety and make us reckon with that orb that is now as relentless as its sister-moon. Take it. Because now is brief and what’s coming is much longer. ABOVE: Alaska

Salmon Fellows contribute to a collective vision of the salmon network. BELOW: Salmon Fellows Mary Sattler Peltola and Ben Stevens explore the role of salmon in the Kenai community.

Anjuli Grantham is a historian, writer, curator, and legislative aide based in Juneau and Kodiak. She is among the 2017-2018 cohort of Alaska Salmon Fellows. Her writing appears monthly in Pacific Fishing magazine and in maritime-related museum exhibits throughout the Gulf of Alaska. More at FORUM MAGAZINE: “Early Spring” reminds readers that springtime is a season of anticipation. Now that the Salmon Fellows have met face-to-face for the first time, what connections do you see between your poem and the fellowship? ANJULI GRANTHAM: We met in early spring—an

anxious season. It’s a time of anticipation. That’s not dissimilar to becoming an Alaska Salmon Fellow. I carried tentative hopes but ample uncertainty about our upcoming journey. FORUM: And then there was the shortness of your time together. Alaska springtime can feel pretty brief, too. AG: We had just a short window of time to transition. In five days we went from battle-hardened fish soldiers, wearing the different crests of our affiliations, to friends dedicated to open and difficult conversations.

AG: Poetry is essential—not like a necessity, but a stripped-down articulation of essence. The Alaska Salmon Fellows program is about essence, too. Even though we’re a very different group of folks, we’re finding the strains that inhabit our hearts and spirits. Poetry can galvanize a moment or a mood or it can startle us into new understandings. It can share and help to shape our experiences. Spring and our gathering in Soldotna pass in a moment. Our work to transform our salmon systems will last. ■

Photos by Josh Corbett

FORUM: The Fellowship is aimed at letting people learn from each other, to see where their shared interests align. It’s a really diverse group—there’s a philosopher, a lobbyist, a land manager, fishermen, scientists, educators. How does poetry fit in?

verted from an old cannery adjacent to the Kenai River, among the most heavily fished sites in Alaska. “Some people knew each other, but no one knew everyone,” recalls Farnham. Alaska Native people and others with ties to Alaska Native interests make up about half of the first cohort. Building trust was a top priority at that first meeting. “When I’m discussing chinook salmon, it’s a full-body experience,” explains Mary Sattler Peltola, a Fellow from Bethel in western Alaska. “It’s as though I’m thinking and talking about an immediate family member’s welfare.” In Kenai, she found herself among Fellows from sectors that compete with one another for salmon, as well as with Alaska Native people. “This program was awakening for me,” said Peltola, a lobbyist and former state representative. “My perception of sport fishermen—that they were all very wealthy people, fishing mainly as a hobby—was not very accucontinued on page 25

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Meet the Alaska Salmon Fellows JESSICA BLACK




Fort Yukon / Fairbanks Assistant Professor, UAF Jessica Black came of age in a large family at her maternal shitsii’s (grandpa’s) fish camp on the banks of the Yukon River. That’s where, she recalls, her family “learned our culture, our stories, our traditional values, our language; how to become Gwich’in people.” Salmon are integral to her Gwich’in culture.

Anchorage / Hooper Bay Philosopher and writer Warren Jones grew up gillnetting off the coast of Nome before moving to Palmer in sixth grade. He is working on a project to restore the men’s house as an institution in Yup’ik communities. A men’s house was a central social, political, spiritual, and economic institution that, he says, could be considered the defining aspect of Yup’ik community.

Petersburg Director of Gov’t. Affairs, Icicle Seafoods, Inc. Kris Norosz works on public policy issues (habitat, by-catch, allocation, etc.); conducts field research; and is a multi-use harvester. “I am in awe of salmon,” she says. Norosz believes in the value of travel: She makes it a goal to explore a new part of Alaska each year.

Sitka Commercial fisherman Sebastian grew up in a remote village on Prince of Wales Island. She writes: “I often fish alone with the radio as my only company. As I look out at the alive and vibrant coastline, the radio provides moments of dissonance through news stories about ocean acidification, warming stream temperatures, and the dangers posed to salmon by mine development. At these times, I think about what we have to lose.”


Kenai Executive Director, Kenai River Sportfishing Association Since coming to Alaska in 1992, Ricky Gease has “led a salmon infused lifestyle.” He is deeply engaged in the Kenai area community, serving on commissions and boards dealing with resource management and fisheries regulation. His goal: “The complex web of commercial, sport, personal use, and subsistence fisheries can coexist in a healthy, sustainable manner.”


Eagle River Research professional, UAA Meagan Krupa envisions the transformations that could occur in the knowledge of salmon/human relations from the implementation of powerful research tools and methods from the social sciences. “While scientific methods have value,” Krupa explains, “the salmon reminds me to take a more creative approach in my research and pay attention to the greater system.”


Juneau / Kodiak Historian, writer, curator, legislative aide Anjuli Grantham, originally from Kodiak, is a writer, historian, and producer who specializes in the history of Alaska’s seafood industry. Grantham believes that history and culture should be considered “a legitimate part of fisheries management.” As she once wrote, “biology and economy dominate policy decisions.” Adding the human sciences provides a necessary corrective: contextualization. HAYLEY HOOVER

Cordova Commercial fisherman Hayley Hoover comes from a commercial fishing family. As as Alaska Native woman, she would like to see more women joining the commercial fleet. She envisions a curriculum for girls founded upon salmon-based science, and featuring training in boat safety, net mending and hanging techniques, business strategies, and basic electrical and mechanical skills.



Juneau Professor, UAS; fly-fishing instructor/guide According to Kevin Maier, “salmon are central to my identity.” For nearly two decades he has been analyzing the cultural impact of sport fishing and hunting. Maier has long been fascinated by various commercial fisheries; he considers himself a student of the industry. Maier is interested in learning more about indigenous technologies and the social systems that enabled generations of healthy human-salmon interactions. BEN MOHR

Anchorage Land Manager, Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI) Ben Mohr—one-time Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Parnell on fish, game, and public access issues—is now a sport and personal use fisherman. He works the Kenai Peninsula and portions of Upper Cook Inlet. Mohr “would like to increase the wonder and respect for what a uniting element Alaska’s fish resources are.”

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Bethel / Anchorage State lobbyist Mary Sattler Peltola, a State Representative from Bethel from 1999-2009, is now a subsistence salmon fisherman. Peltola urges a cautious approach to fisheries management, and prefers to blend traditional knowledge with science. For her, “salmon is a cornerstone species,” on whose vitality depends “the health of our economy, our identity and our relationships with one another.” JULIE RAYMOND-YAKOUBIAN

Girdwood Social scientist, Kawerak, Inc. Julie Raymond-Yakoubian wants to level the playing field for indigenous people in the administration of fisheries management. She has facilitated the participation of Bering Strait indigenous residents in fishery meetings. RaymondYakoubian advocates for tribal representation on fishery management bodies, which includes holding fisheriesrelated meetings closer to the most affected salmon stakeholders. CHRISTINA SALMON

Igiugig Iliaska Env.; Lake & Pen. Borough Assembly member, Village Council member Christina Salmon lives on the Kvichak River next to the world’s largest run of sockeye salmon. “With my grandmother, I have been splitting, hanging, smoking, and consuming salmon from as early as I can remember,” she recalls. “Ensuring the pristine ecosystem in which we live is maintained in perpetuity is my greatest passion.”


Stevens Village / Fairbanks Tribal Advocate, Tanana Chiefs Conference Ben Stevens grew up spending summers at his family’s fish camp on the Upper Yukon. He helped with the entire operation, from setting nets to hauling smoked and dried bales of salmon to the boat. Stevens writes that “the last wild salmon runs on earth are in peril... I’m fighting to ensure salmon return year after year.” VERNER WILSON III

Dillingham Director of Natural Resources, Bristol Bay Native Association Born and raised in Dillingham, Wilson has been involved in commercial, sport, and subsistence salmon fishing from early childhood. As a member of the Curyung Tribe, Wilson was taught the values of protecting resources for future generations: “I have tried to live up to that my entire life.” CHARLIE WRIGHT, SR.

Tanana / Rampart Water Plant Operator; Board Member Yukon River Fisheries Drainage Association Charlie Wright, lifelong subsistence and commercial fisherman, was raised on the Yukon River around Rampart. Wright believes in the art of storytelling as a way to bring people together, and has been committed to representing his people and culture in conversations about the vital role of salmon for all communities along Alaska’s rivers.

Fellow Christina Salmon shares her idea for a small-scale project. Photo by Josh Corbett

rate.” Growing up Yup’ik, she believed that the saying “don’t play with your food” could apply to anglers who catch and release salmon for sport. Peltola works alongside her family each summer at their Kuskokwim River fish camp, drying and smoking fish for wintertime. “In our view, the fish gives itself to you in particular because the salmon feels that you’re worthy, that you live by the rules. To us, there’s no such thing as catching for catching’s sake.” Peltola and another Fellow lunched with a couple of longtime guides whose sport fishing clients fish the Kenai River. Some studies show that sport fishing in Alaska rivals commercial fishing when it comes to contributing to the state’s economy. Issues that involve rod-and-reel anglers may be interesting, Peltola says, but they were never among her priorities: “I just didn’t think anything in their world had anything to do with the subsistence [fishing] world.” But as the Fellowship progresses, Peltola says she’s gained a different understanding. For instance, both sport and subsistence fishermen have questioned state forecasts projecting returns of spawning chinook salmon. Forecasts that are too high lead to increased harvest limits that Peltola and others say risk a continued decline in the number of spawning salmon entering the Kuskokwim. “We’re more aligned on this is-

“It’s been really nice

to take off that body armor and

just have a nice talk

about salmon.”

sue than I might have guessed,” she said. “It’s been really nice to take off that body armor and just have a nice talk about salmon.” Fellows in May envisioned Alaska salmon as depending upon a system of connected elements; Fellows are now considering how those elements are linked and how they could be strengthened. Participants discussed their strategic plans, which include small-scale projects they will soon undertake. At their October meeting, the second of four face-to-face gatherings, Fellows will report their plans and progress. “We want to know if this model works,” notes Farnham, leadership programs director at the Forum. If fostering relationships succeeds—and people really do gain tolerance by widening their vision of what’s possible—then the Humanities Forum may explore other fellowships, such as convening people who are committed to resolving Alaska’s $3 billion budget gap but who differ on ways to do that. For the first cohort of Salmon Fellows, next steps include presenting their ideas for grant-funded projects at a public meeting in February 2018. The number of projects depends on how Fellows organize, but there could be as many as eight proposals from the first cohort, whose Fellowships end October 2018. Norosz, the Salmon Fellow from Petersburg, has already adopted a wider view. “I believe the health of the salmon resource is inextricably linked to the well-being of our state,” she says. “I am in awe of salmon.” ■ Anchorage-based writer Rosanne Pagano teaches at Alaska Pacific University. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 2 017



‘We know full well the difficulties’ Alaska Jewish Museum exhibit recounts a fruitless 1939 plan to offer European Jews a refuge in the Last Frontier

By Aurora Ford

BRUNO ROSENTHAL wrote his first letter to the United States government in May 1939, begging for permission to immigrate to the U.S. Territory of Alaska. He feared for his life and the lives of other Jews in his small town of Neustadt, in rural Germany. Rosenthal was smart, prosperous, and kind, according to those who remembered him. He took it upon himself to advocate for his wife, Bianca, his friends, and his fellow Jews. Running out of time and options, Rosenthal, and other German and Austrian Jews, saw Alaska as a sanctuary far away from the persecution and violence closing in around them. He wrote to the U.S. State Department: 30 members of the Jewish Community at Neustadt (Kreis Marburg/Lahn) Germany desire to make an urgently application for immigration to Alasca Territory. […] All are healthy, strong and energetical. We know quite well the difficulties making the rough clime of Alaska but now we have no other choice, we German Jews. […] We promise that we will be good citizens of Alaska and that we will obey always the law of the United States.

No answer ever came from the State Department, not to that letter or the one he wrote next. But later in 1939, Rosenthal was able to correspond with officials at the Department of the Interior instead. What he learned offered a glimmer of hope. The department was urging Congress to enact


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On May 22, 1935, the U.S. Army Transport ship St. Mihiel steamed into Seward with settlers and supplies bound for the Matanuska Valley Colony. The settlement, established by the Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation and Federal Emergency Relief Administration, was intended to develop Alaska resources while providing opportunities to Americans dislocated by the Great Depression. The endeavor became a template for the never-realized plan to bring European Jewish refugees to the Alaska Territory in 1939. Alaska State Library ASL P270-187

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Letters from German Jews appealing for immigration to Alaska are part of the exhibition. Photos courtesy Alaska Jewish Museum.

legislation to settle European refugees in Alaska. Rosenthal wanted to be one of them. With the help of a $10,000 grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Alaska Jewish Museum in Anchorage has opened a new exhibit, A Refuge in the Last Frontier: Evolution of the Alaska Development Plan about this chapter in history. “We’ve included letters from some of the people who desperately wanted to move to Alaska, and some of it is pretty tough to read,” said museum curator Leslie Fried. “‘We promise to be good citizens,’ or, ‘Leo Rosenthal, farmer and soap boiler, speaks English and Russian,’ or, ‘English teacher, knows all house and garden work.’ They were trying to tell us, ‘we can contribute to the growth of the Alaska Territory.’” FEW OPTIONS

In 1935, four years before Rosenthal’s first contact with the U.S. State Department, the Nazi party issued what would become known as the Nuremberg Laws. The laws stripped Germany’s Jewish people of their citizenship and political rights, and made it illegal for them to marry or have sexual relations with “persons of German or related blood.” Whether one was a practicing Jew or not didn’t matter; anyone who had three or four Jewish grandparents was no longer considered German.


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Anti-Jewish sentiment in Germany surged during this time. The mayor of Neustadt, home to Bruno Rosenthal, declared a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. Rosenthal was forced to give up his home due to new laws requiring Aryan ownership of property. In March 1938, Germany, largely unchallenged, invaded and annexed Austria, bringing it into the fold of the Third Reich. For Austrian Jews, there followed a wave of beatings, confiscation of property, destruction of businesses, and the establishment of detention centers. Germany promptly extended its anti-Jewish legislation to Austria. In the United States, President Roosevelt talked with his cabinet about increasing the U.S. quota for refugees. He was discouraged; to do so would require an act of Congress, and no one had any confidence such legislation would pass. Waiting lists for traditional immigration could be years long. European Jews did not have that kind of time. In Europe, mass emigration of Jewish people from Germany and Austria had created a refugee crisis that surrounding countries, still feeling the dislocations of World War I and the Depression, were unwilling to accept. Under increasing political pressure, Roosevelt convened a conference in Evianles-Bains, France in July 1938. Thirty-two countries attended, but only the Dominican

Republic agreed to ease immigration restrictions in an effort to resettle Jewish refugees. Options for people like Rosenthal and his wife were evaporating. Then it all got drastically worse. BROKEN GLASS

Over two nights in November 1938, Germany, Austria, and parts of Czechoslovakia exploded in a paroxysm of violence. More than 250 houses of worship were destroyed; when synagogues burned, firefighters were instructed to do nothing. Jewish cemeteries were desecrated. Untold numbers of Jews were raped, beaten, or forced through the streets performing acts of public humiliation. Ninety-one were killed. An estimated 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses were looted. Their shattered windows provided a name for the riots: Kristallnacht, “Night of Broken Glass.” The anti-Jewish riots were carried out or abetted by a catalogue of infamous actors: Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels; the Sturmabteilung or SA; the Schutzstaffel or SS; the Hitler Youth; the Gestapo; and sympathetic ordinary citizens. In the aftermath, the Nazis imposed fines totaling a billion Marks (about $400 million, in 1938 dollars) on Jews, ostensibly to cover the cost of cleanup and repair for the

The exhibition design for A Refuge in the Last Frontier evokes a refugee ship. Artwork courtesy Alaska Jewish Museum.

THE ST. LOUIS IN ANCHORAGE Leslie Fried, curator of the Alaska Jewish Museum, was a librarian, a decorative painter, and a scenic artist for theater and film before taking her current job in fall 2011. Her background in theater and the decorative arts is evident in the exhibition design for A Refuge in the Last Frontier: Evolution of the Alaska Development Plan. “The way that I conceived this exhibit was to use the story of the ship St. Louis as a metaphor,” said Fried. In May 1939, 937 Jewish refugees left Hamburg, Germany aboard the liner St. Louis. They were headed to Cuba, which had taken in refugees before, but this time the St. Louis was turned away. “The captain, who was a good-hearted guy,” said Fried, “floated the ship close to the coast of Miami, hoping Roosevelt would intercede on their behalf. But he did not.” Some of the refugees were taken in by various countries in Europe, but more than 200 died in concentration camps. “We’ve created this exhibit with curved walls and railings to look like the refugee ship,” explained Fried. Cleverly designed “portholes” bring history to life through films and images. The exhibit includes a timeline of events in Europe, the U.S., and the Alaska Territory from 1933 to 1945. Above the “ship” hang reproductions of letters, like Bruno Rosenthal’s, requesting immigration to Alaska. ALASKA JEWISH MUSEUM

1221 E 35th Ave, Anchorage Sunday – Friday, 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Kristallnacht riots. Jewish men—30,000 of them—were arrested and thrown into concentration camps where they were forced to labor throughout the winter. Bruno Rosenthal was one of them. Hundreds of men died there. Others were released with the stipulation that they begin the process of emigrating out of Germany immediately. When Rosenthal returned home to Neustadt, he urgently sought an exit. ‘NEITHER COLDNESS NOR OTHER NATURE-FORCES’

The brutality of Kristallnacht sparked outrage around the world. While the U.S. State Department still opposed accepting refugees, Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, had other plans. The Territory of Alaska, population about 65,000, fell within his administrative domain. Ickes commissioned a feasibility study from the Department of the Interior on the topic of settling refugees in Alaska. He wanted to exceed current immigration quotas. The study culminated in the Slattery Report, named for the department’s undersecretary, Harry A. Slattery. It was formally titled “The Problem of Alaskan Development.” The solution presented would today be called a “win-win.” The U.S. could offer refuge to European Jews who would help build the Territory of Alaska. The idea was not outrageous: “Our own nation is actually the product of such a mass migration,” Slattery observed. The report was released nine months after Kristallnacht, in August 1939. The focus of potential settlement was limited to Baranof Island, the Kenai Peninsula, and the Matanuska and Susitna valleys. The report projected industries based on Alaska’s re-

sources, from coal deposits in the Matanuska Valley to tin on the Seward Peninsula. Potential was seen for farming the vast flat areas of the western Kenai Peninsula, and raising cattle and sheep on Kodiak Island. Much was made of the abundant possibilities of Southeast Alaska. Tourism was a promising venture there. “The coast is a continuous panorama. [It] is to become the show place of the earth,” the report proposed. “Pilgrims will throng in endless procession to see it.” The report also conjectured that “Alaska forests could be a perpetual source for 25 per cent of the newsprint consumption in the United States.” The advantage of these industries, and the communities that might grow around them, is that they would operate year-round, unlike the territory’s seasonal fishing industry. The Slattery Report also proposed that while other areas of the U.S. might be burdened by an influx of settlers, in Alaska quite the opposite was true. Alaska needed more people to develop a thriving economy. Slattery posited that people of the frontier were willing to accept anyone who wanted to work hard. “Immigration to Alaska supported by industries properly financed will bring both capital and man power to the Territory,” the report stated. “Both are prerequisites for social and economic stability.” On September 1, 1939, shortly after the report’s release, Germany invaded Poland, igniting World War II in Europe. Back in Neustadt, Rosenthal received a copy of the Slattery Report in November, enclosed with a reply sent him by the U.S. Department of Interior. He immediately wrote back, emphasizing the willingness he and his fellow Jews possessed to be exactly

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the pioneers Alaska needed: “Neither coldness nor other nature-forces shall prevent us to do our duty.” The State Department still wasn’t on board, but Ickes met with Roosevelt, and the president seemed to be considering the idea. Encouraged, the Department of Interior drafted the King-Havenner bill, or the Alaska Development Plan, based on the Slattery Report. The bill, introduced to Congress in March 1940, faced an uphill battle. While America ruminated about whether to offer Alaska as sanctuary, Hitler was not idle. In April 1940, Germany occupied Denmark and Norway. The following month, they took France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Rosenthal and the Jews of Neustadt waited and hoped. Ironically, some reservations about the Alaska Development Plan came from the Jewish community in the U.S. Some Jewish organizations thought the plan was a misdirected effort; time and resources ought instead to be directed toward the Zionist goal of creating the state of Israel. Rabbi Stephen Wise, head of the American Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee, claimed that the Alaska plan was deficient: “It’s not enough, because the big issue is opening the gates of Palestine.” TALK RADIO

The vast majority of the opposition, however, came from non-Jewish America. The United States in the late-Thirties and earlyForties harbored much of the same antiSemitism that existed in other parts of the world. This was, in part, driven by social leaders such as Father Charles Coughlin, a Catholic priest. Coughlin became the first public figure to disseminate his opinions through a nationwide radio show. At its peak listenership, the show reached an estimated 30 million of America’s 130 million citizens. Coughlin frequently used this outlet to espouse his increasingly anti-Semitic ideals. He expressed sympathy for Hitler’s fascist government, blamed Jewish bankers for various world conflicts, and believed there was a Jewish conspiracy to seize control of the planet. He wasn’t alone. More anti-Semitic groups existed around the country. The German-American Bund was an organization comprised of American citizens of German descent who were sympathetic to the Nazis. The Silver Shirt Legion was made up of Ku Klux Klan members, Protestants who had been in America for generations. The Silver Shirt Legion’s founder, William Dudley Pelley, spread widely a false narrative that seven million Jewish Communist refugees had


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infiltrated America, conspiring to overtake the government. As implausible as it sounds today, the story likely impacted the debate over refugee quotas in Congress. It wasn’t just fringe groups who held antiSemitic views. Forbes Magazine conducted a survey in July 1938, asking how the American people felt about German, Austrian, and other political refugees, most of whom were Jewish, settling in the United States. Less than five percent of respondents believed immigration quotas should be raised. Twothirds of Americans preferred excluding the refugees. ‘UNSUITED FOR ALASKA’

Despite Ickes’ advocacy, many Alaskans were skeptical of his plan to populate the territory with Jewish refugees. Chambers of commerce in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Valdez passed resolutions opposing the Alaska Development Plan. Skagway, Petersburg, and Seward supported the plan. Some individuals were receptive to the idea, such as Emma de la Vergne, U.S. Recorder in Fairbanks, who told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, “Let the German Jews come to Alaska if they want to. Alaska is a big country. Give them a chance. If they cannot make a go of it, they will leave.” Most, though, resisted. Some opposed the plan for economic reasons. Others believed that America should first offer such opportunities to its citizens who had been hit hardest by the Depression. Many felt Europe’s refugee crisis simply wasn’t America’s problem. A few barely bothered to conceal their distaste. In a report written to summarize Anchorage’s objections to the plan, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce President Clyde R. Ellis blamed the victims: “We can safely say without fear of contradiction that those refugees have proven their non-assimilability [in their own countries] which has resulted in this disaster which has overtaken them.” Fairbanks mayor Leslie Nerland, quoted in an article titled “German Jews Unsuited for Alaska Settlers Is Prevailing View Here,” and printed in the Daily News-Miner, stated the following: “Making a haven of Alaska for refugees of any kind is not favored by me. Such a proposal in my opinion is almost as unpopular among Alaskans as the suggestion some time ago that the Territory be used for the location of penal colonies made up of convicts from prisons in the states.” Robert Sheldon, President of the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, stated: “They are not the type of hardy Scandinavians who have had so much to do with development of Alaska. It seems the only way refugees

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported on local reaction to the 1939 Slattery report. Courtesy Alaska Jewish Museum.

Editor’s Note:

TELLING AND RETELLING Accounts of Bruno Rosenthal, the Slattery Report, and Alaska’s proposed role as a sanctuary for European Jews have been published before. The story— compelling, intricate, and heartbreaking— is sure to be told anew in the future. The distance from which we view the events, and the breadth of our knowledge, give us a clarity of hindsight we lack when regarding the present. Alaskans’ recurrent fascination with the 75-year-old story testifies to its power to complicate our judgment about events today. Those looking for a more detailed and immersive history will find it at the Alaska Jewish Museum’s exhibit. The account in FORUM is indebted to the narrative composed for that exhibit by Curator Leslie Fried, and to the following sources. “The Problem of Alaskan Development,” the U.S. Department of the Interior document known as the Slattery Report, was released in 1939. An original copy of it may be viewed in the Alaska Collection of the Loussac Library in Anchorage. In May 1999, the Anchorage Daily News ran a comprehensive four-part story on the subject by Alaska journalist and author Tom Kizzia. The parts are titled “Beacon of Hope,” “‘Give Us This Chance,’” “‘Alaska Wants No Misfits,’” and “‘Are There No Exceptions?’”

Alaska History, the journal of the Alaska Historical Society, published “Dashed Hopes for a Jewish Immigration Haven in Alaska,” by Hannah L. Mitson in its spring 1999 issue. (The piece is available online at the Forum’s Alaska History and Cultural Studies site, “A Thanksgiving Plan to Save Europe’s Jews,” by Raphael Medoff, appeared in The Jewish Standard’s issue of November 16, 2007. In 2014, Jordan Norquist, a German and history major at the University of Alaska Anchorage, wrote a seniorseminar paper titled “Charity Begins at Home: How Public Opinion Denied Jewish Refugees Asylum in Alaska.” Her paper was honored at UAA and summarized online in the university’s “Green and Gold News.” For background on the era, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website,, has a robust and readable educational component.

The U.S. Department of the Interior sent information about settlement in Alaska to German Jews, before the plan was abandoned. Courtesy Alaska Jewish Museum.

without means could subsist in Alaska would be with government relief grants.” Many shared Sheldon’s opinion: European refugees didn’t know what lay in store for them in Alaska, and would become burdens to the territory. The would-be immigrants simply did not understand the travails they would face. On the contrary, according to exhibit curator Leslie Fried, Rosenthal and others vying for entry into Alaska received from the Department of the Interior a copy of Information for Prospective Settlers in Alaska. This pamphlet described in detail Alaska’s climate, the types of vegetables that could be grown, transportation costs, opportunities for work, schools, livestock, population, trapping, laws for hunting, and cost of living: “a man can live on $1 a day.” The refugees’ ability to assimilate or adapt didn’t matter in the end. Many in Congress argued that while most of the tenets of the Alaska Development Plan might be true, it need not be Jewish refugees who would help settle Alaska. The King-Havenner bill, they contended, was an end-run around

immigration quotas and a humanitarian effort disguised as something else. “Do you not know this bill is almost wholly humanitarian on its impulse?” asked Senator Homer Bone of Washington. After raising the hopes of European Jews like Bruno Rosenthal that the Last Frontier might be their sanctuary, the bill was unceremoniously dropped. President Roosevelt never spoke about it publicly. In November 1941, according to Nazi records, Bruno Rosenthal and his wife were put on a train leaving the nearby town of Roth, headed for a Jewish ghetto in Riga, Latvia. Before the end of the war, occupants of the Riga ghetto were transported to concentration camps, or simply taken outside the city and massacred. There is only an infinitesimal chance that the Rosenthals survived long enough to be liberated by the Allies, but we cannot know. The letters ceased. ■ Aurora Ford is a former Vice Media writer and frequent contributor to the Anchorage Press.

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A photo taken in downtown Anchorage by Doug (no last name given), a prolific member of both sessions of “A Call to Look.”

Look Again People experiencing homelessness in Anchorage share creative visions


orum last checked in with “A Call to Look” at Anchorage’s Brother Francis Shelter (BFS) in fall 2013. The program put cameras in the hands of people who were experiencing homelessness. Its foremost goal was to provide BFS guests with an outlet for creative expression. It was also an opportunity, if they wished, to take some control over depictions of homelessness. Over 18 weekly meetings, BFS guests and notable Anchorage photographers conducted training and critique sessions. Between meetings, participants had 28 frames of film to expose, sometimes with specific assignments. The program culminated in a First Friday show and a month-long exhibition. Some photographers sold prints. Pictures were published in several outlets, including FORUM. Lisa Caldeira, program director at Brother Francis Shelter, and Deroy Brandt, an Anchorage photographer, were encouraged by the experience the program offered BFS guests; they initiated a second round the fol-


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lowing year. Life at the shelter is regimented, Caldeira explained. Guests arrive, eat, sleep, and leave at certain times and places. “The program offered a space for creativity that doesn’t exist for a lot of folks,” she said. “It was a chance to do something less structured.” The tools were modified “disposable” cameras. Lightweight and simple to control, they shot real film and favored photographers who excel at seeing creatively, rather than coaxing images though technical wizardry. A participant named Colleen elaborated on the necessity of seeing. “You can find beauty in the least likely places. You just have to look,” she said. When viewers wondered where she’d taken a photo, she would tell them: “You see it every day! You just don’t look at it the same.” Caldeira agrees with the sentiment. “Most of us, we’re hurrying from point A to point B all day,” she said. “Well, if you don’t have a point B, maybe you stop and look for a while.” And if you have a camera in your hands, maybe you take a photo. ■

Clockwise from top: Photos by Rich, Robert, Amy, Amy, and Doug.

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Discussion Tips


Ready to discuss the article? Whatever the group, you can use this guide to delve deeper and think about homelessness in a new way. SETTLING IN

Introducing Community Conversations A new series begins with a discussion of homelessness in Alaska


ith this issue, FORUM magazine initiates a new venture: Community Conversations. It works like a book club: we’ll pick a topic; create an article exploring perspectives around it; and then throw it to you, our readers, to join the conversation. “Like a comments section?” you ask. In a way, but with an important difference: we won’t be tapping at our phones for this discussion, but assembling in person to listen, speak, and learn. (It’s what “forum” means, after all.) Our ambition is to have gatherings around the state; the first will be at the Forum offices in Anchorage on August 10, 2017. After that, we’d like to invite you to host a conversation in your own community. We can provide everything you need to run your discussion, even a micro-grant to help fund it. You choose the facilitator and the space for a conversation with 5-20 participants, using guidance and materials supplied by the Forum. Go to community-conversations for more details. This year, the Alaska Humanities Forum launched HUMAN:ties, an initiative to explore the influence of human connection on our sense of physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. We identified homelessness as the specific focus area for the first year. In these pages and elsewhere, the Forum will use its experience as a “convener of conversations” to revitalize a familiar subject by inviting critical and diverse new approaches.


To get started, we interviewed three leaders who have different perspectives. While their thoughts are stimulatingly divergent, all agreed on one point: challenging yet respectful conversations will be necessary for our communities to overcome homelessness. We are indebted to Rodney Gaskins, Ernestine Hayes, and Jamie Boring for initiating the exchange on the following pages. Their extemporaneous and candid remarks are models for us. (They speak for themselves, not on behalf of any organizations they are affiliated with.) Not interested in homelessness? Read anyway; each contributor employs techniques of discourse important to the humanities. Ernestine Hayes asks us to question the social and political assumptions of the language that frames the topic. Rodney Gaskins has a gift for trenchant metaphors that help to visualize concepts. And Jamie Boring displays a healthy skepticism of orthodoxy.

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Community Conversations: Homelessness Thursday, August 10, 6:30 p.m. Light fare will be served. Alaska Humanities Forum 161 E. 1st Avenue, Door 15 Anchorage Space is limited. Please call 272-5321 to reserve a seat.

Before beginning, set the intention for this conversation: it is an opportunity to learn about other points of view, to be heard, and to hear. This is not a debate. We seek to understand one another, not change one another’s minds. We are all invited to speak for ourselves. No one is being asked to speak for their group, position, denomination, or party—just for themselves. If people don’t know one another, have them introduce themselves. GROUNDING THE CONVERSATION

Choose one of these questions and take it around the room. What is your own experience with or connection to homelessness? Why are you here? What interests you about this conversation? What hope or fear do you bring to this conversation? READING

Ask the group to read the article silently (if they haven’t already), considering the following questions. What assumptions does each contributor hold? What do you agree with? What do you want to argue with? What do you admire? DELVING DEEP

Kick off the discussion with your own reactions to the article and encourage the group to share their thoughts. If people begin to cross the line into advocacy and abstraction, coax them back into speaking for themselves with questions like these: Tell me what you mean when you use that word. Can you tell a story to illustrate that? What experiences led you to that point of view? CLOSING

To close, ask people to share their reflections on one of the following questions: What does this mean for our community? What is something you’re still thinking about? What is something you learned from someone else today?

Ernestine Hayes It Needs to be Dismantled

Ernestine Hayes, of Juneau, is the 2017 Alaska State Writer Laureate. She belongs to the Kaagwaantaan clan of the Eagle side of the Lingit nation. Her published works include two books of memoir, Blonde Indian (2006) and The Tao of Raven (2016). She serves as an Associate Professor of English Arts and Sciences at the University of Alaska Southeast, and sits on the Alaska Humanities Forum Board of Directors. What is your experience with or personal connection to homelessness?

I was homeless myself on and off over a period of a few years when I was in California. At the age of 40, after having been homeless for a bit of time—couch surfing and so on, not necessarily on the street—I decided to come back home to Juneau, where I hadn’t been for 25 years. It took eight months to get from San Francisco to Ketchikan, living in my car, standing in food lines, sleeping in shelters. When I got to Ketchikan, I remained homeless and camped out from May to October.

Why are people homeless?

There are as many reasons as there are people. I was broke, my life was in shambles, I wanted to get home but I couldn’t afford to hop on a plane. I stood in line and slept in shelters and talked to lots of homeless people who were either on the street or camping, and every one of them had a different story.

What do you think we should do about homelessness?

Who’s “we”?

Well, we as a community, we as Alaskans, we as humans…

Just like there are uncounted reasons for being homeless, there are uncounted solutions. Some of the time it isn’t necessarily a problem to be solved. I met some people who chose a certain lifestyle that didn’t root them to one place. It’s a totally legitimate choice to not enter a capitalist consumer society that condemns you and judges you

if you don’t conform. Of course, there are plenty of people who just need a break and came on some hard luck, and if there is a solution for their particular circumstance, it would be down a different path. We don’t know the solution, we don’t know what will work. But we certainly know what won’t work, and that is judging people and insisting that they get a job like everybody else, as though consumerism in this capitalist society is the miserable answer to everything. So, you think the term “homelessness” and the inherent lack in the language there isn’t right? Maybe there’s too much assuming going?

I think that’s a really brilliant thought. People say that defining something by what it is not is a bad start. That would fall in those parameters.

Is there a limit to our responsibility to end homelessness?

The use, there, of the possessive pronoun “our” is a bit troubling, because it’s automatically exclusive. Those are terms that are usually recognized by mainstream populations, when you see the word “we.” Because of the way society is built, it automatically embraces a certain population and excludes Others. “Others,” capital O. If anyone is not a mainstream, middle class, white American with a home and a job, then we say, “What can we do?” and “What’s our responsibility for these poor Others?” A lot of these societal issues are so intertwined that the root cause is not going to be healed by placing band-aids here and there on what might be considered the “poor,” the “Other.” So, what’s creating all this? Why are we in a society that actually debates whether people have a right—a human right—to shelter and food and health? Here’s my thought: we—and when I say “we” I’m not including only middle class, white Americans, because that’s not who I am, so my “we” is different—we as human beings have to learn to ignore the suffering and hunger and cold and pain of others. I think as humans, we’re born with the impulse to protect and care for others. But that has to be educated out of human beings and that’s what this society does very, very well.

What do you think would change the rhetoric around that, or change the narrative that’s been created?

Well, it’s systemic. You have to change the system. We’re talking about the master’s house, and the master’s house has to be dismantled. How do you dismantle a whole system that teaches everyone in the world, because of neocolonialism, that greed and consumerism and profit-seeking and accumulation is the measure of a person’s worth? It needs to be dismantled, but I have no idea how that gets done. It’s a huge global thing that’s going to have to come to its natural conclusion. It’s alarming, because we’re talking about the environment, we’re talking about inequity, we’re talking about people being shot in this country. If there’s an answer, I wish we could discover it. In the meantime, we just need to step aside and change our perspective and relate to people as equals and feel the impulse to help other people, but not from the position of noblesse oblige. There’s something inherently condescending about charity?


Maybe conversations like this are a good place to start.

I think so. It’s about changing our perspective, hearing other voices, acknowledging the intellectual authority of the populations that are the target of these projects. If we want to hear homeless people, we need to first ask homeless people to speak for themselves. And, of course, there will be some who choose not to or are unable to speak for themselves. Then, we can share their story, with their permission and from their perspective and relate it within the context of our own story. Not saying “I met this person and I’m going to tell you their story because they’re so pitiful,” but rather “I met this person and I heard their story and I was changed.” And maybe that’s it. Maybe these projects shouldn’t have it as their sole objective to change someone else. Maybe it should be to change the people who include themselves in the pronoun “we.” ■ —Interview by Lillian Maassen A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 2 017


Jamie Boring Outreach is Key

Unfortunately, we don’t have a base of people who live downtown to offset the numbers of people who are homeless downtown. In other communities, you may have a homeless population and a tourist population, and you usually have a large number of residents, too. Downtown Anchorage doesn’t have that piece because it’s lacking in residential housing. So sometimes a tourist may look at a park and see a larger percentage of people who may be either mentally unhealthy or homeless.

to go and live on the streets for a few days. Of course, you have some paradigms and assumptions: a stereotypical Alaska Native male who maybe has chronic alcohol problems, for instance. That paradigm is not correct. What I found was a human being issue. It wasn’t one culture or one community; it was every culture, and all communities, and all ages. A large percentage of the homeless people I met were homeless because they depended on family that weren’t able to assist them. They came to Anchorage thinking they had a job or thinking they had a place to stay, and they didn’t have either of those things. A lot of people are eligible for social services, but they either can’t get to them or they haven’t connected with outreach, so they’re missing opportunities. The biggest thing that changed my paradigm was the percentage of mentally unhealthy people, at least in the downtown area, who are homeless. They maybe are drinking or doing drugs, but really what they’re doing is self-medicating because they’re victims of mental health challenges. I’ve encouraged my staff to go speak to people and look them in the face and call them by name, if they can, because sometimes that’s the only reality check they have. Even to hear what day it is or what time it is. Some people on the streets go days or weeks without even being called by their own names, or hearing a kind word. When I was doing my bit on the street—which I could have left and gone home to my family at any moment, so I’m not comparing it—I was hypothermic; I was only sleeping for twohour chunks; the free food that was available downtown was mostly pretty starchy and low on protein. So, even after four or five days, I started getting foggy in my head. I could only imagine what it would be like if I had also been drinking, and been out there for weeks or months.

Last year, when I took this job, I kept hearing from everybody that homeless numbers were decreasing, but that’s not what you see. So I talked to my family and I decided

The homeless population that I was talking to—I admire their hope. There was a gentleman who sat next to me one night.

Jamie Boring is the Executive Director of Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd., responsible for “assuring a clean, safe, vital, and healthy downtown.” He grew up in Anchorage, served in the Marines, owned a downtown business, and worked in development, construction, and finance. Today, he works with the community in collaborative ways to address local challenges. Among these challenges is homelessness and its consequences in downtown Anchorage.

What is your experience of or personal connection with homelessness?

Anchorage Downtown Partnership is responsible for 120 blocks downtown. One unique thing about our downtown is that we’ve placed 80 percent of our social services for people who are physically or mentally unhealthy, or homeless, in exactly the same neighborhood as 80 percent of our tourism, and a majority of our best hotels, government buildings, class A and class B office spaces. We have created an environment where we’re trying to serve the homeless community in the same place that we’re using as an economic engine for the State of Alaska. Do you think that overlap is a detriment to the tourism industry? Does it scare people off?

Why do people become homeless?


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Did you find that people treated you differently?

I wasn’t speaking, but he was telling me, “Everything you need is here; don’t give up; let’s make it through another day...” Really encouraging stuff. But, yes, most people walked by and intentionally looked away, even though there was nothing to look at. Maybe they thought I was intimidating or that I was going to ask for money—whatever the reason, there’s always the other person’s side—but there was zero eye contact, zero greeting. It shouldn’t be this way, but when we talk about homelessness we whisper, and when we see somebody who’s homeless we walk away. What should we do about homelessness?

Although the Housing First initiatives that are common across the country are excellent, it’s one thing to feed people’s stomachs, and another to feed their hearts and minds. Something as simple as a conversation or music or a puzzle or book or woodshop. Something that brings them back to a baseline of hope and inspiration. I’m sure the boredom has got to be overwhelming. The other piece is, at least in downtown Anchorage, there’s really no visible sign of outreach. This may be because of a gap in the system, or funding. When people ask me about my relationship to the homeless service providers, and what should they do, my question back to them is always, “Who do you give money to, and do you know where that money goes? Does any part of that money go to outreach? Does the system allow the money to go to outreach?” It may go to housing, which is splendid, or it may go to something you’re passionate about, like homeless families or children. But how much of it actually makes it to the street through outreach? And not from eight to five, Monday through Friday, but literally 24 hours a day. Outreach is an important key. We can ask someone 99 times if they want or need help, and they may say no. But when you ask the 100th time and they say yes, we need to be there to hear it. It’s one thing working hard to create an environment to house a homeless person.

Rodney Gaskins Get to the Fire It’s another thing to work with a group like mine, or Covenant House, or the Anchorage Police Department, or any of the other organizations out there, who encounter homeless people in the streets and ask them if they need help. When they say yes, who do you call? How do you connect them? That’s the part that is definitely missing, for the most part. I’m certainly not disparaging any of the organizations that are operating downtown; most times their shortcomings are a system failure or funding restrictions, not lacking heart or compassion for the problem. To really end homelessness, the outreach component—24 hours a day, seven days a week—is as important as any other component of the process. Is there a limit to our responsibility to end homelessness? If so, what?

Where I sit now with my job and my dedication to serve this community, my limit is endless. My job is to wrap my arms around people and offer as much support and love as possible and ask my staff to do the same thing. That’s our job, and it’s endless. We may be helping, but we’re not the solution. The interesting question: is Anchorage equipped as well as it could be to serve this customer base? I don’t know if we are. We have limited beds and limited resources. Our shelters are overrun with double the number of people they were set up to serve. But, certainly, leaving people—especially the mentally unhealthy—on the streets of downtown Anchorage is not a solution. I think talking about it like we’re doing now is a start. But talk needs to become action and solutions. Homelessness tears the soul out of a community. We are given a great opportunity to serve people who really need help. Figuring out a way to do that, having hard conversations, and having accountable leadership are the ways to really break down barriers and address the issue. That will be the day we actually solve these problems. ■ —Interview by Lillian Maassen

Rodney Gaskins is the Executive Director of the Fairbanks Rescue Mission. The Mission’s goal is to serve the physical and spiritual needs of people experiencing homelessness; it operates the only overnight emergency shelter for men, women, and children in Interior Alaska. Gaskins, originally from Washington, D.C., served 20 years in the military, then earned a degree in business administration. He has lived in Fairbanks for 18 years. What is your experience with or personal connection to homelessness?

When I was in the military, I used to go to the youth facility and talk to some of the kids there. I grew up in a violent place, in Washington, D.C., and I got in trouble as a youth, so I wanted to reach out to kids. In Fairbanks, I did ministry outreach, and started going to the Rescue Mission with my church. What I saw was this: these were people who had encountered hardship, made a bad decision, had life problems thrust on them. But they were good people, and they were no different than the other people I knew. The difference is the other people I knew had a social group that helped them and kept them from hitting rock bottom. A lot of the people at the mission didn’t. So, I wanted to be used, in a sense. I realized that a lot of the people here have been hurt by other people, and it takes people to heal them. I wanted to be a part of that healing. Why are people homeless?

There’s no one answer. I heard something recently: people don’t become homeless when they lose a house or when they run out of money; they become homeless when they run out of relationships. That really resonated with me. There are a lot of reasons— for some it could be substance abuse, for some the loss of a job, for some an extended illness. It could be one thing or many things. Some people can encounter hardships and overcome them with a social network, but the people we serve either burned all their bridges or they have no bridges.

What should we do about homelessness?

There’s no one big solution, it’s all individualized. It’s reaching the person. We have a saying here: if you’re working harder than the person you’re helping, you’re not helping. It’s about empowering them. We interviewed one guy years ago; he said that we, here at the Rescue Mission, loved him until he was strong enough to love himself. There are other approaches where they allow people to continue drinking, thinking that providing shelter is going to change the person. If you have a drunk driving problem in a city, you don’t provide a special lane for them and pad the guardrails and allow them to continue to drive. That’s harm reduction. I understand harm reduction, and there’s a place for it, but it should come with expectation. When you have no expectation of someone, you’re going to be successful every time in achieving nothing. Expectation communicates respect. It communicates that I believe in you, that you can do this, that you have value. When we have no expectation for someone, we’re telling them that this is the best they will ever achieve. But I think we’re made for challenge. Is there a limit to our responsibility to end homelessness?

In a community, we’re responsible to one another. But homelessness is the result of a problem, not the problem itself. It’s the result of a broken home, or a lack of mental health services, or a drug epidemic. It’s a symptom that shows there is a problem. So often, we address the symptom without getting to the source of the problem. If a smoke detector’s going off in my room, I can address it by taking the batteries out. But really, the smoke detector’s going off because there’s a fire somewhere. Often, we keep addressing the smoke detector without ever getting to the fire. ■ —Interview by Lillian Maassen

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2017 Annual Humanities Grants

Northern Narratives Digital Hub Anchorage Museum Association Anchorage / $8,000

A chemistry class at Sheldon Jackson School in Sitka in the 1950s. The teacher is Gladys Whitmore. Sheldon Jackson College collection, Alaska State Library Historical Collections. Voices of Sheldon Jackson: Outdoor and Online History Exhibit and Educational Materials Alaska Arts Southeast / Sitka / $6,000 Sitka’s Sheldon Jackson High School and College operated from 1878 to 2007. Formerly the Sitka Industrial and Training School attended by Alaska Native boys, the school burned down and nearly closed in 1882. However, due to the fund-raising efforts of a Presbyterian missionary named Sheldon Jackson, the school was re-opened. Reverend Jackson died in May 1909, and the school was renamed after him in 1910. Project director Rebecca Poulson grew up in Sitka and returned after college to study wooden boat repair.


During her studies, she discovered that the Alaska Native men she was learning from all had connections to the school, and she began researching its history and impact on the area. Voices of Sheldon Jackson aims to educate the community about the history of the institution via public meetings, newly illustrated historical signs placed around the school grounds, and student resources and school lessons collected online. A dedication ceremony will “recognize all those who were affected by, or [were] part of, this institution over the years.”

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In conjunction with the fall 2017 opening of the Anchorage Museum’s 12,000-square-foot Alaska Exhibition, and 25,000-square-foot Art of the North gallery expansion, the museum will launch Northern Narratives, a digital collection of teaching tools, curricula, and syllabi for K-12 educators and higher education. The grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum will be used to develop content related to the museum’s new spaces, incorporating decolonizing methodologies and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning about Alaska and the North. The Digital Hub will include teaching guides focused on objects in the Anchorage Museum collection, with high-resolution images, research on the objects, cultural and historical contexts, and questions to prompt inquiry and conversations. Hands-on activities involving scientific experiments, creative writing, and making art will be featured.

An animated frame in progress from The Boy in the Moon, which tells a traditional story in the Gwich’in language as a gateway to language education and preservation. Courtesy of Sam Osborn

Language Keepers: The Boy in the Moon Educational Supplement Osborn Creative LLC Interior Alaska / $9,900

“I’m just amazed at how much a misconception it is that English is a language that will fit everybody, and fit every culture,” says Sam Osborn, the project director for Language Keepers, a planned multimedia series exploring endangered languages. Osborn’s pilot for Language Keepers—the animated documentary The Boy in the Moon along with its educational supplements —examines the Gwich’in Athabascan language. Estimates indicate fewer than 700 remaining native speakers of Gwich’in live in the interiors of Alaska and Canada. Osborn isn’t Alaskan, but says endangered languages have long fascinated him. “Alaska stood out as a great place to start because the Athabascan languages are so rich, and there are a lot of preservation efforts underway, and a lot of people who can support you,” he

said via phone from New York City. His research led him to Allan Hayton, Language Revitalization Program Director at Doyon Foundation, who is Gwich’in and speaks the language. The Boy in the Moon is an animated retelling of a traditional Gwich’in story about the tribe’s relationship to the land, narrated by Hayton. (The Alaska Humanities Forum supported the film in a previous grant.) This grant will fund the creation of a three-part educational supplement to the film. “The idea for the animated film was to have it be the sugar coating on the vegetables, like an appetizing entry point to something more fulfilling,” Osborn explains. “It’s an interactive suite of documentaries and tools to get people more involved, more interested, and aware of what endangered languages are.” The first element of the supplement will be an interactive interview with a native Gwich’in speaker who also speaks English, exploring the question of how speaking the language impacts the way in which you view the world. The second element is an activity that teaches how to assemble a few common

phrases in Gwich’in, which involves learning syntax, constructing sentences, and understanding the epistemological tendencies of this particular language. The third element is a short documentary about preservation efforts regarding the Gwich’in language; this includes a “day in the life” character study of a native speaker. Working on the project, Osborn was continually surprised at how often English isn’t useful for native speakers of Gwich’in. “[English is] so imprecise that they aren’t able to place themselves well enough. It’s clear once you start looking into the language that it was built with different needs in mind. It was built for a culture that just works differently, where English doesn’t apply.” Osborn’s film, and its supplements, are only the pilot for the Language Keepers series Osborn has in mind. He would like to do six more installments, each with a documentary and interactive supplement. The task is daunting. “Gwich’in is so deep and so complex; to extrapolate that all of these endangered languages are so complex, and come with such a rich history—it’s overwhelming.” A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 2 017


2017 Annual Humanities Grants

The documentary Keep Talking chronicles efforts to preserve the Alutiiq language. Photo by Tyler Townsend

Keep Talking Kartemquin Educational Films Kodiak / $10,000 The Alutiiq language of Kodiak is nearly extinct; in 2013, only 41 fluent speakers remained. The film Keep Talking follows three Alaska Native women and one 13-year-old girl over five years as they work to revitalize their language and culture. The women also confront personal demons, namely substance abuse, suicide, and domestic violence, while facing community tensions and funding challenges. The film highlights the healing power of language for the women, including at the Dig Afognak Language Camp on Afognak Island, and concludes with the opening (in January 2017) of an Alutiiq immersion preschool. The filmmakers have partnered with the Smithsonian Institution’s Recovering Voices Program. Keep Talking is expected to screen at the National Museum of History, and may be included in the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition with Recovering Voices, reaching nearly 50 museums nationwide.


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North x North: Artist Dialogue Institute of the North Anchorage / $4,500 The U.S. chaired the Arctic Council from 2015 to 2017, when the baton was passed to Finland at the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Fairbanks. North x North was a series of events, part of the Week of the Arctic, held May 11-14, 2017 in Anchorage. It complemented the main event in Fairbanks, which drew participants from eight Arctic nations. “North x North in Anchorage was focused on innovation, and social and cultural experiences related to the Arctic that most people don’t get to experience,” says project director Nils Andreassen. A grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum supported artist participation, encouraging dialogue among artists, film directors, DJs, and others from the Arctic nations. “Filmmakers were able to talk to each other and discuss film festival cooperation in the future, and DJs could talk about music as a common element among Arctic nations,” Andreassen explains.

Giving Voice Hospice of Haines Southeast Alaska / $4,500

Giving Voice is an oral-history pilot project by Hospice of Haines. It pairs hospice clients with students from local schools to collect the patients’ life stories and their own assessments of the lives they lived. Students compile these stories into digital audio or written formats for posterity. The proposal for Giving Voice asks, “What greater need, other than comfort, can there be when facing the end of one’s life, than the feeling of well-being induced by knowing your chosen path and experiences will be of value to others who follow?” The project is led by documentarian Kip Kermoian, who’s also a Hospice of Haines volunteer, with help from acclaimed nonfiction writer Heather Lende, author of Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer. They hope the concept behind Giving Voice—documenting reflections on life by hospice patients—will serve as a model to be adopted by other communities to further the formation of relationships between young people, community members, and hospice clients.

Fort Mears, in Dutch Harbor, was attacked on June 3, 1942, by Japanese warplanes. A commemoration of the event and its ramifications was held this June in neighboring Unalaska. Alaska State Library ASL-P233-V114

75th Anniversary Symposium and Commemoration— Dutch Harbor Attack Museum of the Aleutians Unalaska / $9,400

Unknown to the Japanese attackers, their 1942 air offensive against Dutch Harbor during World War II wasn’t a surprise. Americans had broken a Japanese code, and were forewarned when eleven Kate bombers and six Zero fighters attacked on June 3, dropping their payloads on the U.S. Army barracks at Fort Mears the day before the Battle of Midway commenced in the Pacific Theater. Japanese bombers returned the next day, June 4, and destroyed fuel tanks, aided by photos they’d taken the day before. As on the first day, American communication between Dutch Harbor and the airfields at Cold Bay and Umnak Island failed, and despite the

knowledge the attacks were imminent, defenses were meek. The Battle of Dutch Harbor—the launch of the U.S. military’s Aleutian Island campaign— ended with 78 dead on the American side. In the aftermath, while Japanese aircraft carriers and other ships steamed west, the U.S. built a runway in Dutch Harbor in nine days; the site is still in use today. Shortly after the attack, Native Unangan, or Aleut, people were evacuated from the entire Aleutian chain. A total of 881 Unangax from eight villages were shipped off to meager camps in southeast Alaska. They were forced to live in abandoned canneries and a gold mining camp without plumbing, toilets, or electricity. Medical facilities were poor or nonexistent. Some Unangax lacked even warm clothes. Elders and the young suffered most, dying of pneumonia and tuberculosis in the camps. Yet the Unangan people were resilient, repairing the compounds and, in one

case, erecting their own Church of the Holy Ascension of Christ during the two years they were sequestered. A week after the attacks on Dutch Harbor, the Americans learned the Japanese were occupying the islands of Attu and Kiska in the western Aleutians. It would take a year before the Americans invaded Attu and cleared the island. A grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum facilitated a 75th Anniversary Symposium and Commemoration of the Dutch Harbor Attack, held June 2-4, 2017 in Unalaska, to memorialize the event and the evacuation of the Unangax. The Museum of the Aleutians hosted the event in partnership with the National Park Service and the Ounalashka Corporation. It featured presentations, site tours, and other activities to tell the story of the bombing from the perspective of both veterans and Unangax. Memorial ceremonies conducted by Unangan dancers and elders completed the Commemoration’s activities on Sunday, June 4. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 2 017


2017 Annual Humanities Grants

Participants shared conversation and food at a community engagement dinner in Anchorage, which featured African and Persian cooking and culture classes. The event was a model for the Cross Cultural Storytelling Festival. Photo courtesy of Shirley M. Springer Staten Encounters: Alaska Ping Chong + Company Statewide / $4,500

Encounters: Alaska is an online companion piece to the forthcoming touring theatrical documentary “ALAXSA | ALASKA,” described as “a collage of stories of cross-cultural encounters in, and little-known histories of, Alaska.” In doing research for the theatrical production, performer Ryan Conarro and Artistic Director Ping Chong spent several weeks in 2015 visiting diverse Alaska communities and interviewing residents—some recent arrivals to Alaska, and some whose roots reach thousands of years into the past—about how they identify as Alaskans. The theatrical production will incorporate selections of audio from some of those interviews. The online companion piece, Encounters: Alaska, will archive all interviews. “The starting point was, ‘Are you originally from here, and if not, where are you from? How did you find your way here? What was your experience arriving here?’” Conarro says. “One of the beautiful human dimensions of the process is most stories don’t fit into such a pat equation, so there’s a rich, layered complexity to every single person’s story.”


Cross-Cultural Storytelling Festival Keys to Life Anchorage / $10,000 The Cross-Cultural Storytelling Festival, scheduled for September of this year, with storytelling seminars to be held in July and August, grew out of the 2016 Anchorage Cultural Summit Action Plan. Sharing personal stories from a broad spectrum of ages, backgrounds, and nationalities bridges cultural divides. The project’s stated goal is to “offer insight into the question of what it means to be human,” through stories from the Alaska Native, African, African-American, Muslim, Hmong, Samoan, Filipino, and Asian communities. Storytelling seminars teach participants to digitize stories, and to create a short film with video images and narrated audio. Topics will include using poetry to describe an event in one’s life, writing a song in the form of a letter to oneself about a difficult time period, and illustrating how narrative can improve academic achievement.

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Support for I AM INUIT Exhibition Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska Anchorage and Interior / $7,900 A grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum supported exhibitions in Fairbanks and Anchorage of photographer Brian Adams’ I AM INUIT project, during and after the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in May. Adams traveled to sixteen villages documenting Inuit life, culture, and society through photos and short narratives. I AM INUIT aligned with one of the goals of the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council—to raise the general public’s awareness of the Arctic. “The exhibit provokes universal questions of human interaction with the landscape, climate change and displacement, cultural survival, human rights, and contemporary adaptation,” project director Kelly Eningowuk writes. The exhibit featured a talk by Adams, along with a discussion panel that included a project participant and leaders from the Inuit Circumpolar Council. The exhibit continues at the Anchorage Museum through September 17, 2017.

Photo by Brian Adams


FORUM proudly kicked off its relaunch as a full-fledged magazine in 2012 with a cover photo from Brian Adams’ nascent I AM INUIT project. Five years later, we conclude this issue with another image from the series, which now numbers 250. With the aid of a Forum grant, a selection of Adams’ prints was displayed in Fairbanks during the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in

May. The show then moved to the Anchorage Museum, where it runs through September 17, 2017. Adams’ subject above is Lynden Weyiouanna of Shishmaref. When photographed, she told Adams: “I will be 18 tomorrow, and every year I see the land slowly decreasing. People call it climate change; others call it big baloney. In real life,

if they actually came up here and lived with us for a few years, they would see what we are talking about and what we are going through, year by year. Berries and animals are coming quicker than usual. It's a big change for us. Prices have even gone up in town. I am not even that old, you know? Things have changed in a short amount of time.”

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ALASKA HUMANITIES FORUM 161 East First Avenue, Door 15 Anchorage, AK 99501


Photo by Doug

Alaska Humanities Forum Calendar

“A Call to Look,” part two. PAGE 32


Photo by Sarah Harrington

NEW! AUGUST 10, 6:30 p.m. Community Conversations: Homelessness Alaska Humanities Forum, Anchorage

2017 Annual Grants awarded. PAGE 38

Join us for an open exchange of perspectives about homelessness. Share your reactions to and reflections on this issue’s article, Community Conversations: Homelessness (page 34). Be part of a fresh dialogue about this topic, one of the Forum’s focus areas for 2017. Light fare will be served.

Photo by Josh Corbett

AUGUST 19, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. StepUpAK Loussac Library, Anchorage

Alaska Salmon Fellows gathering. PAGE 20

StepUpAK is an opportunity for community members, local leaders, and businesses to strengthen the neighborhoods where they live, work, and play. This is the fourth year of StepUpAK; after successful events in Mountain View and Spenard, this year’s program will be focused on Midtown with a theme of “Renew and Refresh.”

AUGUST 21, 5:30 – 7 p.m. Leadership Anchorage Open House Alaska Humanities Forum, Anchorage

We are seeking applicants for Leadership Anchorage 21! Come learn more about this program at the Open House and then apply online by September 8, 2017 AUGUST 31 HUMAN:ties Grant Deadline

The new HUMAN:ties Social Practice Grant will provide $10,000 to an Alaska-based individual or group that seeks to affect social change through socially engaged art. In its first year, HUMAN:ties seeks projects that attempt to illuminate diverse definitions and experiences of homelessness in Alaska. Learn more and apply online at grants. SEPTEMBER 8, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Epicenter Photo Exhibition Alaska Humanities Forum, Anchorage

Join us for the opening of the group photography show Epicenter, focused on images made in the Forum’s Ship Creek neighborhood. Exhibition runs through November 3. See page 10. Get more details about all Alaska Humanities Forum events and opportunities at

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