Project Description

Sugpiaq Ethnohistory is a collaborative, community-based project with the Nanwalek Indian Reorganization Act Council and the community of Nanwalek, Alaska. It is a postdoctoral project based at Dartmouth College’s Native American Studies Program and Institute of Arctic Studies, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Arctic Social Sciences Program (ARC-1103456, Dartmouth CPHS# 23147).

The goal of this project is to compile an ethnohistorical account of the Sugpiaq people living at the Lower Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. The original research plan was developed in accordance with the community’s interest in documenting their Sugpiaq heritage for future generations and learning more about their past through various historiographic methods. For these reasons, the Sugpiaq Ethnohistory Project aims to create an outlet for the representation of local epistemological views on Sugpiaq cultural history, while also providing an opportunity to bring together community members, Elders, culture bearers, cultural specialists, and museum personnel to discuss and reflect on Sugpiaq past.

In part, this project focuses particularly on “places that count,” such as currently uninhabited village sites, subsistence areas and seasonal camps in order to explore the landscape in a way that carries cultural significance. While there are some archival information on the ethnography and ethnohistory of Sugpiaq people of the Lower Kenai Peninsula, most of these materials are not easily accessible or readily available. To supplement historical documents, this project uses a variety of onsite ethnographic methods to collect detailed accounts of traditional knowledge that reflects local people’s perception of their landscape’s history.

Moreover, as part of ongoing collaboration, this project website provides a platform for virtual repatriation where community members can engage with museum collections located at different parts of the world. In addition to learning about these items, people can actively re-connect with items that were once removed from their communities and their cultural realities. Community members can learn about the past histories of these items and reintegrate these pieces into their collective knowledge on what is important to know about Sugpiaq past in the region.

Through collaboration, the Sugpiaq Ethnohistory project participants synthesize different kinds of information, such as traditional ecological knowledge, oral histories, museum collections, archival information, and Sugpiaq oral tradition. Project results will promote the recognition and contemporary relevance of Sugpiaq cultural values while assisting community members in teaching future generations about landscapes and places rich in Sugpiaq history.

Copyright and Fair Use Notice

Please be aware: texts, photos, videos, audios, comments and other information contained on this website may be used for educational and research purposes under the U.S. Copyright Fair Use designation. Please quote and reference all information at all times and be respectful of ownership, opinions and cultural worldview communicated on these pages. Many people graciously contributed their knowledge and materials to this project. If you use any material from this website in a publication, please consider donating a copy to the Nanwalek Community Library, P.O. Box 8065, Nanwalek, AK 99603-6665.

Archival and museum photos are displayed here for informational purposes only and with permission from the holding institutions. All reproduction rights of images of artifacts and archival material remains with the holding institution. Please contact them directly with any questions or concerns.

You may not use any material from this website in for-profit projects and publications, including photos, audios, videos, etc, without prior permission. If you wish to seek permission and advice, please contact

This website is maintained by Medeia Csoba DeHass as part of the Sugpiaq Ethnohistory collaborative project. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number ARC-1103456. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Sciences Foundation.