This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).

The Center for Ethnomusicology at Columbia University holds valuable recordings of traditional Iñupiat (Native Alaskan) music recorded in Barrow, Alaska by collector Laura Boulton in 1946. Co-PIs Fox and Dr. Sakakibara are working with Iñupiat community leaders, elders, and educators in Barrow, Alaska to "repatriate" these recordings (and an associated set of photographs held by Indiana University's Archive of Traditional Music), and to collect oral historical important information about the recordings (and an associated set of recently-discovered photographs taken during Boulton's expedition and currently belonging to Indiana University's Archive of Traditional Music).

By conducting systematic oral historical interviews with elders and community leaders concerning the contents, significance, and proper future management of the recordings and photographs, the research team is working to make these materials useful and accessible for contemporary Iñupiat musicians and dancers, for Iñupiat language and culture educators, for descendants of the original performers on the recordings, for the broader community, as well as for scholars of Inuit history and culture, under terms acceptable to all parties.

Specifically, through this "community partnered" repatriation work, the research team is working with Iñupiat consultants to develop contemporary applications for these recordings through the creation of a secure and publicly accessible digital resource that will embed the original recordings and photographs in a rich explanatory context reflective of Iñupiat cultural values; they are helping community-based music and dance performance groups to develop repertoires based on these recordings (and to explore other archival collections); they are consulting with leading Iñupiaq educators to develop language-teaching applications for the materials; and they are working with the Iñupiat Heritage, Language, and Culture Commission and colleagues to use this project to model the community's longer-term archiving needs for other valuable heritage materials in other archives and personal collections.

Importantly, the research team is documenting the project itself through observation of the effects of our reintroduction of this music into the community. This project is a model for a new, experimental, approach to "repatriation" of Native cultural heritage resources. By explicitly testing what the team proposes are innovative best practices for collaborative repatriation projects that benefit both Native communities and social scientists who work with these communities, they hope to demonstrate ways of handling the thousands of similar scholarly collections of Native cultural resources in archives and museums in the United States, many of which have not been repatriated at all in part due to what often appear to be intractable challenges inherent in the historical status of such archives and the emergent ethical and legal climate in which their repatriation must now occur. In addition to community-developed resources, the research will result in scholarly articles and a book intended to explore the implications of the project for archivists, scholars, and Native communities alike.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Polar Programs (PLR)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Anna Kerttula de Echave
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Columbia University
New York
United States
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