Sealaska institute acquires photography collections

Empire photographer donates hundreds of ANB/ANS images

Posted: Monday, July 13, 2009

Sealaska Heritage Institute has acquired two photographs documenting Southeast Alaska Native cultures from circa 1883 to the 1990s.

Brain Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brain Wallace / Juneau Empire

Longtime photojournalist Brian Wallace donated several hundred images, including photos of the founding fathers of the Alaska Native Brotherhood (circa 1912) and past Alaska Native Sisterhood presidents.

Wallace, an Empire photographer for 27 years, also donated several hundred images of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood taken from 1965 to 1995, with the majority taken by Wallace in the 1980s.

He made the donation in memory of his late parents, Dorothy (Natstklaa) and Amos L. (Jeet Yaaw Dustaa) Wallace.

"Both my parents were lifetime members of the ANB and ANS," Wallace said. "They devoted most of their lives fighting for Alaska Native rights. By donating all the photos of the ANB and ANS to Sealaska Heritage Institute, I wish to honor their memory and accomplishments, as well as the other ANB/ANS elders past and present."

SHI President Rosita Worl said it's a privilege to have a collection given in honor of the Wallaces.

"Dorothy and Amos were active in the Native community, and Amos was a well-known artist and mentor to young artists," Worl said.

Wallace's donation has helped the institute build a repository of materials that document the ANB-ANS, said SHI Archivist Zachary Jones.

"It's important that we have the records of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood because it helps document the activities they've done presently and in the past, and it helps capture the importance of these organizations," said Jones, adding that the institute recently received donations of materials documenting the ANB-ANS from other people, including ANB Grand President Emeritus Dr. Walter Soboleff.

"SHI Special Collections really wants to collect these types of materials because it gives voice to great achievements in Alaska Native history," he said. "And the more materials like this we have, the better our library is for researchers."

SHI also acquired 20 historical images dating between 1883 and 1941.

One of the more unusual photos shows the interior of a house and a display of Tlingit regalia and American military uniforms. The photo, obtained from Alaskan Heritage Bookshop owner Dick Wood of Juneau, was taken circa 1900 by Frank La Roche and inscribed "Interior of Capt. Jakes house, Killisnoo."

Another shows a marriage of two Native people who are seen standing under cedar boughs. The images are rare glimpses into Southeast Alaska Native life a century ago.

"We have some photographs of village life, of early village scenes, of people gathering for certain events. All in all, these pictures are really great and give us insights into the way people lived and how life was over a hundred years ago," Jones said.

Many of the images are posted online with links through

The institute collects materials that document the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people and makes these materials available to the public for educational purposes. SHI employs an archivist to care for them.

SHI is a Native nonprofit established in 1980 to administer educational and cultural programs for Sealaska, a regional Native corporation formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The institute's mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures.

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