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Found 6,073 Collections

 

The Haida People and Their Culture

By Jeane Breinig (Haida), 2009

(This is shortened version of a longer essay from the Smithsonian book Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska.)

Sea, Land, Rivers

It’s an endless cycle – gathering food, putting it up, sharing it among the people. Subsistence is fundamental to our being, even for city-dwellers. Every summer since the kids were little, we would return to Kasaan to join in harvesting activities with family and friends. Our traditions pass on through the foods, the seasons and the generations. I am Haida Yáahl-Xúuts (Raven–Brown Bear), of the Taslaanas clan (The Sandy Beach People) at Kasaan, Alaska. By the custom of our matrilineal society, I trace my descent and clan affiliation through my mother, her mother and a long line of Raven women going back through the centuries.

Haida identities are linked to the history of our people. Alaskan Haida look south to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands, Canada) as their ancestral homeland. The present villages of Masset and Skidegate were the only settlements that remained after a smallpox epidemic ravaged Haida Gwaii in 1862. Survivors from at least seventeen other communities found refuge there. Alaskan Haida are the descendants of emigrants who left Haida Gwaii sometime before European contact. Residents of Old Kasaan, one of the original Alaskan villages, moved to (New) Kasaan in 1902, and people from Howkan, Klinkwan, and other early Alaskan Haida settlements consolidated at Hydaburg in 1911. The distance from northern Haida Gwaii to Prince of Wales Island is not great, only about thirty-five miles. It is easy to imagine our forebears going across in their canoes: the Haida are justly famous as seafarers and boat builders. Our red-cedar canoes, some large enough to carry forty passengers, traveled up and down the coasts of Alaska and British Columbia and were sought in trade by Tlingit, Tsimshian and other peoples.

When the salmon start jumping in Kasaan Bay, it’s time to begin gathering the foods of our land. We pick sghiw (black seaweed) during the minus tides of May, when you can get out to the rocks where it grows. They spread it out on flat rocks to dry in the sun, took it home in gunnysacks, ground it up, and stored it as a savory food for winter. We love to eat it by the handful or sprinkle it on fish soup. As the summer goes on we fish for halibut and the different species of salmon that arrive in our waters. Sockeye from the Karta River, a staple of the diet in Kasaan, are smoked and preserved using an endless variety of family recipes. Clams, abalone, “gumboots” (chitons), crabs and shrimp are also harvested, and salmonberries, blueberries and huckleberries are picked as they ripen in succession. The men go deer hunting in the fall. Another staple is hooligan (eulachon) oil or “grease,” called satáw in the Haida language. Haida traditionally bartered for fish grease and soapberries from the Tsimshian in exchange for our dried seaweed and halibut. That kind of trading still goes on at the annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention every October, when everyone brings specialties from home to exchange for favorite foods from other places.

Family and Community

In a traditional Haida village, cedar-plank longhouses stood side by side, each paired with a tall pole displaying the crest animals of the clan members who resided there. An opening through base of the pole, representing the mouth or stomach of the lowest crest figure, served as the doorway to some houses. Like other southeast Alaskan peoples, the Haida are socially divided between Ravens and Eagles, each half (moiety) composed of numerous matrilineal clans. Traditional marriages were always between a member of a Raven clan and a member of an Eagle clan. The residents of a longhouse included multiple generations of male clan members and women of other clans who came there to live with their husbands.

Much of a child’s education was the responsibility of clan mentors outside the nuclear family: for a boy, this was his maternal uncle, and for a girl, her maternal aunt. On their pathways to adulthood, children received the names of ancestors, as well as piercings and tattoos that signified their clan and rank. Children still learn through watching and participating in the activities of the community. Our oral tradition is another participatory way of learning. Elders teach through stories, although the message may be indirect. If you seek an elder’s counsel, you might hear a tale about another place and time. It is up to you to think about the meaning and apply it to your own life.

The worst horrors of Haida contact with the West were waves of epidemic disease – smallpox, influenza, tuberculosis, whooping cough and others – that consumed the aboriginal population, unchecked by natural immunity. Perhaps fourteen thousand Haida in the 1780s had withered to six hundred by 1915. It is hard to imagine loss on that scale, not only of life, but also of culture and heritage. Most of the clan leadership was gone, and consolidation of the widespread population into just a few villages almost destroyed the complex social system as it had functioned until then.

Haida oral literature is renowned for its epic tales of battles and migrations, transformations from animals to human beings and vice versa, and journeys to spirit worlds in the sky and underwater. Other Haida tales, especially Raven stories, are simply fun with a touch of mystery. Raven, the comical trickster is always in trouble. Elders say that he turned black by getting stuck in the smoke hole of a house and being too fat and lazy to escape.

Today there are fewer than a dozen fluent Alaskan Haida speakers. I am fortunate that my mother, Julie Coburn, is one of them. Her Haida name is Wahlgidouk, “Giver of Gifts,” meaning a person who brings in presents to be distributed at a ceremonial giveaway, or potlatch. She has been giving the gifts of language and literature throughout her life. Keeping her language was a kind of heroism under all the pressures for acculturation. Her parents, concerned about their children’s survival in Western culture, spoke Haida to them at home but asked them to answer in English. At her boarding school in Sitka, speaking Haida was harshly punished. But as an adult in her fifties, she recognized that the language was fading away, so she relearned it and now has had the good fortune also to teach others. She participated in the Haida Society for the Preservation of Haida Language and Literature and contributed to work accomplished at the Alaska Native Language Center when Haida elders developed a standardized writing system.

Ceremony and Celebration

In 1880, Chief Son-I-Hat built Neyúwens ("Great House") near Kasaan Bay, a mile from the location where New Kasaan was later founded. That structure, today called the Whale House, was restored in 1938 by Haida craftsmen working for the Civilian Conservation Corps. The restoration included the house’s crest pole and carved interior posts, which portray Coon-Ahts, a legendary figure who captured the monster Gonaqadate and put on his skin to hunt whales. Surrounding the house are additional totem poles brought over from Old Kasaan and restored, along with copies of several more. The Whale House is the only surviving traditional Haida clan house in Alaska.

The English word potlatch has been used for traditional Haida ceremonies that centered on feasting, dancing and the distribution of property by chiefs and other leaders. The Haida word is 'wáahlaal. The largest potlatches marked the completion of a new clan house or the death of a chief and succession of his heir. Chief Son-I-Hat, one of the wealthiest Haida leaders, hosted numerous potlatches before his death in 1912. Potlatches were outlawed by the Canadian government in 1884, and they were discouraged by Christian missionaries who came to the Haida region in the 1870s and 1880s.

Despite attempts to suppress of our traditional ceremonies, we still hold feasts and memorial potlatches, but now in transformed ways. Traditionally, potlatches represented a time for the deceased person’s clan to repay those from other clans who had helped them at the time of the death. In many respects, a potlatch can be viewed as a social occasion but with very formal aspects, acknowledging the sadness of the loss but also marking the end of mourning. Potlatches are also the time to repay those who have served as witnesses for naming ceremonies. By accepting a gift, recipients acknowledge that the name is legally granted within the traditional Haida system.

We are celebrating and revitalizing Haida culture in southeast Alaska. Teaching the language and rebuilding the Whale House are just a part of it. Every summer in Kasaan, a culture camp for the kids is held, with storytelling, dancing and subsistence activities. They want to learn and are so proud of their heritage. What does it mean to be Haida? The answer now is different from that of the past, obviously. We need to know our history and learn from it. We need to know our culture and draw strength from it. We need to make it work for us today.

Tags: Haida, Alaska Native, Indigenous, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska
20
 

Uncovering America: People and the Environment

In what ways have Americans impacted the environment?

What is our collective responsibility toward the earth and each other?

How do artists engage with these questions through works of art?

Discover compelling stories of creativity, struggle, and resilience in this new set of resources for K–12 educators featuring works of art that reflect the richness and diversity of the people, places, and cultures of the United States.

National Gallery of Art
4
 

Uncovering America: Civil War and Its Aftermath

How do we remember the Civil War?

Whose stories are told in the art and memorials from and about the time period?

Discover compelling stories of creativity, struggle, and resilience in this new set of resources for K–12 educators featuring works of art that reflect the richness and diversity of the people, places, and cultures of the United States.

National Gallery of Art
4
 

Virginia History Tour

From Jamestown to the present, explore some of the people, places and events that tell the story of the history of Virginia. 

( Curated to support Virginia Standards of Learning for the  Virginia Studies course.)


Nancy Butler
56
 

100 Years Ago: The World in 1919

What was the world like 100 years ago?

How have things changed or stayed the same, and how does this deepen our understanding about history and of ourselves and our society? This Learning Lab explores this centuries-old question by asking you to analyze objects from the NMAAHC and other Smithsonian collections that were created in (or are likely dated to) the year 1919, particularly from the African American perspective.

This Learning Lab emphasizes the historical thinking skills of comparison and change over time. Historical comparison asks you to analyze the differences and similarities between two historical individuals, groups, events, objects, or ideas, or between someone or something historical with someone or something in the present. Change over time asks you to analyze how a historical artifact, individual, group, event or idea has changed over time, what factors contributed to the change, and what can this tell us about the past and inform us about the modern day.

The analysis questions are taken from the National Archives and Record Administration's Document Analysis Worksheets.

Keywords: NMAAHC, African American, 1919, world, century, comparison, change, time, World War I, segregation, Jim Crow, nineteenth, #NMAAHCteach

National Museum of African American History and Culture
19
 

Uncovering America: Immigration and Displacement

Why do people migrate to and within the United States?

How might works of art help us understand personal experiences of immigration and displacement?

Discover compelling stories of creativity, struggle, and resilience in this new set of resources for K–12 educators featuring works of art that reflect the richness and diversity of the people, places, and cultures of the United States. Encourage creative, critical, and historical thinking in your students as you examine works of art from the country’s creation to the present day.


National Gallery of Art
4
 

Muppets

Gwandpa Green
27
 

Defining Moments

There are defining moments that forever change who we are in history.  This collection shares a few  events that significantly impacted the nation and beyond.  It includes Harvard's Project Zero thinking routines.  

Nancy Butler
23
 

Z Supernovas

Lillie Green
10
 

Uncovering America: Activism and Protest

Why and how do people protest?

How might works of art show support or advocate for a cause?

How are people, communities, and events affected by works of art?

Discover compelling stories of creativity, struggle, and resilience in this new set of resources for K–12 educators featuring works of art that reflect the richness and diversity of the people, places, and cultures of the United States. Encourage creative, critical, and historical thinking in your students as you examine works of art from the country’s creation to the present day.

National Gallery of Art
4
 

z Viet Nam War

the history of Viet Nam war

Kevin Green
5
 

Football Helmets Over the Years and More

The evolution football helmets.

Gogey Green
7
 

History, Media, and Culture: African American Soldiers in the Civil War

Representation in media is important.

In this Learning Lab, we will explore how the African American soldiers fighting in the Civil War are portrayed in two films: Glory (1989) and Lincoln (2012).

History X Media X Culture (HMC) is a series designed by the National Museum of African American History and Culture to teach students historical thinking skills of analysis and interpretation, and also media literacy by exploring historic and modern films about or created by African Americans.

What can we learn, and what do we learn about history from popular media? How does popular media influence our understanding of history? How does the history portrayed in popular media change from the historical account based on primary sources?

Furthermore, how are historical individuals and groups represented in popular media? How do these representations affect how we understand these historical persons and their modern-day descendants? How people are depicted on the screen influences our modern world. We must question and analyze what is said and shown in the media, and why it shown to us.

Your objectives are as follows:

1. Explore how the soldiers are represented in each film, and then compare the film’s portrayals.

2. Compare these representations to historical accounts and primary evidence.

3. Question why the changes were made in the film, and how do these changes affect our understanding of history and ourselves?

The movies contain images of the violence of war, carnage, and brief offensive languages.

The analysis questions are taken from the National Archives and Records Administration Document Analysis Worksheets, unless stated otherwise.

National Museum of African American History and Culture
34
 

Henrietta Lacks: The Mother of Modern Medicine

This Learning Lab from the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will explore the connection between visual art and history. 

When studying history, it is important to remember that all historical sources do not look the same. Visual art, being an active response to a stimulus, serves as a mirror to the contemporary landscape. Art engages in a conversation with history while acting as a visual expression of contemporary thoughts and ideas.

The new portrait of Henrietta Lacks by contemporary artist Kadir Nelson sheds new light on the story of a woman who gave so much and was given so little in return. Through a visual exploration of her portrait, students can learn more about Henrietta Lacks and her legacy in medical miracles, bioethics, and racial history. The questions, prompts, and information provided in this Learning Lab will help students hone their skills in visual literacy competency. Students can use this Learning Lab collection to help sharpen their historical thinking skills and expand their conceptions of historical sources.

The guiding questions of this Learning Lab are

  • What is visual art’s connection to historical events? Why is it important that we recognize these connections?
  • How do contemporary events shape artists’ responses in their art making?
  • What does studying art add to our understanding of historical events and time periods?

The goals of this Learning Lab are

  • Bridge the gap in understanding between art analysis and historical analysis
  • Explore the inherent ties between art pieces and their surrounding historical context
  • Introduce the foundations of formal art analysis and develop close looking skills for visual art pieces

If you are new to Learning Lab, visit https://learninglab.si.edu/help/getting-started to learn how to get started!

National Museum of African American History and Culture
10
 

Uncovering America: Transportation

How does transportation affect our daily lives?

What can we learn about transportation and travel from works of art?

Discover compelling stories of creativity, struggle, and resilience in this new set of resources for K–12 educators featuring works of art that reflect the richness and diversity of the people, places, and cultures of the United States. Encourage creative, critical, and historical thinking in your students as you examine works of art from the country’s creation to the present day.

National Gallery of Art
4
 

Read Between the Brushstrokes: Using Visual Art as a Historical Source

This Learning Lab from the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will explore the connection between visual art and history. 

When studying history, it is important to remember that all historical sources do not look the same. Visual art, being an active response to a stimulus, serves as a mirror to the contemporary landscape. Art engages in a conversation with history while acting as a visual expression of contemporary thoughts and ideas.

Through the visual art piece Ethiopia by Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1921), students will learn more about the events and cultural context of the 1920s in America, including the Harlem Renaissance. Fuller's piece reflects the racial politics of the period, especially African Americans' quest for self identity. Ethiopia serves as a symbol of African Americans' identity exploration post-World War II and in the midst of the Pan-African movement.

The questions, prompts, and information provided in this Learning Lab will help students hone their skills in visual literacy competency. Students can use this Learning Lab collection to help sharpen their historical thinking skills and expand their conceptions of historical sources.

The guiding questions of this Learning Lab are

  • What is visual art’s connection to historical events? Why is it important that we recognize these connections?
  • How do contemporary events shape artists’ responses in their art making?
  • What does studying art add to our understanding of historical events and time periods?

The goals of this Learning Lab are

  • Bridge the gap in understanding between art analysis and historical analysis
  • Explore the inherent ties between art pieces and their surrounding historical context
  • Introduce the foundations of formal art analysis and develop close looking skills for visual art pieces

If you are new to Learning Lab, visit https://learninglab.si.edu/help/getting-started to learn how to get started!

National Museum of African American History and Culture
12
 

Silk Road- China

Review all the artifacts in the collection first. Then, select  1-2 artifacts from our Silk Road- China collection and complete See, Think, Wonder.

Debbie Tannenbaum
29
 

The Green Book: Traveling during Jim Crow

How did African Americans attempt to travel safely in the United States during the age of Jim Crow?

This Learning Lab investigates the question of African American travel during the age of Jim Crow, and how the Green Book assisted by providing African American a directory of welcoming hotels, motels, travel lodges, restaurants, gas stations, and other facilities as they journeyed throughout the United States. This Learning Lab employs the use of primary source analysis of NMAAHC and other Smithsonian unit objects and outside media clips to help answer this question.

Keywords:  NMAAHC, African American, Green, book, travel, Jim Crow, car, road, segregation, hotel, motel, gas station, restaurants, United States, primary source, #NMAAHCTeach

National Museum of African American History and Culture
25
 

NMAAHC Sound Bytes: James Reese Europe

In celebration of Smithsonian's Year of Music, let us look back a century to an early jazz classic that detailed the experience of African American soldiers on the front lines in Europe during the First World War.

Amid the First World War (1914 - 1918), a new musical genre called jazz would take the world by storm. Jazz was the product of the African American experience, history, and culture. James Reese Europe contributed to the music form by bringing jazz overseas while fighting with the 369th Infantry Regiment (also known as the Harlem Hellfighters) during the war. Furthermore, James Reese Europe composed tunes that reflected the African American experience on the front lines of the war in Europe. In this Learning Lab, you will explore the life and contributions of James Reese Europe, and consider what influenced him when he composed his 1919 classic, On Patrol In No Man's Land.

The Smithsonian Year of Music is an Institution-wide initiative to increase public engagement, advance understanding, and connect communities in Washington, D.C., across the nation, and around the globe. The Smithsonian Year of Music highlights and shares our vast musical holdings, bringing together our resources in history, art, culture, science, and education.

National Museum of African American History and Culture
23
 

African Americans, President Woodrow Wilson, and the First World War (1914-1918)

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked the United States Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. The United States could no longer sustain anti-war policies and rhetoric, diplomatic neutrality, and an isolationist outlook as it had since 1914. A combination of elements such as unrestricted German submarine warfare, rumored invasions, horrific new tactics of fighting, and technologies of war contributed to Wilson’s request. Congress granted President Wilson’s request, and on April 6, 1917, the United States officially entered the Great War*.  Wilson claimed that the world would “be made safe for democracy.”

As the United States was preparing to protect freedom and equality internationally, African Americans were struggling against racism in the forms of economic oppression, violence, and legal as well as social inequality.  Though citizenship and male suffrage had been endowed to African Americans by the Fourteenth (1868) and Fifteenth (1870) Amendments, many African Americans found it dangerous, if not deadly, to practice the fruits of American democracy to which they were entitled. Despite the magnitude and horrors of war, the African American community believed that fighting in the Great War, demonstrating their patriotism, loyalty, and bravery would show white Americans they deserved equality and civil rights.

This Learning Lab explores the interwoven legacy of President Woodrow Wilson and African Americans before, during, and immediately after the Great War (1914-1918). 

*The Great War, the First World War, and World War I will be used interchangeably to name the war.

Keywords: NMAAHC, NMAAHC Education, African American, World War One, Great War, First World War, soldier, war, Woodrow Wilson, president, Jim Crow, primary sources, stories

National Museum of African American History and Culture
51
 

Black Panther and Black Superheroes

Wakanda Learning Lab is this? 

This Learning Lab explores the importance of representation in popular media. How are people portrayed? Why are they portrayed? What does this say about a people in a society and the society itself? How do these messages affect and inform us about others and ourselves?

First, how are African Americans represented in popular media. Second, how African, the African Diaspora, and African American culture are represented in Black Panther (both as a comic book character and as part of the modern Marvel cinematic universe) and through other superhero lore. 

The National Museum of African American History and Culture celebrates the museum's acquirement of the movie costume of the iconic and groundbreaking Marvel comic book character Black Panther. The character of Black Panther (King T'Challa of Wakanda), and his iconic suit, debuted in the Marvel cinematic universe in the 2015 film Captain America: Civil War, and featured in his self-titled movie Black Panther in 2018. Since the debut of Black Panther (King T'Challa of Wakanda) in the Fantastic Four #52 in July 1966, Black Panther has been a trailblazer for the black superheroes that have followed him in print and on screen. 

Students can explore this Learning Lab independently. Learning exercises and worksheets have been provided to help enhance the exploration of the content. 

Keyword: nmaahc, African, American, Black, Panther, Marvel, T'Challa, Wakanda, suit, comic, superhero, super, hero, civil war, Falcon, Bumblebee, Vixen, Storm, Nick Fury, Luke Cage, DC, universe, Green Lantern, Misty

National Museum of African American History and Culture
26
 

Tsimshian Bilingual Guide: Twining Cedar

Red cedar bark twined basketry is a distinctive Tsimshian art form. With the passing on of elder master artists and the demands of contemporary lifestyles, it became at risk. A handful of weavers today are working to master and revitalize twined cedarbark basketry, reconnecting with a proud heritage. In 2016, the Arctic Studies Center collaborated with The Haayk Foundation of Metlakatla to document the materials and techniques of cedarbark basketry. The project included a harvesting and processing workshop and a weaving workshop in Metlakatla, and a residency at the Arctic Studies Center in Anchorage where artists studied baskets from museum and private collections, practiced and refined weaving techniques, and taught museum visitors and school children about basketry.

Teaching was led by Haida master weaver Delores Churchill, who learned from master Tsimshian weaver Flora Mather, with assistance from her daughter Holly Churchill, an accomplished weaver. In addition to Metlakatla students, three advanced Tsimshian weavers participated in the project, sharing techniques learned in their families and communities and learning new ones: Kandi McGilton (co-founder of The Haayk Foundation), Karla Booth (granddaughter of Tsimshian master weaver Violet Booth) and Annette Topham (niece of master Tsimshian weaver Lillian Buchert). Metlakatla elder Sarah Booth, a fluent speaker of Sm’algyax (Ts’msyen), assisted Kandi McGilton in documenting indigenous basketry terminology for use in language classes.

The bilingual guide below pairs with a set of 15 instructional videos included here. The guide provides step-by-step details about cedarbark basketry from harvesting materials to twining techniques in Sm’algya̱x (the Tsimshian language) and English. A twined cedarbark basket from the Smithsonian collections is also included below.

Tags: Alaska, Native art, museum, education, Indigenous, Tsimshian, cedar, bark, Metlakatla, weaving, basket, David Boxley, Kandi McGilton, Delores Churchill, Karla Booth, Annette Topham, Holly Churchill, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska
18
 

St. Lawrence Island Yupik Lessons: Language and Culture

The Alaska Office of the Smithsonian’s Arctic Studies Center hosted a St. Lawrence Island Yupik language and culture seminar in January 2012, bringing together seven fluent speakers: John Apassingok, Lydia Apatiki, Ralph Apatiki, Sr., Elaine Kingeekuk, Christopher Koonooka, Merlin Koonooka and Angela Larson. They met for five days to discuss Yupik objects in the Smithsonian exhibition Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska at the Anchorage Museum.

During the seminar, the St. Lawrence Island Yupik language was documented and language and culture teaching materials were written for use in schools and homes throughout Alaska and beyond. Twelve objects from the Smithsonian collections – with links below – are featured in the guide and lessons presented here. These resources pair with twelve video lessons that offer teachers, students, parents and lifelong learners access to the St. Lawrence Island Yupik language and lifeways.

Tags: Alaska, Native art, museum, education, language, Indigenous, St. Lawrence Island, Yupik, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska
26
 

Salmon Give Life: Learning from Alaska’s First Peoples

There are five species of salmon in Alaska, and they are a vital food source for people living a subsistence lifestyle today and in the past. Alaska Natives determined that salmon skin, carefully processed, was a durable and waterproof material for clothing, and they used it to make bags, boots, mittens and parkas. Some artists continue to use this material in their work. The curriculum below consists of five activity-based lessons and will teach students about subsistence, with a focus on salmon, and how Alaska Natives utilize local resources to survive and thrive. The two videos referred to in curriculum Lesson 3 are provided below and are part of a 10-video set on this site in the Community Videos section, titled Sewing Salmon videos.

Tags: Alaska, Alaska Native, Indigenous, salmon, subsistence, traditional ecological knowledge, salmon skin, museum, museum objects, artifacts, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska
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