Alaska Native Cultural Heritage and Artistic Sovereignty in Museums

Museums throughout the world hold important collections of Alaska Native material culture. How can museums add Indigenous stories, perspectives and voices in exhibition and collection spaces? How can community members better access the material belongings that museums hold?

The Alaska Native Cultural Heritage and Artistic Sovereignty in Museums project seeks to develop opportunities for Indigenous creative intervention in museums while supporting material culture documentation through a curatorial fellowship program.

Are you interested in a learning how to be involved in this work?
Please contact The CIRI Foundation to find out how you can partner on this new initiative.

Images courtesy of the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center,
photographed by Wayde Carroll.

This survey was conducted in the fall of 2021 to gather feedback about how Alaska Native peoples use and think about cultural representation within museum spaces. This information was gathered as part of the Alaska Native Museum Sovereignty initiative. TCF appreciates everyone who took the time to complete this survey.

Indigenous Curatorial Fellowship

The CIRI Foundation is pleased to announce a partnership with the University of Alaska Museum of the North to support an Indigenous Curatorial Fellowship in the Ethnology and History department. The fellowship will provide an opportunity for a student to gain hands on experience in collections management and care and help the museum to incorporate Indigenous narratives and perspectives into the museum’s records.

Protocols for Working with Alaska Native Communities: A Guide for Museums

The protocols that guide how material culture is cared for within Alaska Native communities varies but are often based on principles of respect for Indigenous cultural knowledge and ways of being. The CIRI Foundation is working with an advisory circle made up Alaska Native scholars and community members to develop a guide to share best practices for museums to follow to respect Alaska Native cultural practices.

Does your community have protocols in place that museums should follow when caring for material culture? How can we encourage museums to be more accessible and welcoming to Indigenous people? What should museums be aware of when engaging in community outreach in Alaska? If you have ideas to share, please reach out to The CIRI Foundation and learn how you can be involved at

Museum Sovereignty Advisory Circle:


  • Sven Haakanson Jr., Ph.D. (Sugpiaq), Professor of Anthropology and Curator of North American Anthropology, University of Washington
  • Aaron Leggett (Dena’ina), President, Native Village of Eklutna, Senior Curator, Alaska History & Indigenous cultures, Anchorage Museum
  • Tanya Lukin-Linklater (Alutiiq), Artist and Doctoral Candidate at Queens University
  • Judith Dax̱ootsú Ramos (Tlingit, Kwaashk’í kwáan clan from Yakutat), Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Melissa Shaginoff (Ahtna & Paiute), Independent Artist & Curator
  • Haliehana Alaĝum Ayagaa Stepetin (Unangax̂), Ph.D. Candidate in Native American Studies, UC Davis
  • Erin Gingrich (Koyukon Athabascan and Iñupiaq), Artist
  • Sonya Kelliher-Combs (Koyukon Athabascan and Iñupiaq), Artist
  • Nadia Sethi (Alutiiq), PhD, Art Historian and Journey to What Matters Program Director, The CIRI Foundation