News and Notes

A Newsletter for Faculty and Staff of Idaho State University

January 30, 2012 — Vol. 28 No. 4

Graduate Student Invited to Participate in Alaska Living Cultural Treasure Program

Michael Livingston

Idaho State University graduate student Michael Livingston will lend his expertise in Alaska Native culture by helping create a carved, wooden hat at the 2012 Alaska Living Cultural Treasure Program from March 5 through 9 at the Anchorage Museum hosted by Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center.

Livingston will work with master hat carver Okalena Patricia Lekanoff-Gregory of Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, helping to create an Unangax Bentwood hat called "Chagudax." These decorative, traditional hats and visors are made by shaping wood, then carving, painting, adorning them with sea lion whiskers, and ivory human figurines. The hats provide spiritual protection during dangerous kayak expeditions while hunting, warring or exploring.

"This is a golden opportunity to rebuild the connection between chagudax and iqyax, the skin-on-frame kayaks of the Aleutian Islands," said Livingston who has built and paddled sea kayaks for years, "Patty learned how to make chagudax from master Gronholdt, so I'm honored to be chosen to work alongside her."

Livingston is pursuing a doctorate in instructional design from the ISU College of Education, and a master's degree from the ISU Department of Anthropology.

"The other reason the Smithsonian is having me come up is that I co-editing a book about a famous Aleut master carver, Andrew Gronholdt," Livingston said.

The book is titled "Chagudax: A Small Window into the Life of An Aleut Bentwood Hat Carver" published by Blurb publishing in January. There will be a book signing at the Anchorage Museum on March 10. Livingston co-edited the book with Sharon Gronholdt-Dye, Gronholdt's daughter.

The Alaska Living Cultural Treasure Program is a joint initiative to document and teach significant and endangered forms of traditional Alaska Native art. The residency program was developed in response to urgent recommendations from Alaska Native communities to connect older and younger generations of artists through apprenticeships and hands-on training and to develop educational materials.

The program planned for 2012 will focus on the Unangax Bentwood hat making and sponsor two teaching artists and two apprentices. In addition to documenting the complete artistic process, the residency will also feature an in-depth education component with attendance by Anchorage school classes and with pre-visit, visit and post-visit activities for arts, culture and science content.

The Alaska Living Cultural Treasure program will be hosted by the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center at their exhibition and research facility at the Anchorage Museum. The Anchorage Museum and the Alaska State Council for the Arts, with funding from the National Endowment for the arts, are sponsoring the program.

For more information about the SASC Alaska office visit