Alaska Native
Art Writing Initiative

Alaska Native arts practices and aesthetic systems hold an expansive wealth of knowledge based on thousands of years of development. The symbols that artists use, the materials they employ, and the function of our arts are connected to subsistence practices, historical experiences, cultural stories, and deep connection to place. The written record of Alaska’s Indigenous art history, however, has most often been recorded from the perspective of non-Indigenous authors. While many authors have helped to document Alaska Native arts practices, there have also been examples of misrepresentation in the written record. Whose art story has been told in existing texts and for whose benefit? An Indigenous-based art history provides an opportunity to contextualize our arts and aesthetic traditions in a way that is relevant to our sense of community, our understanding of history, and our values.

To encourage Alaska Native people to assert our right to write our own art histories, The CIRI Foundation has developed the Alaska Native Art Writing Initiative as a pilot program that will run from 2022 through 2025.

This program has the following goals:

  • Make space for missing narratives in Alaska’s art history by sharing our knowledge and adding our voices through writing;
  • Document Alaska Native arts and artists with Indigenous perspectives;
  • Grow the number of practicing Alaska Native art writers and build a supportive community for their work.

Partners for the Alaska Native Art Writing initiative include First Alaskans Institute, Inuit Art FoundationStoryknife Writers Retreat and First American Art Magazine. 

"It was an honor to be a Fellow in the Inuit Art Foundation's inaugural Alaska Native Art Writing Fellowship program. Reflecting on my experience, my two biggest takeaways were being mentored by Napatsi Folger, a professional Indigenous writer and editor, and the meetings I would have with her and my cohort, Fellow Annie Wenstrup (Dena’ina). I learned so much from their experiences as writers and having a multi-month dialogue with them about being Native writers. The second largest takeaway was going through the entire publication process for Inuit Art Quartley. From deciding what to write for the assigned article category to working with various in-house editors for the periodical, especially creating draft versions and collaborating with them back and forth. One of the most memorable parts of the overall experience was learning how to communicate with an editor about what is culturally significant to me as an Indigenous writer and how to have that conversation to be constructive while upholding my standards as a Native writer. "
Inuit Art Foundation Fellow
"da’inahdi! Qenash Tukda Dena’inaq’ sh’izhi hdilan. Annie Wenstrup mergans’inaqsh’izhi. Tikahtnu Ht’ana Dnay eshlan shida. Hello Friends. Me Dena’ina name is Qenash Tukda, or “little talking father.” My American name is Annie Wenstrup and I am Dena’ina. I’m a writer living in Fairbanks, Alaska. I recently graduated from Stonecoast with an MFA in creative writing with an emphasis on poetry. I was an Inaugural Indigenous Nations Poetry Fellow last year and am a returning fellow this year. I’m excited to expand my writing skills as a TCF Alaska Native Art Writing Fellow and to learn from the editors at Inuit Art Quarterly. I applied for this fellowship because I believe that when Indigenous people write about our own art, history, and culture, it’s an expression of sovereignty. When Indigenous people set the parameters for the discussion of our cultures and when we determine the lenses through which Indigenous artwork is experienced, those discussions and lenses can reaffirm Indigenous worldviews by celebrating their complexities, vitality, and vibrancy. I am so thankful for this opportunity to learn more about how organizations like Inuit Art Quarterly practice cultural sovereignty in their work and for the chance to practice those principles in my own writing."
Annie Wenstrup
Inuit Art Foundation Fellow
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