Eagle Historic District. HABS/HAER photo.

Accepted Sessions


2019 Alaska Anthropological Association Meeting Accepted Sessions


The Centennial of the Fifth Thule Expedition 1921–1924: Arctic/Alaskan/Bering Strait Connections

Organizers: Igor Krupnik and Aron Crowell (Arctic Studies Center, Smithsonian Institution)

A consortium of international partners, including the Smithsonian Institution’s Arctic Studies Center, the Danish Arctic Institute, the National Museum of Denmark, the Kitikmeot Historical Society, and other contributors, is preparing to launch a new international program celebrating the centennial anniversary of the 5th Thule Expedition, 1921-1924. The expedition under the leadership of the famous Danish-Greenlandic explorer and writer, Knud Rasmussen, traveled from Greenland across Arctic Canada to Utqiagivk (Barrow) and, finally, to Nome, thus visiting for the first time almost all groups of the Inuit people and demonstrating their cultural and linguistic unity. The expedition was a defining event in the study of Arctic indigenous peoples and their cultures under a collaborative trans-national approach. The all-day session (symposium) and associated evening public program during the 46th annual meeting of the Alaska Anthropological Association in Nome offer a remarkable opportunity to honor Rasmussen’s work and the legacy of the 5th Thule Expedition, and to kick off an international exploration of the Fifth Thule Expedition legacy in the 21st century.


Prehistory of the Dene Territories in Alaska

Organizers: Gerad Smith, James Kari, Brian T. Wygal (University of Alaska Fairbanks, Adelphi University)

In this session, we explore the archaeological, geological, and geo-linguistic evidence from the vast Dene territories of southcentral and central Alaska. Our theme focuses on the human response to wide-spread climate changes following the last glacial maximum with particular emphasis on the interaction between people and landscape changes associated with the fluctuating shorelines and catastrophic releases of Glacial Lakes Atna and Susitna. Additional papers incorporate methodological and theoretical advances in understanding the prehistory of the greater Dene territories.

Alaska Anthropological Association members who wish to be discussants or to present papers can send abstracts to Gerad Smith: gmsmith2@alaska.edu


Community Experiences That Define Health & Well-Being

Organizer: Britteny M. Howell (University of Alaska Anchorage)

This session brings together 3 applied medical anthropology papers to demonstrate the ways in which qualitative research methods can bring communities together to define health, wellness, and forge community partnerships. Although great health disparities persist cross-culturally, research shows that various communities may have very different conceptions of what well-being means and how to achieve it. By exploring participant-driven definitions of well-being, we can begin to view community health in more nuanced ways; as a negotiated space that includes social, cultural, physical, and other environmental factors. This thread brings together cultural anthropology action research from circumpolar North America, including maternal and child health practices in Alaska Native villages, indigenous ways of knowing in Canada, and urban Alaskans’ perceptions of their sociocultural environment. By engaging in in-depth interviews and participation observation, the presenters in this thread show how social interactions, knowledge-sharing, and personal conceptions of cultural identity contribute to the ways people think about individual health, community well-being, and how to overcome barriers to wellness.


An Inside Look into Nome History, Culture, and Lifeways with Local Knowledge Experts

Organizer: Amy Phillips-Chan (Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum)

Join us for an intimate look into Nome history and culture through the lens of local historians and knowledge bearers. Listen to accounts of sled dogs and gold mining, hear how have buildings and businesses have endured, and learn about the preservation and revitalization of cultural traditions in Northwest Alaska. This session features seven-minute stories shared from personal experiences followed by interactive audience discussion.


Recent Developments in Technological Organization Studies in Alaska

Organizers: Thomas C. Allen (University of Alaska Fairbanks) and Brooks A. Lawler (University of Alaska Fairbanks, CEMML)

Due to the dominance of lithic remains in Alaskan archaeological assemblages, Technological Organization studies are foundational for interpreting dynamic human behavior from assemblages throughout Alaskan prehistory. Beyond the ubiquity of lithic remains in the Alaskan archaeological record, the prominent role of organic technology in some contexts has inspired a similar set of studies examining the roles that ecology, social organization, and the properties of organic raw materials play in making tools. Recent studies of Alaskan assemblages have provided developments for understanding prehistoric technological strategies and patterns relating to the transformation of raw materials into lithic and organic technology. These developments are due to refinement of quantitative methods and their application to new datasets, while others are due to examining underanalyzed data sets. Finally some of these new insights are due to rigorous theoretical frameworks applied to the Alaskan archaeological record. This session is calling for papers to begin the synthesis of these datasets, methods, and theoretical positions to spur future research on these topics.


Archaeological Districts in Alaska

Organizer: Julie Esdale (Colorado State University)

Archaeological districts have been identified across Alaska as areas of high density human occupation in the past. Each of these areas contains significant information about historic and prehistoric subsistence, lifeways, and industry. District footprints tend to overlay areas that are attractive to people today for many of the same activities. This session will highlight archaeological districts from around the state, relate their scientific and cultural significance, and discuss management strategies and concerns.


Histories at Cape Espenberg

Organizers: Claire Alix (University of Alaska Fairbanks, Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne University), Owen K. Mason (INSTAAR U. of Colorado), Amber Lincoln (British Museum)

The inauspicious sand dunes and marshes of Cape Espenberg are a commanding landmark in northwestern Alaska, marking the end of the Seward Peninsula, intersecting with the open waters of Kotzebue Sound. Beyond the material archaeological past, the Inupiat oral histories and local knowledge define and elaborate the experiential significance of the Cape and yield a multiplicity of histories, incorporating the lived and dynamic comprehension of the locality over centuries, notable for the Ilaganiq cycle of tales about hubris and Fate. For the last five years, research at the Cape and in Shishmaref has extended knowledge about the cultural, ecological and geology history of the spit. In this session, our goal is to bring together the stories from Cape Espenberg to share and shape our common understanding of the lives of the people, their paleogenetics, settlement patterns, resources use, innovations within the framework of climatic and landscape changes that occurred at this remarkable place over the last millennium AD.


A Session in Honor of Anna Kerttula de Echave Featuring Stories of Transformational Scholarship, Education, Research Partnerships, and Public Engagement in Alaska and the North

Organizers: Sveta Yamin-Pasternak (University of Alaska Fairbanks), Stacy Rasmus (University of Alaska Fairbanks), and Claire Alix (University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Paris 1, Panthéon – Sorbonne)

Dr. Anna Kerttula de Echave is a lifelong Alaskan, an anthropologist, a facilitator of myriad novel synergies, and a mentor for many emerging scholars across the fields of Arctic social sciences. Anna’s research spans diverse range of topics, from land use patterns and subsistence economies to identity, household organization, and domestic violence. Over the 15 years of her career at the National Science Foundation, under Anna’s guidance, the Arctic Social Sciences Program has set standard for community participation in scientific research. People of Sireniki, Chukotka, where Anna conducted PhD research, continue to regard her as a respected community member and anthropologist who “really understands.” This session, co-organized by three Alaskan anthropologists working in Indigenous scholarship, ethnography, and archaeology, celebrates the legacy of Dr. Anna Kerttula de Echave by bringing together presenters from broad spectrum of practice that engages researchers, communities, and the public connected with Alaska and the North.


The Changing Arctic: Subsistence, Culture and Language in Northwest Alaska

Organizer: Nikki Braem (Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, NPS)

This panel, focused on Northwest Alaska, seeks to bring together researchers working within various disciplines and local subject matter experts. Topics will include subsistence harvest research, traditional use studies and Alaska Native language place name documentation. Our intent is an inclusive conversation on findings, research needs, and the co-production of knowledge.