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Dauenhauers Edit Major Book on Historic Tlingit, Russian Battles

Book based on never-before published Tlingit recordings

Book CoverFrom the Sealaska Heritage Institute

UAS Tlingit language instructors Richard and Nora Marks Dauenhauer were instrumental in the publication of a major book on historic battles between the Russians and Tlingits in the early 19th century. It was released  in May by the Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Anóoshi Lingít Aaní Ká: Russians in Tlingit America, The Battles of Sitka 1802 and 1804, edited the Dauenhauers and Lydia Black, is the 4th volume in the award-winning series, Classics of Tlingit Oral Literature.  The book explores an era from the 1790s through 1818 when Russians expanded into Southeast Alaska to take control of the Northwest Coast fur trade. The Tlingit people resisted the incursion into their ancestral homeland and events culminated in two historic battles between the Russians and Tlingits in 1802 and 1804.

At the heart of the book are never-before published recordings by the National Park Service of Tlingit elders telling oral histories of the battles. The recordings were made in the 1950s by Kiks.ádi elder Sally Hopkins and Kaagwaantaan elder Alex Andrews, who was a child of the Kiks.ádi. The book was conceived 20 years ago when Kiks.ádi elders asked the Dauenhauers to transcribe, translate, and publish the tapes, and the Sealaska Heritage Board approved the project. The Dauenhauers were able to compare the recordings to eye-witness accounts by Russians translated into English by Lydia Black, a scholar who worked on the book until her death in 2007.

“We’re not dealing with second-hand information. We’re dealing almost exclusively with first hand accounts, so we have the Tlingit first-hand accounts and then we have Russian first-hand accounts, many of which have never been published even in Russia,” said Dauenhauer, calling it one of the most complex books he and his wife, Nora, have undertaken. “We were amazed with the amount of agreement on most of the major events.”

The book also is important because it recounts events from the Tlingit point of view, which is missing from Alaska history books, said Nora Dauenhauer.

“Our children don’t have anything in history in schools or anywhere, and one of the things we hope we’ll use this book for is in schools where people teach history without Tlingits,” she said. “I’m just so happy that we have this story to fall back on and for students to realize that they have a history also.”


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