The Alutiiq Museum is one of the premier cultural centers in Native Alaska. From 2000 to 2013, MacArthur Foundation Fellow Sven Haakanson, while their Executive Director, led efforts at the museum like this project that incorporated traditional Native arts education into the museum’s programs.
Funding for the Weaving Traditions supported an education-based weaving project featuring elder weavers teaching week-long basket weaving workshops to 30 students in five rural Alutiiq schools.
In January, 2010, five Alutiiq weavers traveled to Russia to explore the weaving work of their ancestors. During the spring of 2011, these weavers worked with 43 youth in hands-on instruction. In each village students learned about harvesting and processing grass, started a small basket, built its sides, and finished its top edge. The project guided students through all phases of basketmaking, ensuring they had the knowledge to continue weaving independently. One teacher, Coral Chernoff, described the experience, “… based on their ancestors knowledge, you saw it grab students, touching their souls as they wove. You felt like it was introducing something that impacts their lives in ways we can’t see right there, but later.” Impressively, the estimated number of community members impacted by the project was 3000. As teacher Jane Purdue commented, “What I really liked was the students would get around the table and sew skins with the folks on the sidelines getting involved. It impacted the community as well as the students.” As anticipated, the project fostered intergenerational ties, helped to preserve heritage practices, and created a basketmaking workbook for each of the schools.