This collection consists of audio recordings generated by the Sealaska Corporation, shortly after the passing of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971 in effort to professionally locate and document Tlingit and Haida historic and sacred sites in Southeast Alaska. Much of this effort was connected to 14(h)(1) legislation for the Conveyance of Cemetery Sites and Historical Places as outlined by ANCSA. To document these historic and sacred sites, sites inhabited by the Tlingit and Haida for thousands of years, Sealaska hired independent Seattle-based contractors Wilsey & Ham, Inc., who traveled to villages across Southeast Alaska and interviewed the most knowledgeable Tlingit and Haida elders about sites. Their work occurred over the 1974 and 1975 years, resulting in approximately fifty-seven cassette recordings that contributed to Sealaska’s privately published Native Cemetery and Historic Sites of Southeast Alaska (1975).
These recordings, captured on cassette, contain detailed information about the historic sites and their habitation by the Tlingit and Haida’s most knowledgeable elders of the period. These elders not only provided information on the locations of these sites, but also on their history, cultural connection, stories, associated songs, and indigenous place names in the Tlingit and Haida languages. As a general, the content on these recordings is presented in Tlingit and Haida, but always with a translator present and provided English translation. The sites that Sealaska worked to document and protect with this project included historic village settlements—both permanent and seasonal settlement sites, cemetery or grave sites, sacred sites of cultural value, petroglyphs/pictographs, subsistence sites, forts and battle areas, gardens, and other sites that are of special interest to the history and culture of the Tlingit and Haida.
The recordings constitution this collection were originally numbered by Wilsey & Ham, Inc., such as Tape 1, 2, and so on up to circa Tape 114, which serves as the numbering system for this collection. Each side of each cassette was given its own number, so for example, Tapes 9-10 are actually Side A and B of one single cassette. Thus, although Wilsey & Ham, Inc. created tapes that are numbered 1-114, there are actually circa 57 cassettes. The recordings, migrated from cassette to CD in 2012 by Sealaska Heritage Institute (digital content preserved), have been arranged according to the numbering system applied by Wilsey & Ham, Inc. Partial or full transcriptions of a few recordings from the collection have been generated, though some transcriptions are incomplete.