Tlingit author and linguist named Alaska writer laureate

Mike Dunham

Tlingit poet, playwright, historian and linguist Nora Marks Dauenhauer of Juneau has been named the new Alaska writer laureate. With her husband, Richard Dauenhauer, she has written important collections of Tlingit oratory and oral histories.

The Dauenhauers won an American Book Award for "Russians in Tlingit America: The Battles of Sitka, 1802 and 1804." One of her short poems was featured in New York subways as part of a project to place contemporary poetry before mass audiences.

Dauenhauer, born in 1927 in Syracuse, N.Y. to parents from Yakutat and Hoonah, will hold the post for two years.

In the press release announcing Dauenhauer's selection, the Alaska State Council on the Arts also presented the recipients of this year's Governor's Awards for the Arts and Humanities. Shishmaref educator John "Sinnaq" Sinnok will receive the award for arts education. Sinnok is known for teaching traditional crafts and also as a teacher of the Inupiaq language.

Valley Performing Arts of Wasilla, whose next play, "Deathtrap," opens on Oct. 12, will receive the award for Arts Organization. VPA's Executive Director, Garry Forrester, noted with glee that a longtime supporter of the company, Gail Niebrugge of Palmer, won the award for Individual Artist. Niebrugge is known for depicting scenes from central Alaska in a somewhat pointillistic style.

Susie "Qimmiqsak" Bevins-Ericsen, a contemporary artist originally from Barrow and now living in Anchorage, will receive the award for Native Arts.

Sven Haakanson, Jr., Executive Director of the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository in Kodiak and a winner of the distinguished MacArthur Fellowship -- sometimes called the "Genius Award" -- will receive one of three awards for Distinguished Service to the Humanities. The Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage will also be honored, as will Carol Swartz, the founder of the Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference in Homer.

The awards, sponsored by the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the Office of the Governor, will be presented at a gala dinner at the Hotel Captain Cook on Oct. 18. The event is open to the public and tickets are $85. Registration is available online at



Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.