FORUM magazine, Winter 2019

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How Americans Can Argue Better | Eyes Closed: Anchorage’s Children Imagine the Future Alaska History Day | Art Brings Light to Salmon Shadows | Kotzebue in Wartime



To Tell and to Hear

421 W. 1st Ave., Suite 200 Anchorage, AK 99501 (907) 272-5341 | BOARD OF DIRECTORS


he human story is at the heart of humanity— the compassion, empathy, and understanding that connect us as human beings. Stories convey values and purpose and history. Stories are the foundation of our communities. When I look through this issue of FORUM magazine, I am struck by the power of story for both the storyteller and for the audience. As storytellers, sharing our stories helps us to feel seen, known, and understood. When our own storyline becomes part of the collective narrative of our family, community, or nation, we realize we are an integral part of something greater. As readers and listeners, we can also tap into this feeling of belonging and value. Sometimes, we see our experience reflected in the storytellers’. Other times, their stories help us to step outside of what we know, to consider a new perspective or reframe our context. In this issue, you’ll discover some ways Alaskans connect through stories. Stories of salmon, as seen through visual arts and literature, spark and deepen conversations around the state through the Salmon Shadows initiative. Children’s dreams come to life through narrative panels displayed across Anchorage in the Eyes Closed project. You’ll read about the Forum’s programs for youth—Alaska History Day, Sister School Exchange, and Take Wing Alaska— that support young people to better understand the roots of their emerging stories. And a Vietnam veteran from Noorvik assuages the guilt and pain he harbored from his experiences of war by sharing his memories with others. The Forum is, and always has been, committed to the power of the human story. We create spaces for conversations that use stories—conveyed through artwork, performance, literature, or storytelling—as settings where people can connect to talk about things that matter. I hope you will join us at an event, program, or training in the coming year. With warm wishes for the holidays and 2019, ­—Kameron Perez-Verdia, CEO


A L A S K A H U M A N I T I E S F O R U M W I NTE R 2018-2019

Elizabeth Qaulluq Cravalho, Chair, Kotzebue Moira K. Smith, Vice Chair and Treasurer, Anchorage Kathleen Tarr, Secretary, Anchorage Lenora Lolly Carpluk, Member-at-Large, Fairbanks Thea Agnew Bemben, Anchorage Bruce Botelho, Douglas Gerry Briscoe, Anchorage Anne Hanley, Fairbanks Aldona Jonaitis, Fairbanks Raimundo Martinez, Anchorage Peter Metcalfe, Juneau Laci Michaud, Anchorage Pauline Morris, Kwethluk Judith Owens-Manley, Anchorage

The Forum is, and always has been,

Sheri Skelton, Anchorage Mead Treadwell, Anchorage Kristi Williams, Anchorage


committed to

Kameron Perez-Verdia, President and CEO

the power of the

Amanda Dale, Education & Youth Program Coordinator

human story.

Cuckoo Gupta, Public Programming & Marketing Fellow

Ted Leonard, CFO Jennifer Gibbins, Director of Leadership Programs Grace Harrington, Public Programming Manager Nancy Hemsath, Operations Manager & Board Liaison Dave Lamothe, Education Program Manager Kari Lovett, Youth Program Manager Simonetta Mignano, Education Program Associate Dora Moore, Program Associate Jann D. Mylet, Director of Development & Communications Naaqtuuq Robertson, Leadership Programs Manager Rayette Sterling, Leadership Programs Manager Denali Whiting, Education Program Coordinator Kirstie Lorelei Willean, Education Program Coordinator Megan Zlatos, Director of Special Projects & Grants

and Art Director
 Dean Potter Contributors Lina Mariscal, Kirsten Swann, Susan B. Andrews, John Creed, Margaret Bauman, Daysha Eaton, Lillian Maassen, Eric Liu, Aurora Ford, Wayde Carroll

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. ©2018.




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Through Connection, We Build Community

30 YOUTH PROGRAMS It’s an Experience Students become storytellers at Alaska History Day and National History Day

34 YOUTH PROGRAMS Navigating from Inside Out Take Wing Alaska helps students make successful transitions to independence

35 YOUTH PROGRAMS Exchange Values Twenty-eight teams are participating in the Forum’s Sister School Exchange program



The Forum supports a project to make Anchorage’s diverse children more visible and remind everyone of the power of dreaming


Meet Alaska Teacher of the Year— and Forum donor—Danielle Riha


18 DONOR PROFILE Hardcore Learner, Honored Teacher


The Forum and the Better Arguments Project will help Alaskans engage more productively and respectfully


14 Better Arguments


In the era of fake news and echo chambers, Alaska journalists consider their roles

24 GRANT REPORT Eyes Closed and Minds Open


10 KINDLING CONVERSATION What is Journalism For?


An Alaska Salmon Fellows project used art and literature to spark dialogue about undiscussed issues


4 Light and Shadow

36 GRANT REPORT Kotzebue in Wartime The Forum revisits an oral history project and helps Project Jukebox create permanent and accessible archives

41 FORUM NOTES Updates on Culture Shift, Leadership Anchorage, and the 50th Governor’s Awards

43 AFTER IMAGE The Citizen-Record Alaska’s adaptive journalists seen 100 years ago

ON THE COVER : Gwendolyn MacLean (left) of Anchorage earned a first place honor at the 2017 Alaska History Day. Her project was about her grandmother, Edna MacLean (right), who taught and developed a program for the Iñupiaq language at UAF. Edna MacLean received an NEH grant in 1988 to support the transcription and translation of a collection of legends and stories of the Inupiat people. See page 30 for a report on the Forum’s Alaska History Day program.

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Light and Shadow An Alaska Salmon Fellows project used art and literature to spark dialogue about undiscussed issues


almon are a shared value in Alaska. In a sense, the fish are a projection of Alaska’s greatest attributes: wilderness, freedom, independence, adventure, abundance, resilience, sustainability. They swim through our ecosystems, fuel our bodies, support our cultural practices, sustain our spirits, and play an important role in our economies. By being a vital and integrated presence in the lives of widespread Alaskans, salmon can also be the site of conflict. When Alaskans talk about salmon, they may be talking about racial justice, the urban-rural divide, or balancing sustainability and resource development. The Alaska Salmon Fellows, a program of the Alaska Humanities Forum, is designed to help Alaskans talk about salmon issues in ways that go beyond dogmatic and entrenched positions. To do this, the Fellows bring together diverse perspectives—both their own and those of salmon communities—to build knowledge, understanding, and empathy. The first cohort of 16 Fellows convened in 2017 and spent a year thinking through Alaska’s salmon systems: components that operate successfully, as well as problems and potential solutions. While the Fellows from across the state met collectively, they broke into smaller teams to consider different approaches to enhancing and improving salmon systems and the conversations around them. One such project, Salmon Shadows, was a public humanities effort to begin this work. As the title suggests, it started with the assumption that there are shadows across the salmon system that deserve attention. The Salmon Shadows team—Anjuli Grantham, Kevin Maier, Julie Raymond-Yakoubian, and Elsa Sebastian— proposed that obscured issues could be explored through art and writing, and conversations conducted in response. Art and writing have been integral to positive salmon narratives in Alaska, and the project sought to use creative works to explore shadows, to open spaces for under-represented voices, and to spark dialogue around undiscussed issues. The team received over 80 submissions from across Alaska. With guidance from Alaska Writer Laureate Ernestine Hayes and former-Laureate Nancy Lord, they curated a travelling, pop-up show of art and writing that was shared at a series of facilitated community dialogues. In the pages that follow you’ll see a handful of selections. These pieces, and others like them, served as catalysts for productive community dialogues in Petersburg, Girdwood, Nome, and Kodiak.


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Salmon Shadows hosted a pop-up exhibition of artwork and poetry at The Fleet in Petersburg in May, followed by a facilitated community dialogue. Photo by Julie Raymond-Yakoubian

“Dog Salmon (Iqalugrauaq)” by Erin Gingrich RIGHT: Salmon are a beautiful and giving resource that inhabit the waters of Alaska. While appreciation for this resource is plentiful, the realities of Alaska’s fisheries and subsistence lifestyle are often depicted without the reality of the gift of salmon. My ancestors believed a good harvest was a gift from the salmon and that a salmon gave itself for their survival. The reality of salmon harvest is the killing, processing, and consumption of the fish. Catching and processing salmon is a bloody, slimy struggle that, in every bit, is still a gift. It requires hard work, strength, persistence, patience, and respect. The salmon give themselves and this is what it looks like. — E.G.

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This Prediction by Vivian Faith Prescot We linger in its wake, the aftermath of brokenness, the noonday collapsed, our animal eyes reflecting ruin. What is to become of us? They say we need to adapt— these are new conditions and unexpected consequences. But we flick salmon scales from our eyelids, remember pink flesh on our tongues. Now, I wade out to my calves in mid-winter where nothing is a familiar universe everything cycloid, recording moments, in tighter winter bands, wondering if our circulai and spaces in-between speak about or don’t speak about— this warm ocean and the nearshore algae bloom, and my magnetic field chanting their return. “Spawned Out” by Claudia Ihl ABOVE: Every

year, I am humbled by the single-minded focus with which salmon struggle up the rivers to meet their doom. Then thousands of decomposing carcasses line the rivers and lake shores near my home, and the air is filled with the stench of decomposition. Some people might say that’s not a very nice topic for a painting, but I always thought there is great beauty in the twisted shapes of their bodies and the subtle colors erupting from the rotting flesh. And as they decompose, the nutrients released from their bodies will enter the rivers and lakes, where they will feed small creatures that in turn will be food for the next generation of salmon. Others will be carried away by bears, foxes, gulls, or ravens and will nourish other creatures away from the river. So the dead salmon feed not only their own children, but also the environment around them. — C.I.


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“Raise and Release” by Leila Pyle RIGHT: Many elementary school students in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska raise salmon in their classrooms from egg to fry, and then release them into a local river. Over the course of the fishes’ development, the children often learn about the five species of Pacific salmon and their wild lifecycle and habitat. However, the eggs that are supplied to classrooms for this project often come from hatchery-raised fish. Occasionally, students will visit a local hatchery, but I would wager that most of the darker history of why we need hatcheries is rarely discussed. Rarely talked about is the fact that hatcheries supplement fisheries all across Alaska and the Pacific Northwest due to human-caused declines in fish stocks, or the fact that hatchery-raised fish have the possibility to hurt the longterm survival chances of wild salmon runs due to their compromised genetics. Having children raise salmon from eggs to fry can be an amazing opportunity to develop wonder and wisdom about salmon. But I believe it is unethical to paint for them an oversimplified and understated picture of the reality salmon face. If we want our children to have any kind of future with wild salmon, they have to know what they are up against. — L.P.

“Our Lady of Karluk” by Linda Infante Lyons RIGHT: This painting honors my Alutiiq relatives who caught salmon on the shores of the Karluk River and the later generations that worked in the canneries. The Alutiiq people were very spiritual, and through shamanism and tribal rituals honored the sacred nature of the animals, fish, birds, and mammals of their environment. This painting portrays the sacred nature of salmon. The painting intuits the return of lost indigenous spiritual knowledge and a renewed respect for the abundant gift of the Sacred Salmon. My salmon shadow is loss. Lost abundance of salmon and lost culture, lost connections to family. The loss due to colonization, over-fishing, environmental degradation, and the oppression of indigenous culture. — L.I.L.

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Up the Wrong Way River


by Tim Troll

Sierra Golden

Come with me on a trip “up the lakes” on Alaqnaqiq Kuik, the Wrong Way River, when the tide is in, and the muddy banks are covered with water

Cannery workers greet us by the ice chute and splash into the hold, shimmering water thigh-high and thirty-four degrees. They pump it dry. Frayed tie-ups looped around tar-blacked pilings. Sway-backed dock creaking high above our gray mast at low tide. Wet snow clumps down. Someone hums “You Are My Sunshine” as clouds sink over. Lights flick on before sunset, fight the damp and dark. Jorge and Juan off-load sixty tons of herring. Their heaving lungs hang steam puffs big as buoys in the ripe roe smell of the hold. They shuffle and shovel the gape-mouthed fish. A cork-yellow moon cracks cloud cover, and shrouds us all in the same half-shadow. I wish on milky scales stuck like stars to their neoprene green pants that I never have to leave here, never have to weave a home in some far-flung place, dreaming my family together while I work a job no one wants.

We begin at Snag Point, near Curyung, the village of dirty water, where the Wrong Way River joins Iilgayaq Kuik, the wandering river that could hide many kayaks in the time of warring But also called Nushagak, a name without meaning, That is the right way to go but not the way we are going We will pass the Kanyanguq islands where gulls lay their eggs in the grass and cannery sheep once grazed Next we pass the red bluff and Maklaaq Kuik the little river of the young bearded seal on the banks of which it is said Scandinavian bachelors once lived When the water clears we will be near Qakiiyarculek the creek for catching silver salmon where it joins the Wrong Way River not far below Casguliraq, the old reindeer corral, and Qerragigcaraq, the shallow place where we must cross over to the other side Finally, at the river’s end, we will come to Igyaraq the site of the throat village decimated by the great flu and where Alaqnaqiq, the lake of the Wrong Way River, simply known as Nanvaq, or Lake, by the old ones, narrows and empties into this Wrong Way River That on our maps is named the Wood River for the trees once gathered by Russians to build a fort they called Aleksandrovskii at Talliquq, the place where the land bends like the leg of a caribou, across the water from Kanaqnaq the site of the village down below that also vanished in the great flu And where the first people looked out from the high ground over the vast ocean before them and asked the salmon that still feed us, to make this same journey up the Wrong Way River and into the deep lakes gouged by giant sheets of ice thousands of years before names would be discovered


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SALMON SHAD0WS Art to Inspire Critical Conversations about Alaska’s Salmon System

More art and writing selected for the Salmon Shadows project can be found at

“Stikine” (detail) by Katie Craney OPPOSITE: Salmon are the backbone of this land; they allow us to live here. History shows us the perils of careless fisheries management. Science pinpoints indicators of survival and explains the rippling effects of aquaculture and acid-mine drainage. Many more valuable studies help to understand this species and the unique ways salmon provide us ecosystem services. With all we know, there is a looming unknown, a threat much larger than we have the ability to fully understand, predict, or project to our future generations—a rapidly changing climate and ocean. — K.C. ■

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WHAT IS JOURNALISM FOR? IN THE ERA OF FAKE NEWS AND ECHO CHAMBERS, ALASK A JOURNALISTS CONSIDER THEIR ROLE WHEN 16-YEAR-OLD Chris Apassingok caught his first whale on St. Lawrence Island in April 2017, environmental activists from outside of Alaska launched a social-media attack that included death threats to him and his family. While the story provoked national outrage, the response in Alaska was generally positive: here was a young Alaska Native man living his culture and demonstrating leadership by providing for his community. It’s no surprise that Alaskans are suspicious of outsider journalists “parachuting in” to report on the concerns of our small communities with complex cultural identities and nuanced networks of influence. Here, journalists are often tasked with explaining these nuanced identities and networks to the outside world, such as when Anchorage-based reporter Julia O’Malley traveled to St. Lawrence Island to spend time with the community, dine with the


Apassingok family, and write a story of “culture, values, and community” for High Country News. “The purpose of journalism,” Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel write in their classic textbook, The Elements of Journalism, “is not defined by technology, nor by journalists or the techniques they employ,” but rather “by something more basic: the function news plays in the lives of people.” For Apassingok, journalism helped shed light on the broader cultural context of his world, fostering empathy across deep difference. WHAT ROLE does the news play in your life? It’s likely the answer has changed over time, as technological innovation has shifted the political, social, and economic landscape of mass media. Journalism’s business model has changed, and so too our habits, our expectations, and our relationship to the news.

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That relationship is increasingly strained: according to an annual Gallup poll, Americans’ trust in journalism has fallen slowly and steadily since 2000. Since 2007, fewer than half the country have indicated confidence in the mass media when it comes to reporting the news “fully, accurately, and fairly.” That waning trust could be connected to any number of trends: our unabated news cycle; the ease of publishing unvetted information on the internet; the political influence of funders and distant media conglomerates; the declining attention span of news consumers; social media “filter bubbles;” the blurring lines between journalism and entertainment; the rise of the freelance economy. Regardless of the causes, this crisis of trust has profound implications for our communities and for democracy. Journalism, at its best, provides us with the information we need to make decisions

about our lives, our communities, our society, and our government. Journalism allows us to monitor and influence the sources of power that shape our lives. Journalism shares the stories that over time become our history and define our culture. What happens when we lose faith in journalism? How else do we inform ourselves to make good decisions, prevent corruption, and influence those in power? Can trust be rebuilt? If so, how? In our experience at the Forum, trust must be built gradually, one conversation at a time. That’s why we’re offering Kindling Conversation toolkits and microgrants to host community conversations between journalists and community members across the state. The first toolkit uses the perspectives shared on the following pages as a springboard for conversation around the question, “What is journalism for?” Then it’s your turn to share your point of view.




It was November 2015, and we had done everything we could to stop the government of Mexico from closing its consulate in Anchorage. Several community members and I had worked hard for nine years to demonstrate the need for a full-service consulate in Alaska. In 2009, when one finally opened, we felt our work was done and we all moved to other things. Six years later, we started receiving telephone calls telling us that the consulate was closing. Our community was concerned—even afraid—but what was more worrisome was that nobody knew the reason for the closure. The community was never given formal notice. People wondered what was going to happen. Mexico was the only Latin American country with official representation in Alaska, and other nationalities looked to the consulate as a possible ally when they needed help. While trying to organize the community, it was painfully clear that lack of knowledge and information was our worst enemy. Had we been aware of the consulate’s problems, perhaps we could have done something to change its decision. A means of communicating with our community became a priority. We decided a bilingual newspaper could be the solution. Sol de Medianoche was born in April 2016 with the mission to inform, educate, and unite the community. Although we had a good number of people willing to help, none of us was a journalist or had any experience publishing a newspaper. We asked around; met with the editor of a local newspaper; interviewed a professor in the Journalism Department at UAA; and figured out some of the things we would need to get started. We secured donations from local Latino businesses to cover initial costs. And we were fortunate: someone with experience editing and publishing a highly recognized magazine in Mexico moved to Alaska around the time we started our quest. Sol de Medianoche informs readers on current, important issues. We publish cultural and educational pieces. Our newspaper is a channel for other organizations to tell our community about services or programs. And the paper helps to build equity in this place we consider our home.

Walking through Mountain View on a sunny summer afternoon several years ago, the precocious eight-year-old girl cut a wide berth around the orange and green condominiums next to the community center. “They have guns,” she told me, glancing up at the faded facades before quickly looking away. She wasn’t the only neighborhood resident who kept a wary eye on the sagging two-story buildings. The Marina and Karina Park condominiums, aging and neglected, had struggled to survive. Graffiti faded across mold-stained walls. Broken windows stayed broken. Police came by often, for all kinds of reasons. An old RV doing business in the parking lot drew frequent visits. When fireworks in the same parking lot turned to gunshots one summer evening near the Fourth of July, neighbors gathered in front yards to watch as officers swarmed the street in front of the buildings, corralling shouting teenagers into waiting squad cars. That same year, another teenager was shot and killed in the street next to the condo complex. So when the first boards began to appear over the windows and doors of some of the units in early 2018, rumors began to fly. The building had a well-known past but a mysterious future. Some neighbors speculated it had been seized by the federal government. The truth was this: Months earlier, at a community council meeting attended by no more than a dozen residents, a nonprofit housing developer had announced plans to purchase and redevelop the condominiums, operating the revamped buildings as apartment rentals, like the hundreds of similar units the nonprofit already operates all over town. Project renderings showed modern buildings, lush landscaping, and spacious courtyards. The story was covered only by the Mountain View Post blog, both when the plans were first announced and then again in the summer when the work began. Each time, the news provoked a flood of reactions from curious neighbors. Some launched into thoughtful discussions about design elements, parking, and residential development. Others were just surprised to learn what was really going on. “I just passed by this place and thought it was abandoned,” a neighborhood teen remarked. Now she knows what really happened. In such moments, I see clearly what journalism is for: to record the forces shaping the places we live, year by year and block by block. I focus on the little things, like the fate of the corner condo complexes. The kind of hyperlocal journalism I publish via Mountain View Post features the neighborhood characters and concerns larger publications don’t often cover (for lack of knowledge, resources, or interest). But even the smallest stories can have a large impact on people’s lives, I’ve learned. Sharing those stories is what journalism is all about.

By Lina Mariscal

Lina Mariscal was born in Durango, Mexico and immigrated to Alaska in 1983 at age 16. She served as the Honorary Consul of Mexico from 2001 to 2009 and is a community advocate for immigrants, social justice, and human rights. She is a founder of Sol de Medianoche, a bilingual (Spanish and English) newspaper based in Anchorage. Articles are submitted by volunteers; ad sales cover the cost of graphic design and printing.

By Kirsten Swann

Kirsten Swann is an Anchorage writer living in Mountain View, where she’s published since 2014. An award-winning blog repurposed into a quarterly print magazine, Mountain View Post features hyperlocal news coverage and stories about neighborhood places and the people who live there.

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A college student in rural Alaska writes about making jam from wild-picked blueberries. Another chronicles how he gathers wood pallets from around his village and prepares them to heat his home. Still another describes roasting freshcaught muskrat over an open fire. These stories by University of Alaska students, along with many others, offer insight into Alaska’s rural experience, by way of their “ordinary” and unassuming voices. These and similar stories have appeared in Alaska newspapers, on websites, and elsewhere through a UA publication project called Chukchi News and Information Service (CNIS). Such writing is not news, or even editorial, and not information typically found in the Alaska press. It’s commonly called cultural journalism, like the well-known Foxfire project in rural Georgia, where students write about traditional mountain life. After working in full-time journalism in the 1980s in urban Alaska, in the late 1980s we moved to Kotzebue, located in Northwest Arctic Alaska, to teach both face-to-face and distance classes at Chukchi College, a satellite campus of the University of Alaska. Like everywhere, so much of college success depends on solid communication skills. Accordingly, we helped students learn to write for college classes, mostly through developmental writing, basic composition, and other classes. At the same time, we recognized that these students, as rural Alaskans, reflected unusual and remarkable life experiences. We wanted to share this unique world view outside the classroom, so in 1988 we launched Chukchi News and Information Service. The primary goal? To motivate students to higher standards of excellence through the painstaking process of polishing writing for publication. CNIS grew into an awardwinning project (whose honors include a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award) that published hundreds of student writings along the way in newspapers, in magazines, and online. (The project also published two cultural journalism anthologies.) In addition to writing about traditional rural activities, our students also tackled contemporary problems. For example, a high school honors student’s harrowing tale about meeting a student from another part of Alaska at a school sporting event, then connecting online only to be cyberstalked and threatened demonstrates social media’s inherent risks, even in rural Alaska. As these students have worked toward certificates, degrees, and other educational goals, their voices have simultaneously expanded the rural Alaska perspective in statewide media. Ultimately, cultural journalism can enlarge what constitutes the concept of journalism in Alaska.

“Storytellers,” the actor Robert Redford tells us, “broaden our minds, engage, provoke, inspire, and ultimately, connect us.” And that is what journalism is all about, in a sense: to fairly and accurately relate through print and broadcast news events that may impact readers; to inform them; to help them to respond. To me, journalism has always been about the people involved, from brewery strikes to civil rights demonstrations in the Lower 48, to the Alaska Native land claims movement and environmental politics in Alaska today. Journalism is about figuring out what people need to know and putting that information into the stories they will read, so they can participate as voters, volunteers, economic actors, or simply as observers. As journalists we try to get the answers to what is happening and why, from the most heart-warming to the most heart-wrenching. In Denver, during a horrific snowstorm, I interviewed a hotel manager who opened hotel rooms for free to dozens of folks stranded by the weather. Her reason, she said, was simply paying forward the kindness of strangers when she was a victim of Hurricane Carla in Texas. In Anchorage, I interviewed the family of a young teacher who went out jogging on the Alaska Peninsula and was attacked and killed by wolves. We are storytellers, telling readers and listeners news they need to know to keep them engaged in the world around them. Democracy depends on citizens being informed on issues and what political candidates really stand for. This involves balanced coverage of issues and individual political campaigns, in a way that provokes discussion and action on issues that are the fabric of our society, from honest and efficient government to a healthy economy and environment. Journalism tells us stories about how our world is functioning or not functioning, about problem solvers and problems unsolved, from successful international efforts to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped inside caves in Thailand to the struggle to reunite immigrant children with their parents at the southern border of the United States. Journalism also informs us about the socio-economic impact of severe weather conditions, armed conflict, and myriad entertainment and sports events, including the summer and winter Olympics, and the people involved. The challenge, as distinguished journalist Bob Schieffer has said, is to find the truth in today’s deluge of news, and tell the story.

By Susan B. Andrews and John Creed

Susan B. Andrews and John Creed are Professors Emeriti of Journalism and Arts & Letters at the University of Alaska.


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By Margaret Bauman

Margaret Bauman’s background in journalism, since graduating from Michigan State University, included stints on the wire services in several states and at CBS News in New York, where she worked with some of the world’s best journalists. As a journalist in Alaska, she currently covers fisheries and environmental-related news for Fishermen’s News in Seattle and The Cordova Times.

TAKE WING ALASKA What is Journalism For? Dig Deeper and Host Your Own Conversation Toolkits are available to support community members and journalists who wish to host conversations that dig even deeper, exploring questions like: Who is a journalist and who isn’t? What do we lose when we lose local journalism? What is fake news? What is real news? How do we decide what matters? Who has the right to speak for our community? What are a journalist’s responsibilities to their community? Are there stories that shouldn’t be covered? Are you interested in bringing these conversations to your community? Visit


Springboards for Discussion Articles, films, images, exhibits, and texts create common ground and allow everyone to contribute.

Conversation Toolkit A facilitator guide, promotional materials, and participant surveys are ready to go.

Facilitator Training We’ll walk you through the process and materials to ensure your community event is a success.

Funding A non-competitive $200 micro-grant defrays the cost of hosting.


In November 2016, I had just arrived at Standing Rock where activists and journalists were tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets, and jailed by law enforcement in their homeland. It was the largest mass demonstration in recent American history and the only one in my lifetime led by Native Americans. On first approach, rattling down a two lane highway, the gathering came into view as we rounded a corner with a large rock outcropping. In the distance, the flickering light of hundreds of campfires interrupted the black night of the prairie under which thousands of people assembled in glowing teepees, tents, and a giant geodesic dome. It was one of those rare moments in life when you know that you are exactly where you should be. At Standing Rock, as a human being, as a journalist, I experienced resolve and clarity of purpose. I followed my instinct. No newsroom paid for me to get there. I used my own money, donations, and vacation time to make the journey to report back about Alaskans who had joined the movement. A new chapter of American history was beginning and I wanted to be there to help write it. The conflict revolved around protecting water and a broken treaty with the U.S. government. But it was also about something larger. The demonstrators were fed up with feeling depersonalized and devalued. In their experience, the U.S. government prized corporations over people, and was quick to destroy natural resources in exchange for financial gain. The shared mission to assert self and defend place transcended geography, race, gender, and class. Social media helped demonstrators chronicle events unfiltered and with immediacy, and triggered an avalanche of support. Where activists galvanized around a common cause, it would take journalists —through storytelling from on the wintery frontlines to the gallery of a courtroom—to give context and policy significance to a global audience. Without journalists on the ground at Standing Rock, the world would not have known the scale of the gathering, or the less than peaceful tactics used to silence and disperse the discontented—water sprays in freezing temperatures, tear gas, rubber bullets. Journalists upended the dominant narrative of people thwarting progress to expose a more complicated human truth. Standing Rock reminded us of the intersectionality of civil disobedience, journalism, and public policy. Even though the NoDAPL movement failed to stop the pipeline from being built, in the end it made a mark on the culture, shifted consciousness, and left a model for resistance. As it has before, and will again, America was testing its moral and political principles. The eye of the press is needed now, more than ever, to serve as a witness to these unfolding battles for the soul of American democracy, especially in rural and underserved communities. ■ Daysha Eaton is a contributor with Alaska Public Radio Network. She has worked at KDLG in Dillingham, KSKA in Anchorage, KYUK in Bethel, KBBI in Homer, KHNS in Haines, and KMXT in Kodiak. Her stories have aired on NPR's “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” PRI’s “The World,” and “National Native News.” She reported independently from Standing Rock in 2016, and in 2017 produced a series of stories about Pebble Mine with Koahnic Broadcast Corporation and with grant funding from the Alaska Humanities Forum.

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The Forum and the Better Arguments Project will help Alaskans engage more productively and respectfully

ARG U R E M T E T N E TS B IN LATE AUGUST 2018 , the Alaska Humanities Forum partnered with the Better Arguments Project on an information-gathering visit to Alaska. The Better Arguments Project, a new nationwide initiative to equip Americans to engage more productively across differences, is based on the premise that the more communities can have arguments rooted both in history and in best practices of constructive communication, the healthier our country will be. The Better Arguments Project is a partnership between the Aspen Institute Citizenship and American Identity Program, Facing History and Ourselves, and The Allstate Corporation. In Alaska, the team explored the potential for better arguments around the issue of climate change. We explored that potential along three dimensions: Process: Are we arguing in a way that is productive and constructive?


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Problem: Are we having the right arguments? Are there conversations that should be happening that aren’t? People: Are we engaging everyone affected? Are there people who should be invited to this conversation who aren’t? Ultimately, both the Better Arguments Project and the Alaska Humanities Forum hope to encourage people to reach across political, cultural, and economic divides; listen to each other; and engage in respectful debate. But what would that take? How do we begin to have better arguments? And why do we need to argue at all? Eric Liu, author of You Are More Powerful than You Think and executive director of the Aspen Institute Citizenship and American Identity Program, shares his thoughts on those questions on the following pages.

Can Americans come together by arguing better? by Eric Liu

That’s the question we are posing here today and it’s perhaps counterintuitive to some of you. We live in a time of record polarization and unbelievable vitriol in our political and civic life and culture, where everything from cable news to social media—and increasingly in face-to-face settings—has become scorched-earth. Deeply personal arguments are the new normal. So, it would seem counterintuitive to say, “Gosh, what we need in this country right now is more arguing.” But I want to explain why that might be. Our view at the Aspen Institute, and particularly in our program on Citizenship and American Identity, is that one of the actual dangers we face is a rush to reconciliation and reunion. You may recall about a week before the election there was a general conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton would win and that the big question the country would face would be, “How are we going to reconcile? How are we going to bring back into the fold tens of millions of people who voted for Donald Trump, who were so angry with the system that they brought this country this close to electing him president?” One thing that history teaches us is that often in the United States, a rush to reconciliation can be used to paper over deep abiding differences and sustain injustices and inequities in civic life. Think about the period after the Civil War, in which the United States, frankly, just got tired of how hard Reconstruction was. You started to get this wave of sentiment in both the North and the South calling for reunion, that it was time for the North and South to finally put behind all this nastiness, troubles of the war and divisiveness caused by reconstruction. And we did. In 1876 and 1877 we abandoned Reconstruction in the name of reunion and thus began a period that ushered in not just a resurgence of a revanchist white supremacist South, but also the idea that what needed to be remembered most in America was that white men and women of the North and the South were brothers and sisters. That’s what this country had to live by.

What yielded the Better Arguments Project was the notion that American civic life is an argument, that the whole point of America is at every turn to be engaged in argument about the meaning of our creed. The idea that we should be arguing less, finding common ground and building bridges, though understandable and admirable in some contexts, can make us forget that at the foundational level, America is a perpetual unresolvable fight among core principles. For instance, we are always arguing between liberty and equality. We say those words, “liberty” and “equality,” as if they are equal and interchangeable, and we forget that when one side gets a little too much liberty, that tends to make the other give up on their dreams of equality. Conversely, when one side dominates and says, “We have to be all about equality,” it starts to step on a lot of people’s notions of liberty. Liberty and equality are perpetually in tension, but that’s not the only core argument in American life. There’s of course the Federalist and Anti-Federalist view of the role of government and the relationship of people to their government. A Hamilton view of strong central government versus a Jefferson view of state and local control. Rugged individualism versus collective respone sibility. There is even an argument t th tional A embedded in our national motto, nda erica u the Pluribus versus the Unum. Are o f m we a country meant to celebrate the l, A tual e v le full breadth and beauty of our diverrpe e e p sity, and highlight and elevate that a bl re s a i v l difference and adversity? Or are we so ng co e r n a country meant to smooth over and u amo t transcend that diversity in the Unum h fig iples. that unifies and binds us? These core tensions in American civic life are rinc p perpetually unresolvable. God help us if one side should ever achieve final victory. If liberty defeats equality, if strong national government beats local control and local voice, then we will not be the kind of country that we’re meant to be: one which is perpetually navigating these tugs of war. What we need in American civic life today, then, isn’t fewer arguments; what we need is less stupid arguments. Arguments that are more grounded philosophically and historically in the inheritance of our creed, and the ways that we have contested that creed from the beginning of the republic.

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What is a “better argument”? Our team—a combination of the Aspen Institute Program on Citizenship and American Identity, an education nonprofit organization called Facing History and Ourselves, and The Allstate Corporation—spent several months traveling the country and meeting with advisors to answer this question. A better argument is one that is more grounded in history, more emotionally intelligent, and more honest about power. I’ve already spoken about the historical context, the fact that American politics can be boiled down to a finite number of never-resolvable, fundamentally American tensions that I mentioned earlier. We need to know that history and those core arguments. Let me turn then to emotional intelligence. Having better arguments requires that we know our own patterns of emotional reaction and know how to break the circuit of those reactions. In his book, Bonds that Make Us Free, American philosopher C. Terry Warner describes a cycle in which I accuse you in order to excuse me. d e ne I shirk responsibility for my faile at w rican ure or shortcoming by focusing h W me ay, on one of yours. This is a univerA n d i human instinct, in arguments e to er sal f i l of every kind, from disputes c civi n’t few t about household chores to international politics. And the only n, is ts; wha e h t to break this cycle, Warner ss way en e l m tells us, is to break it. Even if you u s arg need i nts. didn’t “start it,” you can be the one to set in motion a positive we rgume a cycle of responsibility-taking. d i Finally, better arguments demand stup that we be honest about power – and about inequities of power. In many spaces of civil discourse, participants do not enter as equals. They enter reckoning with imbalances that might derive from age or wealth or gender or race or credentials. These inherited inequalities need to be named before a Better Argument can take place. Our conversations and research have led us to five major keys to better arguments: Take winning off the table. The goal of a better argument is to understand another person, not to defeat them. Prioritize relationships and listen passionately. Because today’s argument culture, especially online, rewards demonization and dehumanization, better arguments begin with re-humanization, relationships, and the sharing of values. Pay attention to context. Understanding a debate’s underlying context, such as any given


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community’s cultural norms, increases accessibility and makes these debates more relevant. Embrace vulnerability. Being vulnerable is tough, but it’s necessary, and someone has to do it first. Leaders should model vulnerability so that others are open to be vulnerable, too. Make room to transform. You cannot change someone’s mind if you’re not willing to have your own mind changed. We will use the learning that I just described as a foundation for the next steps of the Better Arguments Project. As we engage in these arguments about how to prioritize our ideals and reckon with the consequences, we believe the best way to do that is to focus on place: to ground this work in the real issues of a real community. That is what we are doing now in Anchorage with the Alaska Humanities Forum on the topic of the human dynamics of climate change. We are starting by visiting Anchorage this fall to meet community members and hear their perspectives and experiences on what makes a bad argument, what could make a better one, and how the norms and culture of Alaska can be harnessed to build a more productive and less dehumanizing culture of argumentation in civic life. We believe it’s possible to build a better culture of argument in American civic life. But we know that we can only do this with your help, through your commitment to having better arguments in your own life. Do you want to be part of this movement? You can learn more and join in at ■

Eric Liu is the founder of Citizen University, which works across the political spectrum to foster a culture of powerful citizenship. He served as a White House speechwriter and later as deputy domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton. Liu is the executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Citizenship And American Identity Program. He is the author of several books, including You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen. This program is part of the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” Initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The initiative seeks to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vital connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism, and an informed citizenry. We thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this initiative and the Pulitzer Prizes for their partnership.






Responsibility goes beyond compliance. At ExxonMobil we deeply value the wisdom, culture and vision of Alaskan Natives. Our responsibility is to learn from and collaborate with all Alaskans to responsibly develop Alaska’s resources.

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Danielle Riha




support the Forum because I believe in place-based learning and supporting human connections through storytelling and real-life experience. The focuses in the Forum’s leadership, education, and youth programs are built on my core beliefs as an educator and community member.

You grew up in Texas and went to college there. How did you wind up teaching in rural Alaska?

Hardcore Learner, Honored Teacher DANIELLE RIHA lives in Anchorage, where she is a middle school teacher at the city’s Alaska Native Cultural Charter School, which she helped to establish 11 years ago. Prior to that, she taught in Togiak and New Stuyahok in rural Alaska, where she wove Alaska Native culture into the students’ educational experiences. Riha and her students have participated in the Sister School Exchange program (see page 35), and she sits on the Forum’s Educational Advisory Council. When she spoke to FORUM magazine, Riha had recently been named 2019 Alaska Teacher of the Year (TOY) by the state Department of Education and Early Development. She is recognized as an example of excellence in teaching. As the representative TOY for Alaska, she will speak at education conferences, participate in various statewide education initiatives, and is a candidate for National Teacher of the Year. Riha donates to the Alaska Humanities Forum through a charitable giving payroll-deduction option, a method available to most public employees.


I never even considered teaching as a profession. I was in Unalaska working in the fishing industry for six months. I joined the women’s basketball team. While I was playing ball with some kids, the superintendent said, “Hey, you’re really great with these kids. Aren’t you that girl who’s trying to save money for grad school?” I said, “Yeah, that’s me.” He said, “Why don’t you come to the school and substitute teach for me?” I loved Unalaska, Togiak, and New Stuyahok. I felt a real strong connection to the indigenous values that were taught there; they’re so similar to my own. My grandparents were Italian—Sicilian—and the values they taught me were the same I heard and saw practiced in the villages. The values cross all heritages or ethnic groups and I think they should be part of everybody’s daily culture. Culture is where you are, not where you come from. So, I incorporate those values in my classroom culture, in my home culture, in how I teach my grandkids. It was almost natural for me to be teaching in Unalaska. I love learning about heritage. I love learning about how people live. That was instilled by my parents. When I was a kid, we played this game wherever we went. They would ask me, “What do you like about this?” We were always finding beauty and the positives in differences. There was this one time my mom took me on a city bus for the first time. It was in Detroit. I was three years old; my mom says it was the first time in my life I was actually quiet. I was looking all around— Inside the bus, or outside?

Inside, while I was standing on the bus seat next to my mom, after we walked through the crowd, me with a gaping mouth of awe.

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My mom asked, “What do you like about the bus? What do you notice?” And I stood up on the seat and yelled at the top of my lungs, “I love that big fat black lady at the front of the bus! She’s beautiful!” The whole bus just roared with laughter. And the lady came back to me and said, “Thank you for calling me beautiful.” My mom always tells that story. I just love people. After you got your teaching degree, you headed straight back to rural Alaska. What brought you to Anchorage?

When I was in the bush, I started working with Math in Cultural Context, which is a program out of UAF with Jerry Lipka. We worked with Yup’ik elders and pulled out the math and science of the traditional subsistence lifestyle. That was amazing; I was a hardcore learner when I was out there. I learned so much from elders, students, parents... everyone. I moved to Anchorage in 2008, to help open the Alaskan Native Cultural Charter School [ANCCS]. Martha Gould-Lehe [founder of the school] heard about some culturally responsive teaching I’d done getting elders to come to the classroom and tell traditional stories in order to teach the elements of literature. The kids weren’t getting it from the reading textbooks the district sent out. My kids had no connection to the stories. They were about skateboarders, city life, and I was getting questions from the kids like “What’s a curb?” So, Martha heard about that and invited me to help write the curriculum for ANCCS and apply to ASD and teach with her. We’re a real family at ANCCS. Our families are connected to each other and are very supportive of each other. Our older kids take on the responsibility of being teachers. That’s common in Alaska Native cultures. They teach the younger kids how to behave, and if they see a younger kid being mean or not listening, they’ll stop them and say, “Hey, we’re at ANCCS, and we’re going to do this.”


I saw kids learn about humanity and life in the most meaningful way possible.

Then you got involved with Sister School Exchange and the Forum.

When the school got a seventh and eighth grade, I said, “We have to do Sister School Exchange.” I’ve done four; the school’s done seven. This year, we’re going to Shaktoolik. We’ve been to Toksook Bay, Yakutat, Kasigluk. My team teacher, Nick Pustina, did the Sister School Exchange with our kids in St. Mary’s and Ouzinkie. Every kid developed life-long friendships, and Nick and I saw kids learn about humanity and life in the most meaningful way possible. Living with someone for a week, and having someone live with them for a week, changed our students’ perspectives and built enduring understanding about life. What’s it like taking mostly Alaska Native students from ANCCS to rural Alaska on Sister School Exchange?

Our students are a really interesting mix of people. Some of my kids are village kids, and they’re so at home there. And some of my kids were not connected to their culture until they came to our school. In some cases, they denied their culture—said, “I’m not Alaska Native”—because they’d been bullied in their old school or their neighborhoods. So, when they come to our school, or go out on Sister School Exchange, they start to feel so comfortable in their own skin, in their identity. And they become such strong learners. How’s the Teacher of the Year experience been so far?

When you work with so many wonderful professionals, you think, “Why did they pick me?” I walk down the hallway at school and think, “He taught me this. And if I didn’t know her, man, I’d have never been able to teach Iñupiaq in fifth grade.” All the people I met teaching in the village, my parents—all those people… So maybe you represent them?

Yes, and the school. When I got the award, I thought, “This is so great for our school.” You can use the honor as a pulpit.

Yes, I have to develop a platform. My platform—probably—is that we have to teach character, teach kindness, and talk to kids about values. Not just think that it’s going to take care of itself. You have to make a conscious effort to talk to kids. You know, at ANCCS— especially when we first opened—we had a lot of Hmong kids, Pacific Islander kids, Asian kids. The reason was, they liked the values we were teaching, because they’re so strongly connected to them. I think in our busy society now, with the internet, the TV, we don’t talk about that enough. ■ —Interview by Dean Potter

Your Humanities Council The Alaska Humanities Forum serves Alaska as one of 56 humanities councils, located in all U.S. States and jurisdictions. Each council engages, informs, and connects the citizens of its home state through unique programming designed to reflect the needs, resources, and challenges of the people who live there. Collectively, the councils increase historical and cultural understanding, promote civil discussions of difficult issues, and bring communities together. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) provides federal funding to support this work each year, renewing its founding commitment to critical, creative, and compassionate thinking and dialogue about the future of our country. The funding the Forum receives from NEH requires a 100% match in donations from individuals, corporations, and other partners. Each and every year. In the past year, donors like you supported exchanges for youth and teachers in 24 rural and urban Alaska communities; drove voter turnout through a team project of Leadership Anchorage; and connected civilians with members of the military community through the launch of a third year of Danger Close writing workshops. Companies, foundations, and people from across the state, and throughout the country, made it possible to bring Alaskans together for cross-cultural immersions, reflective learning, and experiences that got people talking about things that matter. When you make a gift to Alaska Humanities Forum, you are making a real, lasting difference in communities across our state. Will you join us this year? Whether you are a longstanding supporter, or someone just picking up this magazine for the first time, we need your partnership in the year ahead. Please make a gift, attend a community conversation, sign up for a training event, or stop by our offices in Anchorage to say hello. We thank you for your support!

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: 421 W. 1st Avenue, Suite 200, Anchorage, AK 99501 • Double your impact—ask your employer about making a matching gift • Select Alaska Humanities Forum when you Pick.Click. Give.

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Alaska Humanities Forum Donors, 2018 THANK YOU to the individuals, corporations, foundations, and community organizations that support the Forum’s work across Alaska through gifts, grants, and in-kind donations of services and supplies.


Myles Creed

Timothy and Donna Hurley

John Murtagh

Moira K. Smith


Richard Cresgy

Marianne Inman

Jann D. Mylet

John K. Spitzberg

Sharon and Will Abbott

James Culp

Martha Israel

Thomas P. Nelson

John Stalvey

Charles B. Abolafia

Amanda Dale

Aldona Jonaitis

Peter and Julie Neyhart

Aurora Agee

Carmen and Rodger Davis

Diane Kaplan

Bernice Nisbett

Senator and Mrs. Gary Stevens

James and Jean Ann Alter

Nancy Y. Davis

Barbara Karl

Kristine M. Norosz

Kathleen Tarr

Jean Anderson

George and Brenda Dickison

Ronald Keffer

Marie Olson

Christine Thorsrud

Carole A. Anderson

Robert Donohue Boyer

Nancy Kemp

Judith Owens-Manley

Charles L. Tobin

Susan Anderson and Kevin Tripp

Louise Driscoll

J. Allen and Judith Kemplen

Catherine M. Easter

Nina Kemppel and Michael Smith

Jim Torgerson and Morgan Christen

Jane Angvik and Vic Fischer

Karen Du Mars

Robert Bruce and Meredith Parham

Chris and Maggi Arend Hans Arnett Hannah Atkinson Oliver and Andrea Backlund Rachael Ball

Barbara S. Eckrich Susan Elliott Richard Emanuel Laurie Evans-Dinneen and Jason Dinneen

Janies Barlow-Alexander

Judith Farley-Weed

Brian Barnes and Alison D. York

Katherine Farnham

Sarah Barton

Heather Flynn

Gary and Barbara Baugh Micky Becker Senator Tom Begich and Sarah Sledge Annette Bellamy Nathaniel Betz Caroline Bolar Bruce Botelho Clayton Bourne Joan Braddock Linnea Brazell Jeane Breinig Jean Brockel Christa Bruce Elizabeth Burke Jason Butler Rolfe Buzzel Megan Cacciola Annie Calkins Brenda Campen Mara P. Carnahan Teresa Carns Michael Catsi Christopher Cecil LeMiel Chapman and Waltraud Barron Sherrie Chrysler Kerry Clark Talis Colberg, Ph.D. Carol S. Comeau

Casey A. Fletcher Laura Forbes Bryce Fredrick Pauline Fredrickson Linda Freed and Alan Schmitt

Jeremy Pataky

Alan Traut

Kip and Patricia Kermoian

Kameron Perez-Verdia

Stephanie Kesler and Peter Partnow

Ira L. Perman

James Ustasiewski and Mary Irvine

Phyllis Kiehl

James and Susan Pfeiffenberger

David Kiffer

Wayne and Barbara Pichon

Jane Kilcher

Virginia Potter

Catkin Kilcher Burton

Troy Poulsen

Nancy King

Allison Powell

Tom Kizzia

John and Margaret Pugh

Margo Klass and Frank Soos

Robert Raichle

Janet Klein

Katherine and Anson Renshaw, Jr.

Leslie Kleinfeld Lynndeen and James Knapp Matthew Komatsu

Orcutt and Mary Frost

Patricia Koslovich

Sharon and Bruce Gagnon

Don Kussart

Kay F. Gajewski

William Lappart

Rebecca Gallen

Marilyn Lee and Eric Johnson

Steven A. Rieger and Lisa Davis Danielle Riha Richard Riordan and Ann Fienup-Riordan Sigrun Robertson

Julie Varee Nancy Waterman and William C. Leighty John Weddleton Judith F. Whittaker Jetta Whittaker and Rob Steedle Shelley Wickstrom Kirstie Lorelei Willean Kurt W. and Jia-Her Wong Jonathan Woodman Mary Bethe Wright ORGANIZATIONS

Jessica Rock

Alaska Airlines

Heather Lende

Wendy Romberg

Ted Leonard

Arthur Rotch

Alaska Electric Light and Power Co.

Nancy Levinson

Jeffrey Rubin

Dianne Gudgel-Holmes

Nancy Lord and Kenneth W. Castner III

Kathryn K. Ruddy

Richard Gustafson

Karina Lovett

Sarah Hamilton

Marilyn Russell

Amanda Mack

Elaine Hammes

David Russell-Jensen

Mary Lou Madden

Anne Hanley

Mary Rutigliano

Grace Harrington

James Magdanz and Susan Georgette

Monika and Hurley Scherffius

Elizabeth Hartley

Mary C. Mangusso

Gregory Schmidt

Ian Hartman

Blythe Marston and Gordon Pospisil

William and Mary Schneider

John Gerrish Gordon Glaser Kristine Green Amy Greene

Bob and Jennifer Harty Ernestine Hayes Josh Hemsath Nancy and Jim Hemsath Stephen Henrikson Shirley and William Holloway David Holthouse and Priscilla Hensley-Holthouse

Elizabeth Rupp

Alyeska Pipeline Atwood Foundation BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. Cabela’s Calista Corporation ConocoPhillips Cook Inlet Tribal Council ExxonMobil Alaska First Alaskans Institute

Ronald and Turid Senungetuk

John C. Hughes Foundation

Raimundo Martinez

Northwind Architects, LLC

Donald C. McGee

Governor William Sheffield

ODOM Corporation

Thomas and Jane Meacham

Catherine Shenk

Rasmuson Foundation

Amy and Brian Meissner

Rebecca Sherman-Luce

Marjorie Menzi and William Heumann

Wendell and Judith Shiffler

Richard L. and Diane M. Block Foundation

Robert Simon

Sealaska Corporation

Sheri Skelton

The CIRI Foundation

Chellie Skoog

The Foraker Group The Frances & David Rose Foundation TOTE Maritime

Peter Metcalfe

Dale Cope Penelope M. Cordes

Eileen Hosey

Robert Michaud

Gerald and Sandy Covey

David and Linda Hulen

Pauline Morris

Elizabeth Qaulluq Cravalho

Maynard and Katherine Smith

Karen Hunt

John and Rika Mouw

Philip and Deborah Smith

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Alaska Permanent Capital Management Co.

Laura Schue

Mildred M. Martin

Barbara Hood and Dirk Sisson


Walter Van Horn

Kimberly L. Metcalfe Helmar



Alaska Salmon Fellows “Participation in Alaska Humanities Forum programs is changing how I interact in the world. Selection into the second cohort of the Alaska Salmon Fellows program has permanently connected me to diverse individuals from across the state whom I would never have met and challenged my thinking about the equitability and sustainability of our salmon-people system. My role as a Salmon Fellow led to attending a Forum-run workshop on Leading Conversations that Build Community. I now view every conversation as an opportunity to gain new perspectives and insights, and I have gained the tools to engage meaningfully with people who hold dramatically different viewpoints.” — Donna Aderhold, Alaska Salmon Fellow and Facilitation Training participant Program Coordinator, Gulf Watch Alaska, Homer, Kachemak Bay

Through connection, we build community. The demand for conversation has never been greater. Society is increasingly divided, detached, and distracted. While the diversity of Alaska is one of its great strengths, our communities are too often separated and distanced by deep political, cultural, economic, and geographical differences. The Alaska Humanities Forum’s work is grounded in the belief that many of the issues that threaten the stability and health of our communities are rooted in a lack of connection, engagement, and perspective. For more than 40 years, the Forum has been creating space for Alaskans to connect around their stories, ideas, and

experiences. Through shared experiences like becoming immersed in another culture; reflecting on a book, exhibit, or film; or exploring voices from our history, people can come to better understand themselves, one another, and the human condition. We’re driven by the search for common ground, respectful curiosity about the differences among us, and the belief that every Alaskan has a story worth sharing. This report is a glimpse back at 2018— at work made possible by the donors, grantees, program participants, and community partners who share our vision of a culturally diverse, economically vibrant, and equitable Alaska.

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Cross-Cultural Programming “My ECCI experience continues to benefit me in my daily practice. Sometimes just being able to talk with a child who misses his village makes a huge difference. ECCI gave me a frame of reference that I can use to build relationships that my students need."

REACHING MORE EDUCATORS C3 (Creating Cultural Competence)

— Jenifer Singleton, Educator Cross-Cultural Immersion participant, Campbell STEM Elementary School, Anchorage

Grants “The value, meaning, and impact of the Alaska Humanities Forum grant programs cannot be overstated. We at the Alaska Jewish Museum have been extremely fortunate to receive support for three of our exhibits. We are grateful for the Forum’s commitment to keeping cultural and educational institutions alive, and for its support of the creation of new ways of seeing and talking about Alaskans, the history of Alaska, and the living connections between the past and the present. The impact lies in the beneficial effects of dialogue and a multicultural perspective. These are ingredients that are essential in promoting peace and understanding for our communities and the larger world beyond.” — Leslie Fried, grantee, Alaska Jewish Museum, Anchorage

Alaska History Day “I literally had tears in my eyes looking at some of the presentations. I have a background in math and science, so my personal bias, going in, was that maybe history was a little boring. But the way the students presented their findings, it was so enlightening. I was struck by the amount of current events the students were integrating into their projects, and I don’t think there could be a better learning tool than that. This is a great way to get the word out that history isn’t just the past; it’s alive.”

— Dr. Joseph Chernich, Alaska History Day volunteer judge, Fairbanks





1081 STU D E NTS SERVED ACROSS ALASKA Sister School Exchange




Take Wing Alaska


Alaska History Day


Creating Cultural Competence


Youth Advisory Council

Facilitation Training "I had no clue what to expect from this weekend and was blown away by the knowledge and kindness of the other participants, by the incredibly thoughtful training design, and the beautiful location! I learned communication skills that will impact my day-to-day work as well as community conversations."


— Yukon Island Facilitation Training participant

Leadership Programs “I have certainly gained a much deeper understanding of the people and communities of Anchorage and more and more parts of the state of Alaska. I have gained so much insight into myself and my potential as a leader, and a thirst for more knowledge and understanding through these wonderful interactions. I keep returning to the Humanities Forum programs because they have all been such valuable, and really cool, experiences.” — Virginia McClure, LA20 / Leader to Leader Exchange, Assistant Director for Public Services, Anchorage Public Library


Leaders in Cohort 21


Alumni Since 1997





Educators and Youth


Alaska Salmon Fellows


Public Programming




Forum Board Members





Revenue: $3,393,375

The Forum invests in Alaska artists, writers, historians, filmmakers, and community conveners. This funding fuels creative projects that share and preserve the stories of people across the state and explore what it means to be Alaskan.

The Forum leads, hosts, and funds public events, programs, and community discussions that bring people together to share their stories, ideas, and experiences so they may better understand themselves, one another, and the human experience.

Annual Grants, Mini Grants, Duty Bound, HUMAN:ties

Duty Bound, FORUM magazine, Magnetic North, Kindling Conversation, State Writer Laureate, Governor’s Arts & Humanities Awards






Expenses: $3,337,992



The Forum’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. At printing, these numbers are preliminary. Final financials will be available at

The Forum’s programming for educators and youth uses cultural immersion, reflective learning, and exploration to better prepare and connect educators and youth in rural and urban communities across Alaska. Sister School Exchange, Educator Cross-Cultural Immersion, Creating Cultural Competence, Take Wing Alaska, Alaska History Day


The Forum’s leadership programs build capacity across industries and sectors, backgrounds, and experiences. We emphasize equity, critical thinking, and collaboration in addressing the complex economic, social, and political issues across Alaska’s communities. Leadership Anchorage, Alaska Salmon Fellows

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Antony is one of 19 Anchorage children whose stories and dreams are presented to the public on large narrative panels installed around the city.


A L A S K A H U M A N I T I E S F O R U M W I NTE R 2018-2019


Eyes Closed Minds Open The Forum supports a project to make Anchorage’s diverse children more visible and remind everyone of the power of dreaming by Lillian Maassen

Portraits by Amber Johnson, George Stransky and Oscar Avellaneda-Cruz


n an otherwise unremarkable day in 2017, Shirley Mae Springer Staten heard her friend Gabriela Olmos utter a phrase that sent her scrambling for a pen and paper: “An enemy is just a friend whose story you haven’t heard.” With this radically simple idea in mind, Staten and Olmos embarked on a project that they hope will have Anchorage residents exchanging stories and forging friendships for years to come. The project, entitled Eyes Closed: Living Stories of Anchorage’s Children, advances the idea that the dreams and stories of children, displayed through art, can bridge cultural gaps and foster understanding in a way little else can. “The arts can often move us that 18 inches from our heads to our hearts,” says Staten. “Our work is about bettering the understanding in our community.” “We all want our children to grow up in a more fair and more inclusive society,” Olmos adds. “We try to build empathy for the sake of our children.” Staten is executive director of Keys to Life, an organization focused on creating cross-cultural expe-

riences in Anchorage. Last winter, the group took on the Eyes Closed project and received an Alaska Humanities Forum grant for its completion. The most visible result of the project are 19 larger-than-life panels placed in public spaces around Anchorage, each featuring the photograph and the dream or story of an Anchorage child who belongs to an immigrant or underserved community. These children come from a variety “Being a diverse city means of ethnic and religious backgrounds, including Alaska Na- you can find thousands tive, Hmong, Jewish, Samoan, of stories out there.” Japanese, Muslim, Filipino, Sudanese, and Hispanic. Some appear in the traditional dress of their heritage; some have their stories translated into English from their mother tongues; all represent the cultural richness and varied perspectives that Anchorage boasts as one of the nation’s most diverse cities. Diversity is often expressed as statistics, says Olmos, and Anchorage residents are familiar with the numbers. But, she says, diversity is much more: “Being a diverse city means you can find thousands of stories out there.” A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M W I NTE R 20 18 -2 01 9


Mcjhmiel’s Dream As recorded by the Eyes Closed project NOT LONG AGO, Miss Mcjhmiel was playing

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony September 14 in downtown Anchorage, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz cited the public nature of the project—the panels are displayed at Loussac and Mountian View libraries, the Anchorage Museum, and Peratrovich Park—as an example of a diverse population encountering one another through the common social space of the city. “What this project symbolized to me is that from the many different stories that make up our great city, we are weaving together one Anchorage,” the mayor said. “In this world today where there’s so much division and so much contention, our ability to weave our stories together sets an example. Different people, from different places, different ages, different faiths, different ways of loving can make something unique and strong.” Staten and Olmos are hopeful that the panels will inspire similar feelings in their viewers, and will ultimately foster more frank conversations and cultural understanding between Anchorage residents of all heritages. For Marisol Vargas, whose 10-year-old son Abad participated in the dreamsharing, the project accomplished immeasurable good even before the panels went up. She feels it was an opportunity for Abad to explore his own Hispanic heritage while meeting other children and learning about their heritages, discovering similarities and respectfully engaging with differences. “The world is becoming increasingly diverse and includes people of many religions, languages, and other cultural groups,” Vargas says. “In order to build communities that are powerful enough to attain significant change, we need everyone working together.”


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video games on her computer when she heard a gunshot. Something was happening on the streets and she became very scared. “My mom said, ‘Shut down your computer.’ I shut it down, we went to our room, and we were not even moving.” What can a girl do with such a memory? Mcjhmiel was born in the Philippines. Her family moved to the United States when she was four. Mcjhmiel remembers that in the Philippines she could swim at the beach and fish would squirm around her legs. She was afraid they might bite her. In America, besides going to school, Mcjhmiel practices Tae Kwon Do every weekday. She has attained a red belt, and may earn a black belt soon. She has already won a few gold medals. Mcjhmiel dreams of becoming a Tae Kwon Do champion. She says that martial arts can help make the world a better place because “when practicing Tae Kwon Do you learn to control your anger,” and unmanaged anger plays a huge role in rising violence. Mcjhmiel explains that Tae Kwon Do has taught her to think of the consequences of her acts, and that often criminals do not stop to think of the aftereffects of what they do. Ten-year-old Mcjhmiel dreams of living in a safe city. “I’ll help us have better security,” she says. We will be in good hands. Mcjhmiel thinks that, “When you’re dreaming about the future, you can make the future look like what you dream.”

Mcjhmiel (left) poses at her school in Anchorage near a portrait of Alaska Native civil rights icon Elizabeth Peratrovich. Mcjhmiel’s panel, among others, engages visitors at the city’s main library (above). Saleh’s panel (right) is installed outside the Anchorage Museum.

Saleh’s Dream As recorded by the Eyes Closed project

Neither Staten nor Olmos are strangers to projects of this magnitude. Olmos moved to Alaska from Mexico in 2016, and serves as the editor of Alaska’s Hispanic newspaper, Sol de Medianoche (see page 11). She has published a dozen children’s books internationally and written articles for various periodicals. She curated art exhibits and participated in roundtables on art and culture in Mexico, Japan, France, Spain, Peru, Canada, and the United States. In 2009, she conducted a project like Eyes Closed in Mexico, in which she interviewed children in indigenous villages and published their stories in a book now on the shelf of every Mexican public school. Staten, a long-time Alaskan, served as the Cultural Events Coordinator for the 1994 United Nation/Non-Government Organization conference held in Beijing, China. Over 36,000 women participated in the event. More recently, she directed several projects with Keys to Life, including the Hiland Mountain Lullaby Project and the Anchorage Cultural Summit. She developed after-school programs, coordinated cultural performances with the Anchorage Museum, arranged travel to Ghana for middle-school students, and launched a pens-and-books drive for students in Liberia and Zimbabwe. “Shirley makes magic,” smiles Olmos. “With this energy and magic she has, we started working [on the project] and everything came together quite soon.” “But,” she continues, “The most inspiring thing is: you should listen to those kids. We

“WHEN PEOPLE LEARN that I moved here from Egypt, they just say, ‘Wow!’” says Mr. Saleh. He was born in Libya. His family is from Sudan, and moved to Egypt, where he learned to speak Egyptian and Arabic. Once Saleh went with his brother to see the Giza pyramids, and he was as impressed as any tourist visiting Egypt. “They are huge!” He remembers seeing the Sphinx. He says, “It’s the pharaoh represented as a lion. The lion is the king of the jungle as the pharaoh was the king of Egyptians. Pharaohs were like lions: strong and awesome.” Saleh is proud to be a Muslim. He goes to the mosque and his family follows Muslim traditions, such as fasting during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. “Ramadan is when people fast during daytime. Ramadan is very important to our faith. We give to others in need, forgive, pray, read the Quran, and share with our family and friends. When Ramadan comes, all the devils go away.” Once the 30 days of Ramadan are over, Muslims have a big celebration. “Sometimes we eat lamb or camel,” Saleh says. “A camel can feed a whole building!” Saleh wants to stay close to his Islamic faith. When he grows up he dreams of becoming a sheikh, an elder in his community. Sheikhs are very respected because they are wise. As a sheikh, Saleh plans to build a new mosque in Anchorage. It will be gold and white. He wants to build it in our city because he is happy here. “Anchorage is good to me. I love it.” Saleh’s family moved to Anchorage at the end of 2015. When he arrived, he did not know one word of English, but he learned it right away, “I didn’t know how to read, but I never gave up. My dream was to become a reader, and now I’m good at it.” Saleh is wise, as someone who will become a sheikh should be. He says, “You don’t wait for dreams to come true, you have to make them come true.”

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Eyes Closed s and Shirley

Gabriela Olmo

Shirley Staten and Gabriela Olmos.


Photo by Wayde Carroll

heard the most beautiful stories. We have kids in this town who want to be president to give rights to people of color. We have kids who want to focus on sports because they believe sports is a way to end violence. We have kids who want to be policemen and take care of the people of our city. So we are in good hands. If that is our future, we are in very good hands.” Anchorage’s children are dreaming, day and night. Eyes Closed draws little distinction between dreams that happen while they’re sleeping, and the dreams that take shape in their minds as aspirations for the future; both concepts belong to the quiet world of reflection, imagination, and limitless possibility. “When our eyes are open, we think we see everything, but we don’t,” says Staten. “We don’t take the time to dream. But with your eyes closed you can imagine, and that’s when we give ourselves permission to dream, and dream big.” Staten and Olmos allowed the children themselves to guide the conversations about Eyes Closed, which usually turned toward their visions for the future. Some spoke candidly and easily, with the


Mae Springer

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The Dreams of Ou

confidence of those too young to bother with limitations. Others took more time gathering the courage to speak. Some spoke of cultural contradictions, memories of refugee camps or war-torn home countries—and dreams of a future so bright and colorful they could only come from the unfettered minds of children. “When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut so I can do back flips on the moon,” declared a seven-year-old. Why? “Because I think that would be cool!” “Dreams give you hope,” mused another young girl, who in her 12 years had already faced a lifetime’s worth of adversity. “When I grow up, I want to empower girls so they know they don’t have to be afraid.” Listening to these children, Staten and Olmos recall, they were transported. They forgot, for the moment, the banalities and responsibilities of daily adult life, and felt themselves swept up in the potential of childhood and the ease of dreaming. “You remember the child you were,” says Olmos. ■

IN ADDITION to the 19 panels installed around Anchorage, the Eyes Closed project published a book (above) containing the stories and photos of the featured children and more than 50 others. The Eyes Closed team will also launch an online community conversation about the dreams and goals of Anchorage residents from all walks of life. The team hopes to pursue further public engagement as funding and opportunity permit, including a cross-cultural school exchange and curriculum, and bringing the panels to rural Alaska to help kids statewide take up the conversation about dreams.

Lillian Maassen recently moved to Dublin to begin a graduate program in linguistics.

To learn more and get involved, see eyes-closed

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It’s an


Students become storytellers at Alaska History Day and National History Day

By Aurora Ford


he immediate objectives are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops in the ground and prevent their planting more.” The words are George Washington’s, written in military orders in 1779, during the Revolutionary War. The orders launched the Sullivan Expedition, a scorched-earth campaign against Iroquois nations who were allied with the British. Last June—239 years after Washington’s troops brought starvation and exodus to Iroquois territory— three eighth-graders from Fairbanks’ Barnette Magnet YOUTH PROGRAMS School visited Washington, D.C. to take part in National History Day (NHD). Along with visits to the Smithsonian museums in the shadow of the Washington Monument, the students—Camille Lesseig, TAKE WING Beckett Eames and Finn Hill— ALASKA presented their history project at the national contest. It was a website about the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of Native Americans from the southeastern U.S. in the 1830s. The students’ website included Washington’s orders as part of the history leading up to the Trail of Tears. “The Trail of Tears was an appalling event that was the culmination of decades of conflict between encroaching European settlers and Native American inhabitants,” they wrote. “While the Cherokee Nation


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strove for a diplomatic compromise, the United States government denied and deceived them, ultimately contributing to the genocide of an entire people.” The middle-school students posited that the U.S. government continues to marginalize Native American social and political imperatives. They cite the Interior Department’s recent reduction of the Bears Ears and Grand StaircaseEscalante national monuments, both regions of spiritual significance to Native Americans; and the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline despite fierce local protests. In reference to his home state and its people, Hill said: “Alaska Native groups are still fighting to have a voice and gain their grounds back again after being separated, and their communities and culture destroyed.” Since their experience at National History Day, the three have come to believe in the significance of engaging deeply with history. “I think more people should be doing history projects like this just to learn from the past—to recognize what’s happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Beckett said. BECOMING STORYTELLERS

The Fairbanks students’ journey to Washington, D.C. began in February with participation in Alaska History Day (AHD), a program of the Alaska Humanities Forum. (Every state holds its own History Day contest affiliated with the national program; over half a million students in grades 6 to 12 participated this year.) The event—like a science fair for history projects—first came to Alaska

“History doesn’t only belong to the people who write the textbooks or who teach in a university.”

in 1989, coordinated by the National Park Service. The Forum took over leadership of AHD in 2017. According to Amanda Dale, public programming manager and AHD affiliate coordinator at the Forum, the contest fits naturally into the organization’s mission. “The Forum is dedicated to building the connections that strengthen Alaska’s communities. A student who creates an AHD project can connect firsthand with experts in their own community, from an archivist in a museum to an elder sharing traditional stories,” Dale said. “We are excited to coordinate this program that helps kids plug into the historical knowledge that is all around

them here in Alaska,” she continued. “Our kids need to know their history, and they need to know that history is something we all share. It doesn’t only belong to the people who write the textbooks or who teach in a university.” The motto of National History Day is, “It’s not just a day, it’s an experience.” Based on a theme chosen by NHD— the 2017-18 theme was “Conflict and Compromise in History” and the theme for this school year is “Triumph and Tragedy in History”—students work alone or in small groups to research their chosen topic and develop a presentation in one of five categories: research paper, exhibit, website, documentary film, or

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performance. Students develop critical thinking, research, and presentation skills. “Alaska History Day gives students the tools to become advocates and storytellers,” Dale noted. And, crucially for today’s world, they must analyze and validate sources of information, and contextualize them within the timeframe in which they took place. George Washington’s military orders are just such a source. Heidi Imhof, the Trail of Tears team’s teacher at Barnette, does the program with her students every year and organizes the trip to the national contest with her qualifying teams each summer. “I believe the struggle to complete a great NHD project helps students see themselves seriously as scholars, with the skills and potential to undertake momentous things that matter to them throughout their lives,” she says. More than 800 students participated in the Alaska History Day experience in 201718, in school contests, regional contests (Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Haines) and an online, statewide contest. Forty-one were selected to progress to National History Day, held every year at the University of Maryland, College Park, just outside of Washington, D.C. “D.C. was really amazing,” attested Lesseig, one of the Fairbanks students. “You get to see so much history that we don’t really have in Alaska. You get to go to all the Smithsonians, to see all those historical artifacts, and all the other National History Day projects. It makes sense that you’d travel all the way across the United States to be a part of that.” Alaska’s representatives, their parents, and their teachers had to self-fund their trips to the national event. In the future, the Forum hopes to raise funds to help offset these costs. It’s among the changes anticipated as the Forum ramps up its support for Alaska History Day, along with spreading the contest to more regions of the state and supporting educators who bring the program to their schools. ENLIGHTENED, INSPIRED

It isn’t only students who are affected by the knowledge and perspective displayed each year in Alaska History Day projects. Parents, teachers, and judges are, too. While the students’ research forms the foundation of their


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My Language, My Culture



GWENDOLYN MACLEAN , an Anchorage sixth-grader in 2015, won first place in the Junior Individual Performance at Alaska History Day for a performance she did based on the life of her grandmother. Called “My Language, My Culture: Edna MacLean Takes a Stand to Preserve Iñupiaq Language,” the performance detailed Edna Ahgeak MacLean’s work to create the first Iñupiaq dictionary, Iñupiatun Uqaluit Taniktun Sivuninit/Iñupiaq to English Dictionary. The book, supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, contains entries for more than 10,000 Iñupiaq words, and includes transcriptions of Iñupiaq stories and their translations into English. In her youth, Edna had been sent away to boarding school where she and her classmates were punished for speaking their Native languages. Later in life, she led the Iñupiaq language program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for more than 20 years. Gwendolyn’s Alaska History Day project was her continuation of her grandmother’s efforts to preserve Iñupiaq language and culture. “I think [Alaska History Day] is something that more people need to be doing,” she said. “It’s just an amazing opportunity. After I did my performance a couple of students came up to me and thanked me for doing it, because they’d never heard about the dictionary before and they were glad to know now.”

projects, their feelings and conclusions about history come to life during the face-to-face interactions at History Day events. “As students share their learning in interviews with volunteer judges,” Dale explained, “they demonstrate how history can bring people together for a meaningful conversation.” Dr. Joseph Chernich served as a judge in Fairbanks, putting in more than 50 hours one week. “I literally had tears in my eyes looking at some of the presentations,” “The struggle to complete a great he recalled. “The response it elicited National History Day project from me was so helps students see themselves surprising. I have a background in math seriously as scholars, with the and science, so my skills and potential to undertake personal bias, going in, was that maybe momentous things.” history was a little boring. But the way the students presented their findings, it was so enlightening. I was struck by the amount of current events the students were integrating into their projects, and I don’t think there could be a better learning tool than that. This is a great way to get the word out that history isn’t just the past; it’s alive.” Among other judges in Fairbanks this year was State Sen. John Coghill. In Anchorage, State Representative Geran Tarr and her legislative director, Diana Rhoades, were AHD judges. “Volunteering for Alaska History Day makes me feel inspired,” Rhoades reported. “It’s an honor to listen to the stories told by young people learning about history and culture.” After a successful first year coordinating Alaska History Day and experiencing the national contest with students, parents, and teachers, Dale is optimistic about the benefits of the program and its future value. “Communities grow stronger when our young people know where they come from and learn about why the world is the way it is right now,” she reflected. “This grounding is vital to building an identity in a quickly changing world, and it will inform the decisions they will make for all of us one day.” ■

a chunk of the wall THE 2018 THEME for Alaska History Day and National History Day was “Conflict and Compromise in History.” Liza Lebo and Ava Liles, of Romig Middle School in Anchorage, explored the theme with an exhibit about the Berlin Wall that they made with teammates Emma Knapp and Annika Colberg. Lebo and Liles represented the team at the national contest, and were invited to showcase their exhibit in the National Museum of American History during the contest. They chose the Wall as a stark illustration of their thesis: the Yalta Conference, which divided Germany among the Allies after World War II, was a compromise that intensified, rather than defused, a conflict. Their exhibit told the story of the Wall with a juxtaposition of images, words, and artifacts. Powerful photos depicted muddy and deserted streets seen through barbed wire; workers fortifying the barrier with concrete blocks; an East German soldier passing a small red flower through a fissure in the concrete. Quotes from Presidents Kennedy and Reagan, and from Erich Honecker, head of East Germany, moved the narrative from the streets of Berlin to geopolitics. Sources included stories from Berlin residents who awakened in 1961 to find a barrier had split the city and separated them from loved ones. The exhibit made the events of 57 years ago tangible with a German newspaper from the time anchored to the display with an actual chunk of the Berlin Wall, on loan from a grandmother.

Aurora Ford is an Alaska journalist who writes frequently for FORUM. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M W I NTE R 20 18 -2 01 9



High school graduation rates in the Lower Kuskokwim School District have seen a gain of almost 11% in preliminary data released last summer, reaching 60% district wide. The rise is due in part to the district’s adoption of a strategic model that tracks student progress, spots problems early, and puts a response in motion. It’s also showing the effects of Alaska Humanities Forum’s Take Wing Alaska, a program that works with a group of about 40 students across the district each year. Take Wing incorporates experiential learning, indigenous values, and self-reflection to help students finish high school on time and develop a plan for life after high school. The 34 Take Wing students in the class of 2017 had a graduation rate of 100%, and 95% of students in the current cohort are on track to graduate on time in four years. Selected students begin Take Wing at the end of their sophomore year and participate in three immersion experiences on college campuses in Anchorage and Fairbanks through the beginning of their senior year. These week-long sessions are designed to introduce students to a range of options for post-secondary learning and training, and to give students some practice navigating postsecondary culture and urban environments. Together, they venture out on scavenger hunts in small groups around campus and into the community, visit grocery stores with small allowances, and take part in reflective circles for group discussions where they

Navigating from Inside Out Take Wing Alaska helps students make successful transitions to independence


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debrief the process of making responsible choices while building trust in others. Between gatherings, students are surveyed so the Forum can tailor future immersion experiences to their interests. Program staff provides ongoing support through regular contact with the students and their families through phone calls, email, social media, and check-ins. This past summer, Calista Education & Culture, Inc., Cultural Advisor Mark John led a session with students during their visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. John spoke about the transition to independence that the students were experiencing, using ducklings and goslings learning to ‘take wing’ as an analogy. “From the time we are children, they [parents/elders] take care of us and teach us what we need to know,” he told the group. “You’re at an age where you’re going to take off and be on your own. Niicurniluten, qanruyututen maligtakuluki elluarluten yuuyukuvet: Listen and follow what you are told to do if you want to live a good life.” John implored students to live well, make good choices, and embody ‘yuuyararniqtuq,’ ‘a good way to live.’ “Today may be different,” he said, “but the hard work, the perseverance, the resilience of our ancestors hasn’t changed; we can apply it to what we do today.” Adam Mackie, an English Language Arts teacher at West Anchorage High School, worked as a camp staff member with Take Wing for two immersions in March and July 2018. “Take Wing has been an experience for me to immerse myself in diverse perspectives of teaching

and learning with students from other parts of Alaska,” he explains. “While students shopped one evening, I’ll never forget Naaqtuuq Robertson, Take Wing Alaska’s youth program manager and cultural specialist, saying to me, ‘This is your classroom tonight.’ Teaching outside of a standardized classroom context has helped me grow and reflect more deeply on my teaching practice and become a better teacher.” While Take Wing’s impact on high school graduation rates and enrollment in post-graduate programs for continued learning are notable, there’s more to the program. Equally important are the confidence, knowledge, and awareness

that students gain about who they are and where they’re from. “I’ve learned how to be more independent, overcome difficulties in life, speak in front of people, and communicate with others I don’t know,” reflected one student. “Take Wing helps me know more about colleges,” said another. “I’ve had the chance to try new experiences, make new friends, know what college life is like, express myself more, and get out of my comfort zone.” ■


exchange values THE FORUM'S Sister School Exchange program (SSE) has facilitated cross-cultural youth exchanges in Alaska for the last 17 years, guiding students to reflect on their own cultures, make new connections across the state, and gain firsthand experience of the diversity of Alaska.

Supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Alaska Native Education Program, SSE pairs teams from up to 30 schools each year, matching a teacher and five students from a rural community with a similar team from a relatively urban school district. Throughout the year,

they work through a 6-8 week online curriculum and then take turns visiting and hosting each other in their home communities in the spring. Students who take part in the exchange learn how to be ambassadors for their community, how to adapt to different ways of life, and how

to push themselves to try new things. This experience extends beyond observation: students attend school, live with host families, and explore the community with field trips centered on a common theme. In the 2018-19 school year, 28 team are participating. ■

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Kotzebue in Wartime The Forum revisits an oral history project and helps Project Jukebox create permanent and accessible archives


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IN APRIL 2016 , residents of Kotzebue took a poignant

journey through time and memory. They assembled to watch videos—recorded 20 years earlier—of elders describing experiences of wartime: experiences that dated, in many cases, to another 50 years before that. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” remembers Leslie McCartney, curator of oral history at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “People were seeing tapes of loved ones who had passed on, who they

hadn’t seen in many years. It was emotional, but also good.” In the mid-1990s, the Forum supported a travelling oral history project known as Alaska Communities of Memory. In nine sites across the state, from Unalaska to Juneau, people met to remember the history of their community and recount what made life in their town special. The events were recorded on VHS tapes, which were later acquired by the Oral History Program at UAF’s Elmer E. Rasmuson Library. Years passed. “The tapes were getting brittle,” McCartney says. The program has been awarded a series of grants from the Forum to digitize the tapes, transcribe text records, and make them accessible through Project Jukebox, the online service of UAF’s Oral History Program. Not every passage of the tapes could be preserved, so community gatherings, like the one in Kotzebue, were held to choose the most valuable. Permission was granted by the speakers or surviving family members to make the stories public. One of the clips that was important to the community is a reading of names of those from the region who served in the military. “It was a testimony to how many served; just reading their names took 20 minutes. So many people served, and from some tiny communities,” McCartney points out. BACK IN 1996, Kotzebue chose to do something a little different and focus their reminiscences on one subject: life during wartime. The gathering was facilitated by Walter Sampson, a veteran of Vietnam and leader in Northwest Arctic affairs; and Rachel Craig, an esteemed Iñupiaq language linguist and educator. Veterans of World War II and of the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam recounted their experiences and reflected with the perspective of decades. Their stories mixed with those of residents who stayed behind and faced the challenges of maintaining family and civic life in the Arctic with fewer hands and resources. Denali Whiting, who is from Kotzebue, worked on making the text record of the videos. (Whiting is now education program coordinator at the Forum.) She recalls transcribing passages that vividly illustrate the trying conditions during World War II: A woman needed money while her husband was away in the service, so she sewed a pair of mukluks and sold them for one dollar. A family couldn’t use their woodstove under black-out conditions, so heated a rock during the day and relied on the rock to provide some warmth at night. “It’s important that we hear from people with stories of hardships and hard times,” Whiting muses, “so we can appreciate and recognize how easy life is today.”

THE FOLLOWING transcriptions have been excerpted

and condensed. Go to to find full videos, audio, and transcriptions.


We were also warriors, too Daisy Walton was born in 1924 in Noatak. Her husband, Delbert, was originally from Kivalina and served in the military during World War II. They met and married after he returned home. He continued to serve in the Alaska National Guard; his service required absences from home during which Daisy cared for the family singlehanded. She passed away in 2009. READY TO SHOOT

I’ll start off with an ATGs [Alaska Territorial Guards]. Because my dad, my uncles, my grandfather were ATGs in those days. And we were just a little girls. Probably about 12, 14, 16 years old. And to start with, I adore, I love the ATGs because they were dedicated for our world and their lives was dedicated for you and me. We were also warriors, too. Us girls and our brothers and sisters. When the ATG starts, my dad was one of them. And he start getting guns for my brothers. He start training them to shoot. I was one of them, too. I had a gun. Even though I was a little girl. My dad taught us to use a gun because they started ATG in those days. They were warriors. They were ready to fight. Good thing Japanese never come in those days. We all would start shooting, even us childrens. That’s how dedicated we get when they start ATGs. I’m proud of my family and my grandfathers and forefathers. And the relatives and all the ATGs. We love you. We love them even though they’re gone. I married a man that was in army. Might be emotional for me—I just lose him not too long ago. And I’m just wishing that he would tell a story himself instead of me. He was a Kivalina resident man to start with. And he was a young man when they start drafting people. He was drafted out from Kivalina to Kotzebue and then to Nome. After they bomb Pearl Harbor, he was sent out down there. With a boat. And he was a gunner and they placed him with a gun in a boat. In the story he tell me, he was ready to hit a submarine with his gun. They really thought it was a submarine as they were crossing to the place where they were going. My husband was ready to shoot. He was all ready to shoot. And next thing, somebody told him it was a big tree with the branches just coming up. Go down, come up, go down. It was a big tree instead. He was so thankful. He said he was kind of scared to kill people inside that submarine. Because he never kill before. So many times when he tell me stories about that his throat would want—would wanna cry. Because he don’t want to. But they—they were all ready to shoot anyway. TO LIVE AND SURVIVE

In the 1940s my husband served in army life for four years. And after he go back, he joined into the National Guard. Our husbands were National Guard and they would go meeting fall time, springtime, and that’s when the wives stay home with their children. Small childrens. We always be left home for that meeting when they go to Anchorage. Fall time is the hardest time to be home without a husband. Because it’s just covering up snow, and the ice is still young. And that’s when they leave us. And us womens, we are womens. We love our husbands when they A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M W I NTE R 20 18 -2 01 9


are called for National Guard. We just let them go. I want to tell you young people, don’t pity yourself if your husband is serving an army life. That’s one thing we try not to do—to pity our lives. We just learn to live our life in the hardest way. Like when I say it’s not easy life, let me tell you, it’s not easy life. There was no electric lights, we had to use these gas light pumps with the pump in it and put gas every day. There was no electric stoves, no propanes, no running water. No flush toilets. There was no snogos. No chainsaw. Nothing. We only have to use our body. Our whole body to live and survive. We use our hands to go get wood. We use our body, we use our feet to go somewhere. That’s why we got to be thankful that our body is useful. That’s why we got to be thankful for our world that we are living in. So our life was not easy without a husband at home for two weeks, one month or so. We have to chop wood. We have to go out to go get wood. Before they go they would really try to get piled up woods for us. But in cold weather our woods can’t last. And when we go get wood, we use our dog team, our husband’s dog team. An axe and a rope and a sled. That’s all there is. That’s why I say it’s not easy. And to keep our dog teams alive we have to feed them, take care of their dogs. And they always pile up lot of dog feed before they go but when we have lot of dogs the pile of dog food can’t last until they come back. We have to go get them upriver. And after we get wood we chop wood to keep us warm. And you know what? There’d be a baby behind us, too. Amaqing our babies behind us [carrying the baby on their back inside their parka] and chop wood. There would be a baby behind us if we go get water from the river. There’d be a baby behind us and one right side of us when there’s more children. They don’t supply babysitters in those days. We have no money to pay the babysitter. All is worked out with your own body. The hardest part: We are not left with money when they’re going out for National Guard. There is no job in those days. They don’t have jobs so they can leave us money. We have to try to earn it ourself as being a woman. I’m gonna ask you womens what’s


The Kotzebue hospital, where Rachel Craig worked as a teenager during the Second World War.

your friend in a home? What would you say? In those days, a thimble, a needle, and a sinew, and a cook stove is a women’s tool when they’re left behind for the army. You gotta use your hands. You gotta sew to earn money, to earn milk for your little one. Believe me, I had to chew ugruk bottom, one pair ugruk bottom, even for one can of milk sometimes. That’s how hard it was for us womens. Just for one can milk. It’s hard, I want you young people to know that our life was hard. And right now the living is easy. There’s lot of women that are hard-working ladies in those days. And right now it’s very easy, it’s just like heaven to me. It is just like heaven to me sitting down in a warm home. And you women got to learn to be humble. I hear that we got to teach our children, our future children, they got to hear what life we have. It’s not easy for our lives in those days but we were happy. Happy people. And when someone needs help we look at them and help them, help each others.

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An axe and a rope and a sled. That’s all there is... And you know what? There’d be a baby behind us, too.



A 14-year-old kid

I started to talk

Rachel Craig was born in 1930 in Kotzebue. She grew up speaking her native Iñupiaq language and living a traditional lifestyle. She was well known as an Iñupiaq language linguist and educator who documented, preserved, and passed on knowledge about Iñupiaq history and language in the Kotzebue region. She died in 2003.

Walter Sampson, an Iñupiaq elder, was born in 1948 in Noorvik. In 1968, he was drafted and served in the army for two years. Following training, he was sent to Vietnam with a combat infantry unit. Sampson experienced “a lot of action.” In one ambush, his company of 105 soldiers was reduced to 24; the rest wounded or killed. In another fire fight, Sampson saw his only close friend of the war killed before his eyes. After he was discharged from the military, Sampson returned to northwestern Alaska where he served in leadership positions for NANA Regional Corporation, Northwest Arctic Borough Assembly, Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, and federal and state boards and commissions.

I’m talking about life at that time [during World War II] and how it was maybe because they were short of personnel or whatever, but I started working at the hospital [in Kotzebue]. I was 14 at the time. First, I was helping to clean. I was one of the housekeepers. And then they reassigned me to work in the wards. They showed me how to take pulses and how to measure cc’s and sterilize stuff. And then not long after that, they put me on nights. And I was all by myself. Imagine, a 14-year-old kid working in the hospital with all those responsibilities. I mean, what 14-year-old kid would you hire now? To do that? I had to give medication. Had to measure how much they drank and how much they peed. I had to write down in the charts. And at the same time, I cleaned the office. And then I sterilized the instruments that they used in the clinic that day. And then light the stove, the oil stove. Most of us didn’t have oil stoves at home, they had to show me how to light that. Light the stove so that it would be hot enough by the time the cooks came so they could cook for the patients and the people that worked there. And when I think about that I think, gosh, how could they hire a 14-year-old to do that? Maybe that’s a compliment to my grandparents. They taught us responsibility and accountability. That’s how our grandparents raised us and they made sure we did what we were supposed to do. And I remember I was still working at the hospital when we heard that the war was over. By that time, I was the ripe old age of 15. And they had a big dance that night. And I had to work and the dance was still going on by the time I was off duty.

I went home. And I finally started to realize after getting out of military, all the things that I did in Vietnam, all the terrorizing that I did, all the burning that I did to—to innocent people’s homes, all that guilt feeling that built up, starting to come to me. At home, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Through the course of that time, after all that guilt feeling got built up in me, it got to the point where I was at least sleeping an hour, an hour-and-a-half each night. Rest of the night was— was thinking of what I did to innocent people in Vietnam. Twice I thought my only way out from that condition was committing suicide. Twice I thought of that. And I thought that was my—my only way out, because of the fact that all the things that I did wrong to innocent people, it got built up inside and it hurt. I didn’t want That’s why I said taking innocent lives or taking to talk about human life is painful. And I managed to talk to—well, actually, Floyd. I Vietnam. I didn’t have to credit Floyd for being who he is. He’d come want nothing to and visit and try to talk to me about what I did in do with it. Vietnam. Or he’d start a conversation just talking about what was happening in town. Sometimes I’d be talking to him, not really looking at him, but just talking to him. And sometimes he’d quickly ask a question about Vietnam and through the course of the discussion I’d answer, not knowing what that question was. Then, afterwards, I’d realize that he was asking. I didn’t want nothing. I didn’t want to talk about Vietnam. I didn’t want nothing to do with it, because of all that guilt feeling that I got built up in me. Then several times that occurred, he’d come and visit and he’d talk about things locally and ask quickly about what I did in Vietnam, and each time—it start dawning to me—as I release some of that, it started taking some tension off my mind. So when I recognized that, I started to talk a little bit about it. And as I go through that process, it’s just like releasing something that was about to blow up. And today, I can freely talk about it. But I also get emotional about it. Knowing what I did. Not because of my own will, but because of how I was trained to do things and what that mission was. When you have grown up in an environment where love is, where your grandmother taught you love, to help others, to protect others, and [then] having to go to a whole different scene, it’s tough. That change that you have to make was hard, but I had to go through it. And I’ve got more respect for my comrades that are where they are today. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M W I NTE R 20 18 -2 01 9





Crazy maneuvers

Levi Alusuk Mills, Sr., was born in 1903 and grew up living a traditional Iñupiaq hunting, trapping, and fishing lifestyle around Kotzebue. He joined the army in 1941 and was stationed in the Aleutian Islands. He passed away in 1999. NO LIGHT

It was in 1941, right before Christmas. My friend Mickey Thomas and I were coming home from trapline. As we come over from Qugguk side, we were about ready to slide down to the village. Then we stopped up on top of the hill. There was no light. No light in the village. And we didn’t know what to do. We couldn’t figure out what’s happened to the village that used to be lighted up about that time. Then, anyway we decided to slide down and see what the score was. I stopped my team outside of the house and somehow my wife noticed there was a dog team outside. She came out, and I says to her, "What’s the score? Why was the Kotzebue blacked out?" She asked me if I didn’t hear. I said, "What?" She said the Japanese bombed the Philippines. Well, right there I think I made up my mind that I would try to help our country. So I decided to join the army and I applied to be one of the soldiers, but they rejected me [at first] because I had four children already and I was 38 years old. DISAPPOINTMENT

When I got to Adak I was disgusted with myself. I says, why in the world did I ever get into this, going down to where there’s fighting going on. I took pity on myself but I was there already so I took it anyway. I notice there was planes used to take off, and then when they come back they would be full of holes. Because I would be working close to them where they would stop from flying over to front. Some of those men would look sad, but it’s their duty to do that. To go and bomb the enemy that was Japanese. They told us that there was something that would land on that landing strip. Then we find out that secret weapon happened to be B-29, one of those big bombers. Then we find out that it was loaded with those atomic bombs. They—that plane that landed on the strip—went over to Japan and dropped the atomic bomb onto Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I was disappointed with myself. I help our country blasting off those two cities. So I says to one of the officers, I says, "I’m sorry. I didn’t know that our country was going to blast whole cities and kill many people." But they say that’s not our purpose. We were tired of being in a war and we want to stop the war so that we would save millions of soldiers, young men and young women. It wasn’t myself. I used to kneel down on my knees while I was working in the machine and ask God to use my hand and my body so that I would be a help to everybody that I have contact with. I’m glad I’m able to tell it now.


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Tommy Muquluk Ongtooguk was born in 1922 in Teller. His ancestry on his father’s side was from Diomede Island and Siberia; he was from Wales on his mother’s side. He grew up practicing a traditional Iñupiaq way of life. In November 1946, Ongtooguk enlisted in the Alaska Territorial Guard. His skill as a hunter, physical stamina, and ability to endure tough conditions helped him during his military service. Military life took him to places as diverse as Montana, Thailand, and Japan; he served as a land surveying technician and as a baker. In his later years, Ongtooguk was president of the Kotzebue Elders Council. He died in 2002.

During the Korean War, I went to Thailand. I was at Bangkok. Then I got stationed on Udon Thani about few miles from Mekong River. A lot of communist activity. It was a fighter base. This is the second time I was with a fighter outfit in my career. And so Major King was a test pilot. We lost two hundred Thunder Chiefs—jets—to enemy action or unfit. Sure, that’s never part of the newspaper, you know. We lost a lot of planes in my outfit. And so Major King would test these planes [before they were put into service in Thailand]. I should say, he never go to officer’s club. He always stay with me during the night when I’m baking. He like to talk to me about Alaska. So I give him all the fishing stories. See, he like fishing stories. Of course, I always tell him about the big fish and everything. And so, one day, I says, “You know, I’ve been in service sixteen years almost. I’ve never flown a fighter plane.” “You never?” “I sure wish I can fly in one of them.” “I tell you what you do, go [get a fitness test].” I pass it, I got my card, I show him the card. Ah, we can fly Saturday. “Give Tommy a So we went down, puke bag, and all the food service officers and mess sergeant, I’m gonna my boss—they all went make him sick.” down to see me take off. And so they strap me, they give me flight suit and everything. They strap me down. When I got strapped in the plane, he told his crew chief, “Give Tommy a puke bag, I’m gonna make him sick.” And then he took off and went straight up and he did all these things, crazy maneuvers, trying to make me sick. And I never got sick. When I got through, that Major King asked me, “How come you never got sick? How come you never got sick?” I says, “I tell you, I have all kind of maneuvers like that when I was on the Bering Sea on skin boat. So I’m used to that kind of maneuvers in rough sea. I’m already used to that.” ■


The 50th Governor’s Arts & Humanities Awards Thursday, February 7th, 2019 7:00-8:30 p.m. (doors open at 6:00 p.m.) Juneau Arts & Culture Center

Make Connections at Culture Shift In November, the Forum launched an evening event series, Culture Shift. Culture Shift brings together a pair of speakers who give short talks on two totally separate topics—a belief or theory they hold; a radical idea. Then the audience takes part in a fun, interactive, and thought-provoking Q-and-A to find connections between the two. The speaker line-up includes authors, poets, educators, civic leaders, entertainers, and entrepreneurs. They cover a wide range of topics on culture, life in Alaska, and current issues. Culture Shift runs the last Tuesday of each month through May at Anchorage Brewing Company in South Anchorage. Tickets are $15 at

Congratulations to the 2019 awardees: ■ Annette Island School District Native Arts Program, Metlakatla ■ Dot Bardarson, Seward ■ Maida Buckley, Fairbanks ■ Chugach Regional Resources Commission, Chugach Region ■ Shannon Hougland, Sitka ■ Laureli Ivanoff, Unalakleet ■ Nita Rearden, Homer ■ Bede Trantina, Anchorage ■ Jon Van Zyle, Eagle River The evening will feature performances by Juneau-based singer-songwriter Marian Call. Details and tickets at

Leadership Anchorage Community Impact Projects The members of Leadership Anchorage 22 (LA22) have selected four projects to focus on this year, partnering with community organizations to develop strategy, lead research, and provide support. MEASURING THE IMPACT OF PLACEMAKING Anchorage Downtown Partnership

8 BOXES Anchorage Park Foundation

Anchorage Downtown Partnership has asked LA to create a system to measure the economic impact of free community events— how much do people who come downtown for events spend before, during, or following an event? The LA22 team will identify the data that can be gathered by frontline event staff, and then develop a model for recording and measuring impact. In addition, the team will help establish ways to monitor non-monetary returns such as community engagement and an enhanced reputation for Anchorage’s downtown.

People living in the Arctic share the experience of changing climate, rich indigenous histories, isolated economies, and extreme daylight and darkness. The 8Boxes Project symbolizes the importance of Arctic connectivity to greet the challenges and opportunities we share as Northern People. As part of the project, the artists and community leaders of eight Arctic nations will each select a city and plaza above the 60th parallel to host a box that will connect to the others by phone. LA22 will support planning prior to the project’s launch in Summer 2020, including developing a media strategy and identifying an effective technology to connect the boxes.

HOUSES TO HOMES Cook Inlet Housing Authority

When homeless individuals and families transition into housing in our community, they often do so without the furniture and household goods that make a house a home. There is no shortage of donations in Anchorage, but social service agencies do not have the warehouse space to store large items such as furniture, and are often forced to turn away these items. The LA22 team will research and map the network of potential partners in the community to form a better understanding of the current landscape, barriers, and opportunities. They will also review best practices and models in other communities and, ultimately, develop a proposal for a sustainable Houses to Homes program.

INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY Alaska Public Interest Research Group (AKPIRG)

After the 2020 census, the State legislature will undertake a redistricting process. Alaska Public Interest Research Group prioritizes fair, non-partisan redistricting, and is committed to educating the public and government officials on best practices for the upcoming process. LA22 will help to conduct research, make recommendations, and develop a public information campaign to inform the public on the process and its importance.

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Photo by Grace Harrington


Learn From a Great Conversation Coach Conversation is as natural as walking. It doesn’t feel like something we need to learn how to do. But just as a great running coach can teach you to run faster and more efficiently, a great conversation coach can teach you to design conversations that more effectively strengthen relationships and build community. The Alaska Humanities Forum is designing and hosting facilitation trainings to prepare people with the skills to lead meaningful conversations about vital issues in Alaska that connect people across differences, beliefs, and backgrounds. The first training was held on Yukon Island outside of Homer in July, followed by a two-day workshop in Anchorage in October; the next is scheduled for the Forum’s offices in January 2019. Participants take part in interactive, reflective discussions in large and small groups, learn

techniques to lead them, and then have the opportunity to plan and facilitate a conversation and receive feedback from trainers and other participants. By the end of the workshop, participants will: ■ understand both the value and limitation of conversations for building community; ■ have a concrete set of tools for planning and facilitating meaningful conversations; ■ have co-designed and facilitated a conversation; ■ have experienced a variety of conversation designs and facilitation styles; ■ have practice in both giving and receiving feedback in order to learn and grow as a facilitator. Space is limited! Sign up now or request a training to be held in your community at

Inaugural Youth Advisory Council The Forum’s first Youth Advisory Council is comprised of young adults representing many regions and cultures of Alaska. The council provides a place for youth to practice leadership skills, have their voices heard, and make Forum programs more relevant for today’s young people. Tristen Ashby, Noatak 9th grade Jenice Cox, Dillingham 10th grade Caden Donald, North Pole 10th grade Naomi Kakaruk, Teller 9th grade


Katie McKenna, Juneau 10th grade Amber Mitchell, Noatak 9th grade Savannah Scott, Eielson AFB 11th grade JW Rzeszut, Anchorage 9th grade

A L A S K A H U M A N I T I E S F O R U M W I NTE R 2018-2019

The Alaska Humanities Forum: A Good Pick Pick.Click.Give. allows Alaskans to easily share part or all of their Permanent Fund Dividend with nonprofit organizations they care about. The 2019 PFD application period runs January 1 through March 31. When you apply, please consider making a gift to the Alaska Humanities Forum.


IN 1910, ONE OF ALASKA’S gold rushes converged on the area around Ruby Creek and Long Creek in the Interior, a few hundred miles west of Fairbanks. A tent city rose in 1911. The town of Ruby was founded the next year, by which time the 3,000 residents of the district could choose between two newspapers: the Ruby Record or the Ruby Citizen. The weeklies soon merged to form the properly cosmopolitan Record-Citizen. Its offices are pictured above in 1916. Visible through the window is an unidentified woman working at a type case. The proprietor is identified as J. J. Filbin. Two years later, as the area’s population thinned, the paper closed. One hundred years on, journalism in Alaska remains adaptive, ephemeral, and local, experimenting with new platforms to serve changing audiences. Five contemporary Alaska journalists take up the question “What is journalism for?” on page 10 of this issue. Photo: Alaska State Library / ASL-277-004-116


ALASKA HUMANITIES FORUM 421 West First Avenue, Suite 200 Anchorage, AK 99501


Alaska Humanities Forum Calendar Culture Shift Last Tuesday of each month through May 2019, 6:00–8:00 p.m. Anchorage Brewing Company

Community Conversation: What is Journalism For? Jan. 15 and Jan. 22, 6:00–8:00 p.m. Alaska Humanities Forum

Facilitation Training Jan. 10–11, 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Alaska Humanities Forum

Governor’s Arts & Humanities Awards Thurs., Feb. 7, 7–8:30 p.m. Juneau Arts & Culture Center

Culture Shift is a new monthly series hosted by Alaska Humanities Forum and held at Anchorage Brewing Company. At each event, a pair of speakers will each give a short talk on a topic they’re connected to, and then the audience takes part in a fun, interactive, and thought-provoking Q&A with the speakers. Come to connect with new ideas and people! Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are for sale for $15 at akhf. org/culture-shift.

How can we design satisfying conversations that connect us not just in spite of difference but because of difference? How can we convene people in ways that allow their intelligence, creativity, and perspective to shine? Over two days, participate in reflective group discussions and learn techniques to lead them. All participants have the opportunity to plan and facilitate a conversation and receive feedback. Training registration is $450. Sign up online at

What role does the news play in your life? It’s likely the answer has changed over time, as technological innovation has shifted the political, social, and economic landscape of mass media. Journalism’s business model has changed, and so too our habits, our expectations, and our relationship to the news. Join us for one or both of these short, thoughtful discussions in response to the article on page 10 of this issue.

In 2019 we celebrate the 50th year of the Governor’s Arts & Humanities Awards. The event recognizes and honors Alaskans who have made significant impacts on our state through the arts and humanities. Join us for an evening of celebration. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for a reception, followed by the awards. This year’s event will feature performances by Juneau-based singer and songwriter Marian Call.

Get more details about all Alaska Humanities Forum events and opportunities at

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