Giving the Past a Future: community archaeology, youth engagement and heritage in Quinhagak, Alaska

Charlotta Hillerdal* (Corresponding Author), Alice Watterson, M. Akiqaralria Williams, Lonny Alaskuk Strunk, Jacqueline Nalikutaar Cleveland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Initiated by the descendant community of Quinhagak and endorsed by village Elders, the Nunalleq Archaeology Project was unique for Yup’ik Alaska when it began in 2009. Since then, this embedded community project has provided the village with over a decade of archaeological presence in the form of excavations, finds processing, conservation lab work, and, since 2018, a local repository housing the entire archaeological collection.
Accounts of collaborations between archaeologists and Indigenous communities often focus on Elders and cultural bearers. However, whilst these collaborators are, and continue to be, invaluable for the Nunalleq project, here we want to acknowledge the generation of young adults who have grown up with the project, and to whom archaeological finds and artifacts are now an intrinsic part of their heritage. This paper discusses how the Nunalleq Archaeology Project has come to influence local heritage, and how community engagement has in turn shaped the archaeological practice and co-designed outreach work. We
constructively reflect upon insights borne from a decade of collaborative practice and critically ask how such community collaborations may be strengthened for the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227–248
Number of pages43
JournalÉtudes Inuit Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Research for this paper was supported by an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant (AH/R014523/1). We thank Rick Knecht, Julie Masson-MacLean and Dora Apurin Strunk for letting us use their pictures. Thank you to Jean-Christophe Comte for translating title and abstract into French. We also extend our thanks to two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on our paper. We fondly remember Stephan Jones, who had such enthusiasm for engaging children in the Nunalleq heritage and the Culture Center. We are
very grateful for the continuous support from Qanirtuuq Inc. and especially Warren Jones. And we especially extend our thanks to the community of Quinhagak, Quinhagak Elders, and not least the young people who bring such excitement for the future. Without you, none of this would have been possible!


  • community archaeology
  • indigenous archaeology
  • Yup'ik Heritage
  • Youth Engagement


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