The Great Land: The Environment and Belonging in Native Alaska

Thomas Swensen, Assistant Professor, Division of Ethnic Studies, University of Utah, and Lamon Resident Scholar, SAR

Colloquium, Dobkin Boardroom, SAR Administration Building

Wednesday, October 4, 2017, 12:00–1:00 pm, Free

Thomas Michael SwensenThomas Michael SwensenPhoto courtesy of Anthony Kim.Thomas Michael SwensenPhoto courtesy of Anthony Kim.

The Great Land: The Environment and Belonging in Native Alaska traces Alaska Natives’ relationships to Russia and the United States amid the industrialization of the continent’s most western borderlands in the form of an extractive colony. Russian functionaries adopted the word “Aláxsxaq,” a term now commonly translated as “Alaska,” or “The Great Land,” yet subjugated the Unangax and other Native peoples into gendered coercive labor regimes, and caused ecological devastation throughout the region. After the United States acquired the territory in 1867, Alaska saw the continued tension between harvesting natural resources and a Native labor force that fought for citizenship as well as for the recognition of their sovereignty. This talk will include an examination of how the young Alutiiq Jon “Benny” Benson’s territorial flag in 1927 foresaw statehood for Alaska forged through Native inclusion and an economy based upon the removal of natural resources.

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