Empowering Tribal Youth in Cultural Heritage Management: A Case Study from the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska


This paper explores a collaborative program focused on identifying the role of archaeology in heritage education and management delivered under cultural leadership. The method of delivery and teaching is reflexive and adaptive, via on-ground conservation projects that have tangible social outcomes focused on empowering Alaskan Native youth. A case study from the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska examines how action-oriented education, via conservation, is critical to the development of a more socially relevant archaeology. At the same time, the program ensures the archaeological process links with the transmission of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and the incorporation of local cultural structures for practical landscape management.


Cet article explore un programme de collaboration axé sur l’identification du rôle de l’archéologie dans l’éducation et la gestion du patrimoine dans le cadre du leadership culturel. La méthode de prestation et d’enseignement est réflexive et adaptative, par le biais de projets de préservation sur le terrain qui ont des résultats sociaux tangibles axés sur l’autonomisation des jeunes. Une étude de cas de la péninsule de Kenai en Alaska examine comment l’éducation orientée vers l’action, par la préservation, est essentielle au développement d’une archéologie plus pertinente sur le plan social. En même temps, le programme assure le lien entre le processus archéologique et la transmission du savoir écologique traditionnel et l’intégration des structures culturelles locales dans la gestion pratique du paysage


Este artículo explora un programa de colaboración centrado en la identificación del papel de la arqueología en la educación del patrimonio y la gestión del patrimonio como parte del liderazgo cultural. El método de entrega y enseñanza es reflexivo y adaptativo, a través de proyectos de preservación de campo que tienen resultados sociales tangibles enfocados en empoderar a los jóvenes. Un estudio de caso de la península de Kenai en Alaska examina cómo la educación orientada a la acción a través de la preservación es esencial para el desarrollo de una arqueología más relevante socialmente. Al mismo tiempo, el programa asegura el vínculo entre el proceso arqueológico y la transmisión del conocimiento ecológico tradicional y la integración de las estructuras culturales locales en la gestión práctica del paisaje.

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  1. 1.

    Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are taken from taped interviews with Madison Dapcevich, University of Montana master student, in July 2016.

  2. 2.

    In this paper, the ‘youth’ engaged as part of this program are Kenaitze Indian Tribal members or members of other Alaskan Native tribes.

  3. 3.

    For more information on the structure and goals of these camps, see: https://www.kenaitze.org/programs/yaghanen-youth-programs/camps/.


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Funding for the 2016/17 season was provided via a grant from the Kenai Mountains Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area. Youth internship wages and support were provided by Cook Inlet Tribal Council. We are forever grateful to Alex Kime and his passionate team at Alaska Horsemen Trail Adventures, who provide a unique, safe and fun place for all of us; the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, the Yaghanen Youth Center team, Elders and youth, who provide so much energy, compassion and motivation to learn, explore and work together; and the USFS team led by Sherry Kime, who continue to work above and beyond, and remain committed to the community outreach and site conservation.

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Correspondence to David R. Guilfoyle.

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Guilfoyle, D.R., Carey, G., Rogers, A.J. et al. Empowering Tribal Youth in Cultural Heritage Management: A Case Study from the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Arch 15, 42–63 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11759-019-09357-8

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Key Words

  • Alaska
  • Dena’ina Heritage management
  • Indigenous collaboration
  • Traditional fishing
  • Youth education