Alaska Native students learn about heritage through internship at Sequoyah National Research Center

Alaska Native students learn about heritage through internship at Sequoyah National Research Center

Two Alaska Native students are getting in touch with their heritage by serving as interns at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Sequoyah National Research Center.

The goal of the Native American Student Internship Program is to provide students an experiential learning environment in which to acquire an understanding of the value of archives and the research potential of the collections of the center and to engage in academic research and practical archival activities related to tribal culture, society and issues.

The interns work 25 hours a week from June 4 to July 27 and receive on-campus housing and a $2,000 stipend.

Recent UA Little Rock graduate Heidi Davis and senior Stephanie Rabaduex, who are continuing internships from last summer, spend their internships archiving an important part of their Native Alaskan heritage. They are both Alaska Natives who are members of the Haida and Tlingit tribes.

In 2014, the center acquired the Jeanie Greene Heartbeat Alaska Film Collection, which included 1,263 videos. Thanks to a $24,000 grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, Rabaduex and Davis now decipher the videos, cataloging names, dates, places, and issues for the center’s archives.

While growing up in the small village of Kake, Alaska, Davis, 29, fondly recalls tuning into “Heartbeat Alaska” as a child to watch the show’s host, Jeanie Greene, broadcast heartfelt stories of Alaska.

“I would have been happy to do anything interning here, but the Jeanie Greene productions were special,” Davis said. “I grew up watching her shows in Alaska. Jeanie Greene actually babysat my dad, so my dad can tell me stories about her, but she is like a celebrity to me since I never met her.”

Davis, who graduated in May with bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and political science, will attend William H. Bowen School of Law in the fall. One day Davis would like to return to Alaska to represent Alaska Natives in the court system.

Davis worked for the Alaska Court System before she and her husband moved with their two small children to North Little Rock, following her husband’s return from the Coast Guard. While she enjoys living in the Natural State, working on the Jeanie Greene collection gives Davis a little piece of home.

“It was pretty hard to adjust the first couple of years I was here and then I found Sequoyah and they kept reaching out to me,” Davis said. “I’m all the way in Little Rock working on a project that is close to my heart, so it’s amazing. I have family members on these videos who have passed away, so anytime I am watching and come across a family member, it is really exciting. It definitely gives me a new perspective because I grew up in southeast Alaska, but my kids will not grow up there, so it’s important for me to keep informing them on who they are.”

On the other hand, Rabaduex, who will graduate this summer with a Bachelor of Art in English with an emphasis in creative writing, grew up in Ward, Arkansas. Her mother was adopted from Alaska and grew up in San Diego, so Rabaduex sees the Jeanie Greene project as a way to learn more about her heritage.

“I didn’t know anything about my heritage. I have never even been to Alaska,” Rabaduex said. “Having the opportunity to see the videos, I’ve learned so much, so it’s important for everybody who wants to learn about the cultures of the Alaska Natives to have access to the videos.”

Rabaduex, who also works at Baptist Health, learned about Sequoyah National Research Center when she took a tour during a mythology class. At first, she didn’t know the center also did research on Alaska Natives.

“Erin Fehr (archivist) mentioned all these scholarships and the summer internships, and I never realized they would accept me, so that is a real thrill,” Rabaduex said. “I like the atmosphere here. Everyone makes you feel at home, like you are just part of this place since day one. It was an amazing opportunity for me to experience, not just my culture, but Alaska Native culture in general. I encourage anyone who has Native American background should come check out the Sequoyah National Research Center. You never know what you might find.”

For more information about the Sequoyah National Research Center, contact Erin Fehr at ehfehr@ualr.edu or 501-569-8336.


• This news article was originally published on the website for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and is reprinted here with permission.


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