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Undergraduate Research Project Management System

Power of Commerce: Tradition and Discourse in a Changing World

Status Complete
Seeking Researchers No
Start Date 09/01/2006
End Date 06/30/2007
Funding Source Undergraduate Research Grants
Funding Amount
Community Partner
Related Course
Last Updated 07/05/2008 01:25AM
Keywords Tlinget Market Artists


  Phyllis Fast

Student Researchers
  Christopher Smith


Tlingit market artists (1870-present) have been largely ignored, and even reviled, by Native art scholars and historians.  The contribution of these men and women has been incalculable in terms of cultural continuity and transmission of traditional knowledge for well over a century.  Market carvers are also driving forces in the maintenance of language, oral traditions and self determined economic development within Southeast Alaska.  Due to the fact that Tlingit market art does not always fit the pattern of what non-native scholars believe "traditional" Tlingit art should look like, these men and women have been excluded from art history literature.  Despite this exclusion, Tlingit market artists often fill the role of civil rights advocate, culture bearer, and of course, cultural ambassador for the Tlingit people to a worldwide audience via tourism.  These artists have yet to be recognized for their integral role in the continuation of the art form, and it creates a gap in written Alaska Native art history that ranges roughly from 1870 to 1965.  Though market art escaped the attention of many western art historians, it did not escape the attention of the federal government, as evidenced by the passage of federally sanctioned authenticity verification programs as early as 1935.  This research will ask what sort of relationship formed between the carvers and the federal government through Indian art policies, and who the intended beneficiaries of such legislation were.  How were the transactions between the carvers and the curio shops who sold these wares affected by such programs?  How did market art fit into the assimilation model set forth by missionaries and government agencies, and what was the discourse used to justify this dichotomy?  This research aims to enlighten the public on the fascinating lives and art of these culture bearing men and women, and the hardships they faced in an era of oppression, racism and assimilation.

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