The Alaska Native Reader

History, Culture, Politics

The Alaska Native Reader

The World Readers

More about this series

Book Pages: 416 Illustrations: 48 illustrations Published: September 2009

General Interest > Travel, Native and Indigenous Studies, Religious Studies

Alaska is home to more than two hundred federally recognized tribes. Yet the long histories and diverse cultures of Alaska’s first peoples are often ignored, while the stories of Russian fur hunters and American gold miners, of salmon canneries and oil pipelines, are praised. Filled with essays, poems, songs, stories, maps, and visual art, this volume foregrounds the perspectives of Alaska Native people, from a Tlingit photographer to Athabascan and Yup’ik linguists, and from an Alutiiq mask carver to a prominent Native politician and member of Alaska’s House of Representatives. The contributors, most of whom are Alaska Natives, include scholars, political leaders, activists, and artists. The majority of the pieces in The Alaska Native Reader were written especially for the volume, while several were translated from Native languages.

The Alaska Native Reader describes indigenous worldviews, languages, arts, and other cultural traditions as well as contemporary efforts to preserve them. Several pieces examine Alaska Natives’ experiences of and resistance to Russian and American colonialism; some of these address land claims, self-determination, and sovereignty. Some essays discuss contemporary Alaska Native literature, indigenous philosophical and spiritual tenets, and the ways that Native peoples are represented in the media. Others take up such diverse topics as the use of digital technologies to document Native cultures, planning systems that have enabled indigenous communities to survive in the Arctic for thousands of years, and a project to accurately represent Dena’ina heritage in and around Anchorage. Fourteen of the volume’s many illustrations appear in color, including work by the contemporary artists Subhankar Banerjee, Perry Eaton, Erica Lord, and Larry McNeil.


The Alaska Native Reader successfully describes and captures the diversity of Alaska’s history, politics, and cultural traditions. The book, although highly descriptive, provides a solid historical foundation and raises some thought-provoking questions.” — Gregory R. Campbell, Canadian Journal of Native Studies

“As a book that purports to address history, culture, and politics, it fulfills its mission. As an anthology, it accomplishes what it should, providing an overview of issues that interested readers can go on to explore in more depth.” — Anne Coray, Alaska History

“I learned a lot, I enjoyed the book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested not just in Native Alaskan topics, but to those who want to understand the real people of Alaska and see things through different eyes.” — Wallace M. Olson, Juneau Empire

“There are voluminous accounts of Alaska’s white sourdoughs, homesteaders, mountaineers, and trophy hunters, but one person’s frontier is another’s sacred homeland, and Native voices are often underplayed or overlooked in the popular written record. The Alaska Native Reader: History, Culture, Politics is a welcome antidote. From a heartrending description of the long shadow of the Great Death—the 1900 flu outbreak—to mythological tales of magical northern pike and a project unearthing the Indian history of the Anchorage area, this reader is a breath of fresh tundra air.” — Keith Goetzman, Utne Reader

“An insightful portrayal of Alaskan Native history, culture and politics expressed through multiple voices to inform indigenous and cross-cultural understandings. The importance of this volume is its ability to dispel the colonizing myth of the homogeneity of indigenous lived experience.” — Graham Hingangaroa Smith, Distinguished Professor and Chief Executive Officer, Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi

“The predominance of indigenous voices in The Alaska Native Reader will help correct the disgraceful imbalance in the way that the history of Alaska has been recorded and constructed. The reasons for the imbalance lie in the very history that is exposed here.” — Charlotte Townsend-Gault, University of British Columbia


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Price: $29.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Maria Sháa Tláa Williams is Associate Professor of Music at the University of New Mexico.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations xi

Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xxi

Alaska and Its People: An Introduction 1

I. Portraits of Nations: Telling Our Own Story 13

II. Empire: Processing Colonization 115

III. Worldviews: Alaska Native and Indigenous Epistemologies 217

IV. Native Arts: A Weaving of Melody and Color 257

V. Ravenstales 337

Suggestions for Further Reading 363

Acknowledgment of Copyrights 381

Index 385
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4480-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4465-0
Publicity material