Alaskan Art History Project

—This is a draft—
Audience: Alaska region school students
Grade: High school
Course: Art, Art history, Alaska history

Class time: one week

Essential question: What influences are there in the Native artwork of an Alaskan region and where did it come from? What are some of the restraints that each region had with the type of art that could be produced?

Source material (some):

  • Alaska Digital Archives:
  • Anchorage Museum:
  • Alaska Native Knowledge Network:

Explanation (brief) of “what the kids will be doing”:
During this lesson, students will explore some of the Native Alaskan Native art and what influences there are to and from neighboring regions or contact from other areas. Students in groups of three will also create an Alaskan influenced 3-D art project. This art project could focus on art and clothing or ceremonial or tools or some other expression of art.

Each group will start with a limited amount of materials and supplies that are different from other groups. Depending on the focus of the art, supplies could be beads, shells, fur, different types of leather, fabric, buttons, metal pieces, bones, antlers, hooves, feathers, paint, wood, rope, etc. Each group may need to trade supplies and ideas with neighboring groups or “regions” of the classroom. The resulting art project will show the effects of trade and influences that may have occurred with the Native Alaskan artwork of a region.

—This is a draft—

4 thoughts on “Alaskan Art History Project”

  1. Very interesting idea. The trade element could be easily replicated in a classroom with a mix of natural (feathers) and artificial elements (masking tape). Perhaps you could select materials so that they needed each others trade to successfully complete a piece (for example, not every group had a fastening resource)

    Would you set it up so that it models actual peoples, resources, cultural values? You can do it that way, but I wonder if that requires you to have too many authentic design elements.

    Or as an alternative you could create 3 hypothetical cultures (and their values). That would free you up to use non-native elements (glue gun) and let students work with those to see relationship of resources, values, trade. Then use that knowledge to study real trade patterns with resulting authentic art. Either way could work.

  2. Hi, David!

    You have a great idea going! I particularly liked the trade idea, and I appreciate Peter’s thoughts on that. I think this lesson would be very engaging, especially for high school students who want to take their project a step farther and incorporate their artistic skills.

  3. Hi David,
    I really like the idea; it leads to an activity that is fun, engaging, and flexible..I could see this being done with some small changes as an individual project or for younger kids as well.
    I like that it really flows well with Ruth’s book and my book. What a great area for the arts!
    I’ve discovered that the introduction of the Sears catalog about a hundred years ago made it easier for Athabaskan fiddlers to obtain instruments…I wonder if that is true for art supplies as well…..

  4. David,

    I’m glad you’re working in the trade element that we discussed at the museum. I think that it’s a great idea and it gets the students thinking about how trade affects the way that native artwork looks. I also like Peter’s idea here with choosing the different cultures and values. I think it would simplify the lesson a bit (in the way that the students won’t have to try and pick from five or six cultures, they can pick one of three).

    I look forward to talking in class,

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