Grant will preserve treasure trove of Southeast Alaska Native programming
June 1, 2021 | View PDF
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has received funding to digitize a major collection of audio recordings that include a trove of interviews with notable elders, clan leaders and other Native people that date back more than 35 years.
The collection includes hundreds of recordings made for the award-winning public radio program Southeast Native Radio, which was broadcast by KTOO-FM in Juneau from 1985 to 2001. The recordings document Native history and action taken by Native elders, leaders and other people, and the hosts asked hard-hitting questions that brought out the vital issues of the day.
“These recordings are significant because they document Native people speaking on issues that were important to the Native community at that time,” said SHI President Rosita Worl. “The collection is very noteworthy because it gives a record of our contemporary history.”
The station made the donation, which includes more than 400 recordings, in 2010 at a ceremony attended by most of the people who worked on the program. At the time, KTOO General Manager Bill Legere said his staff was honored to have the institute accept the collection.
“We know these recordings are very important, and for many years we’ve been concerned about their safekeeping and their availability for historical research,” Legere said. “I know that Sealaska Heritage Institute will provide a safe and secure home and will treat the recordings with great care and respect. SHI has the knowledge and expertise to preserve these voices for the benefit of future generations.”
Southeast Native Radio was conceived as a way to educate Alaskans about Indigenous people in Alaska and to provide a community forum. It covered a range of topics, including politics, religion, subsistence, land claims, political movements, women’s issues, cultural survival and language documentation.
The show was produced by a team of volunteers, including Arlene Dangeli, Joaqlin Estus, Cy Peck Jr., Kathy Ruddy, Kim Metcalfe, Andy Hope III, Jayne Dangeli, Laurie Cropley Nix and Rhonda Mann, while KTOO provided the facilities and staff time to help with production and training.
The idea for the program germinated after a visit to Juneau’s prison, said Arlene Dangeli, a founder, producer and host of the show.
“There were over 60 percent Native inmates in that population,” Dangeli said. “We talked with the inmates about having a voice for our culture and having something to learn. We met with KTOO about our concerns. I then kept going back to KTOO, until finally Southeast Native Radio was founded.”
The recordings include a 13-part series from 1986 on the history of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, which was founded in 1912 and is the oldest civil rights organization in the United States. The series was produced by Vern Metcalfe, who interviewed Judson Brown, Richard Stitt, Cyril George, Ethel Lund, Dr. Robert Cogo, Vesta Johnson, Esther Littlefield and John Hope among others.
The collection also includes Tlingit language segments—in one set of recordings from the annual “Live Day” produced by KTOO-FM, Nora Dauenhauer, Walter Soboleff, Cecilia Kunz, Selina Everson, Irene Lampe, Helen Sarabia, Al McKinley and Richard McKinley among others conversed in Tlingit for half hour segments. These “Conversations in Tlingit,” recorded over a period of seven years from 1995 to 2002, include three-and-a-half hours of conversation that spanned a wide range of subjects.
The late Richard Dalton of Hoonah made a recording on the Seagull clan; the late master weaver Selina Peratrovich made a recording on Haida basketry; and Fred Paul did a series on the history of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
SHI received the grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources, which covers digitization of 270 of the recordings; the other 164 recordings in the collection were previously digitized. The institute will upload the recordings within a year to its online database, where they will be accessible to the public.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Visit http://www.sealaskaheritage.org for more information.