Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska features more than 200 objects representing the masterful artistry and design traditions of twenty Alaska Native peoples. Based on a collaborative exhibition created by Alaska Native communities, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, and the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, this richly illustrated volume celebrates both the long-awaited return of ancestral treasures to their native homeland and the diverse cultures in which they were created. Despite the North's transformation through globalizing change, the objects shown in these pages are interpretable within ongoing cultural frames, articulated in languges still spoken. They were made for a way of life on the land that is carried on today throughout Alaska. Dialogue with the region's First Peoples evokes past meanings but focuses equally on contemporary values, practices, and identities.
Objects and narratives show how each Alaska Native nation is unique--and how all are connected. After introductions to the history of the land and its people, universal themes of "Sea, Land, Rivers," "Family and Community," and "Ceremony and Celebration" are explored referencing exquisite masks, parkas, beaded garments, basketry, weapons, and carvings that embody the diverse environments and practices of their makers. Accompanied by traditional stories and personal accounts by Alaska Native elders, artists, and scholars, each piece featured in Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage evokes both historical and contemporary meaning, and breathes the life of its people.
Aron L. Crowell is an anthropologist who works with indigenous communities of the north in the fields of cultural research, archaeology, oral history, and collaborative heritage. As Alaska Director for the Smithsonian's Arctic Studies Center, he has curated or co-led major exhibitions including Looking Both Ways: Heritage and Identity of the Alutiiq People, Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska, and Gifts from the Ancestors: Ancient Ivories of Bering Strait. Crowell lives in Anchorage, Alaska.