🔗NPS Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow: Dena’ina Traditional Foodways and their Legacies in Qizhjeh Vena (Lake Clark), Alaska
American Conservation Experience
This fellowship will research and incorporate traditional indigenous knowledge to make comparisons and forge connections to contemporary ways of life. The fellow will investigate, record, communicate, and create materials centered around the fact that preparing, serving, and sharing certain foods carry important social and cultural significance. Through researching dietary practices, we learn about the influence of landscape, climate, and weather. Through listening to traditional stories and narratives we digest how recipes and practices can be used to transmit knowledge from generation to generation. This project has great potential for extensive positive impact as it will provide a platform for traditionally associated villages of Lake Clark to share their stories through their own voices and experiences, while providing important interpretive and educational services and products to the public and building capacity of the Lake Clark Team to put more effort in this and other projects.
Specifics: The fellow will work with published resources, local community members, and park partners to document traditional and modern subsistence use, contexts, and foodways in the Lake Clark region. Working through a subsistence lens, this data will include information about changes and continuities in culture, climate, geography, and more over time. The research findings, including an evaluation of Traditional Indigenous Knowledge and modern subsistence use, will be used to develop resources and trainings for interpreters as well as new interpretive products to elevate the park’s current visitor station exhibits, which are centered around the idea of land use. Dependent on research findings, interpretive products could include a Dena’ina Recipe Book, social media posts and web articles featuring findings and records throughout the process, education lesson plans for park day camps in local villages, and a small-scale exhibit re-design in the park’s Port Alsworth Contact Station which will transition a staff kitchen area into an interactive Dena’ina modern kitchen exhibit, connecting with other exhibits already in the center.
The resulting archive and exploration of first-person narratives and other historic sources will help appropriately ground the interpretation at Lake Clark in the lived experiences and traditions of the Dena’ina. This exploration of foodways can connect the concepts and contexts of traditional and modern land use, ethnobotany, culture, climate, and geography in the Dena’ina kitchen and at the table. As well as providing a record preserved for posterity and future use, including for use in investing back into local communities, this work emphasizes not just that the area around Lake Clark has been a traditional homeland from time immemorial, but that the Dena’ina people continue to live and thrive here.
Each NPS Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow will complete work in four areas. Fellows will (1) perform project-based research; (2) share research results; (3) produce and substantially contribute to interpretive and educational products; and (4) pursue career-focused work.
1) Project-Based Research: Throughout the project, the Fellow will work internally with Lake Clark team to host interdisciplinary workshops with natural and cultural resource specialists and interpretive professionals to identify research, resources, communities, current policy on subsistence, and build connections. After initial research efforts on preliminary and sub-topic are established, the Fellow will then conduct research into interpretive topics using multiple sources of information. Information and research opportunities may include oral histories, ethnographic studies, archeological surveys, scientific research papers, Lake Clark publications, and more. Specific research areas may include subsistence practice and policy, modern and traditional Dena’ina foodways, weather and climate of the area within context of plant and life history, salmon fishery, snaring and hunting ways, and more. In tandem with the Lake Clark team, the Fellow will also work with partnering institutions, Tribes and community members for understanding, narratives, traditional context, and for access to research archives.
In year two, the Fellow will consult with their mentorship team, as well as other subject matter experts as needed, to propose a project for their second year. This will be conducted in addition to the products and measurables described in description components and outlined above.
2) Sharing Research Results:
Internal: In conjunction with the Lake Clark team, the Fellow will develop and host interdisciplinary workshops with cultural resource specialists and interpretive professionals regarding best practices and sources for researching subsistence, traditional ways of living, and food culture. During the Fellow’s time at Lake Clark, they will participate in the park’s annual training as appropriate, and present on their research topic for new-to-Lake Clark employees.
External: The Fellow will also host an in-person keynote on the research at Lake Clark’s contact station in Port Alsworth and/or at the Anchorage Alaska Public Lands Information Center for the public. The Fellow may also participate virtual speaker series, community outreach opportunities, and other non-personal services which may include creating content for use in media products which may include social media, website, articles, columns, and more.
Reporting Out: Twice a year, the Fellow will participate with their cohort and other Fellows in a virtual conference for NPS staff and partners to provide updates about their research. The Fellow will be responsible for tracking and reporting accomplishments and for supplying copies of interpretive, educational, and research products to their host and to the National Coordinator.
3) Interpretive and Educational Products: Through original research, and reconciliation and use of existing information, the fellow will create reference materials for interpretive and education use, document stories and histories, and co-create a new exhibit for the Port Alsworth contact station “A Modern Dena’ina Kitchen” which may include a book of traditional recipes, tonics, and use instructions from the region. The fellow will also help to expand upon current stories and efforts and develop materials currently not covered in Lake Clark’s publication library. Other work may include the development of multiple written interpretive products for use by the park on websites including NPS.gov, social media, and in the contact station. The Fellow will also work with the park’s education team to co-develop or inform content for a new lesson plan.
4) Career-focused Research and Products: In consultation with their mentors, the Fellow will carry out a career-centered project. About 20 percent of the Fellowship will be dedicated to this scholarly work that advances the Fellow’s career path.
Essential Responsibilities and Tasks:
- Work alongside a dispersed team.
- Creative and interpretive writing for multiple audiences.
- Proactive and professional communication.
- Conduct original research.
- Work internally with Lake Clark team to host interdisciplinary workshops with natural and cultural resource specialists and interpretive professionals to identify research, resources, communities, current policy on subsistence, and build connections.
- Conduct research into interpretive topics using multiple sources of information – oral histories, ethnographic studies, archeological surveys, scientific research papers, Lake Clark publications, etc. Develop researched reference tools for self and broad use on traditional land use, ethnobotany, and modern subsistence.
- Develop written interpretive products for use on social media, website, articles, columns, and more. Begin to compile recipes and bibliographies for production.
- Co-develop and deliver a 30-minute training on traditional land use for parkwide orientation training and introduce research and current products in partnership with park staff.
- Visitor Center exhibit research and co-design.