NEWS_SHI to sponsor lecture on Tlingit relationships with sea otters

NEWS_SHI to sponsor lecture on Tlingit relationships with sea otters

Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: December 22nd, 2020

Community event is free, open to the public

July 26, 2019


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a free lecture on Tlingit relationships with sea otters, and in particular, whether Tlingit people consumed sea otters as food in the past.

The lecture, Tlingit Relationships with Sea Otters: What can we learn from ethnozooarchaeology?  by Dr. Madonna Moss, professor of anthropological archaeology at the University of Oregon, will examine the historical near abolishment of the species with the influx of outside fur traders, to the 1960s, when sea otters were reintroduced in the region, to today, when the animals and people are competing for the same commercially-important invertebrates.

While some communities perceive sea otters as a threat to their economic livelihoods, some environmentalists view the return of sea otters as restoration of the marine ecosystem. The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972) authorizes any Alaska Native who resides on the coast in Alaska to harvest sea otters for the purpose of subsistence provided that the harvest is not wasteful. Some are seeking to define “traditional” Tlingit use of sea otters as not only utilizing their pelts, but as consuming them as food, Moss wrote.

“This project investigates the zooarchaeological evidence as to whether Tlingit ancestors consumed sea otters as food in the past,” Moss said.

The lecture is scheduled from noon-1 pm, Friday, Aug. 2, at Sealaska Heritage, 105 S. Seward Street in Juneau. The lecture will be videotaped and put online. Everyone is welcome.

Madonna L. Moss has led and/or participated in multiple projects, including the Coffman Cove Community Archaeology Project. She is currently working with the Sitka Tribe on The Archaeology of Herring: Reconstructing the Past to Redeem the Future and with Sealaska Heritage Institute on Did the Tlingit and Haida eat sea otters during the pre-contact period?  She has taught university courses for 30 years and has mentored dozens of graduate students.  Books include Northwest Coast: Archaeology as Deep History, and The Archaeology of North Pacific Fisheries. Her current research is focused on how use of animal resources is foundational to the cultural identity and heritage of Indigenous groups and how zooarchaeology can contribute knowledge to improve fish and wildlife management and simultaneously support Alaska Natives in their contemporary subsistence practices. Moss also serves as curator of zooarchaeology for the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History.

This program is made possible by a grant from the Alaska Native Education Program.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116,

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