Building Relationships with Alaska Native Communities Cohort

In 2022, First Alaskans Institute (FAI), a statewide Alaska Native nonprofit, worked with Museums Alaska to host a cohort of museum professionals committed to reimagining and fostering meaningful relationships with Alaska’s Tribes and Indigenous peoples. FAI hosted a series of interactive dialogues customized for museum professionals through methods that are grounded in Indigenous values and ways of knowing, incorporating social technologies to host provocative dialogues that advance the needs of Indigenous peoples and partners statewide. Participants learned how to have respectful and meaningful conversations about racism, equity, stewardship, and other challenging topics that continually arise in the field.

The program’s goal was to transform institutions that are uniquely positioned to protect culturally significant artifacts and share about the lives of Alaska Native people, past and present. Discussion topics included repatriation, Tribal sovereignty, and access to ancestral knowledge and objects. We invited participants to engage in this unique opportunity as we challenged assumptions and the ways they impact the museum institutions, our patrons and Indigenous peoples.

There were two ways to participate: engaging fully as a cohort participant, or as a webinar-only attendee. We wanted to keep a record of our cohort—expectations, schedule, etc.—so we have kept our 2022 program information below. 

We also wanted to share the six webinar recordings and discussion questions developed by First Alaskans Institute. Please feel free to use these webinar recordings and questions in training sessions with your own museum. It is our hope that the thoughts shared in the webinars and your subsequent staff discussions will help spark change in your organization’s policies and practices related to your Indigenous collections, staff, partners/collaborators, and visitors.

If you’d like to share any thoughts or have questions about the webinars or cohort, you can us.

Centering Indigenous Knowledge – Webinar 1

Centering Indigenous Knowledge Webinar – Discussion Questions:

  • What are you still reflecting on from the webinar?
  • List problematic ways museums interact with Indigenous communities, culture, and knowledge.
  • TEDx Talk – Museums have a dark past, but we can fix that | Chip Colwell | TEDxMileHigh – YouTube  – How does his story/presentation help us/you think about decolonization? Seven-minute writing exercise.
  • What milestones and action steps need to be taken at your museum to reach your previous visions and the webinar speaker visions for the future?
  • In what ways does your museum currently share a Western or colonial perspective vs an Indigenous perspective?

Alaska Native Community Engagement & Trust Building  – Webinar 2

Alaska Native Community Engagement & Trust Building Webinar – Discussion Questions:

  • What are you still reflecting on from the webinar?
  • Whose comfort are we preserving in the decisions that we’re making?
  • To create museum spaces where native people and our histories are included, visible, and honored, what issues do we need to address?
    • Create a list of issues and then discuss: what’s present, what’s possible, and what’s missing in order to create change?

Tribal Sovereignty and its Applicability to Museums – Webinar 3

Tribal Sovereignty and its Applicability to Museums Webinar – Discussion Questions:

  • What are you still reflecting on from the webinar?
  • Think about three topics that you would like to work on and dig a little deeper. What is it going to take to strengthen your relationship with Alaska Native Tribes?
    • Talk about what the problem is, what is the solution, and what are the steps that are necessary to get there.

The Necessity of Access to Sacred Objects – Webinar 4

The Necessity of Access to Sacred Objects Webinar – Discussion Questions:

  • What are you still reflecting on from the webinar?
  • Take a look at the policy of your museum, what is the current process to access sacred objects? Is there anything that jumps out that would create a barrier for Tribes/Indigenous people to access their sacred objects?

Repatriation and the Treatment of Our Ancestors – Webinar 5

Repatriation and the Treatment of Our Ancestors Webinar – Discussion Questions:

  • What are you still reflecting on from the webinar?
  • Identify what your museum’s protocols are around repatriation and have conversations with your colleagues at work around their philosophies on the protocols of repatriation.
  • What could repatriation be? What does the word repatriation mean? What could it mean? How can we update NAGPRA? And make repatriation work better?
  • What about Indigenous knowledge? What does knowledge repatriation look like?
  • We have focused on institutional and government changes, but what about personal goals. Think about what you are going to do—a personal commitment on the change that needs to happen.

Decolonizing Museums – Webinar 6

Decolonizing Museums Webinar – Discussion Questions:

  • What are you still reflecting on from the webinar?
  • Research a topic that we’ve covered that you want a better understanding of. If you are in a group discussion, come prepared to talk about highlights from your research.
  • Create goals to build and improve relationships with Alaska Native communities:
    • Create a Personal Goal – to improve your knowledge or practice
    • Create an Interpersonal Goal – to improve the relationships you have personally
    • Create an Institutional Goal(s) – to improve your organization
    • Create a Systemic Goal – to improve the system as a whole



The cohort, consisting of museum leadership – directors, program managers, and board members – will convene virtually for two 3-hour sessions over six weeks, July 19th to September 8th. All participants will commit to effecting change in their organizations by incorporating lessons learned from the cohort experience. To foster collaboration both within and between museums, each participating institution will send two people; one should be a member of management authorized to enact change within the organization and the second a member of the staff that can be a thought partner and helper to effectuate identified change.

Participation in all sessions is encouraged in order to get the most out of this program. Space is extremely limited and will be capped at 12 organizations for the cohort.

The cohort experience will kick off with two foundational two-day trainings, an Alaska Native Dialogue on Racial Equity (ANDORE) in Museums conversation and an Alaska Native Governance and Protocols (ANG&P) training. ANDORE is centered on preparing museum staff to share truths related to Indigenous peoples’ cultures and accurate histories to museum patrons, while ANG&P focuses on the understanding the layers of governance in the Alaska Native community, recognition of place, cultural diversity, geographic distinctions, and unique practices and protocols of Native peoples, with special attention given to strengthening knowledge and understanding between Alaskans, and highlighting potential opportunities to partner and engage across Alaska. The initial, foundational trainings will be required for all cohort participants.

The following six weeks will feature open-to-the-public webinars on various topics (outlined below) every Tuesday, followed by private interactive cohort discussions on Thursday. Additional reading and multimedia materials around the topics will be provided to participants. The webinars will be open for participation and recorded for those who can’t attend or want to share with their staff. The interactive discussions will be a private, safe space for cohort participants to engage in deeper dialogue about the webinar topics, share experiences and identify solutions to creating organizational change.



If you are not able to participate in the cohort, you may still attend the webinars. Webinars will be held every Tuesday, starting July 26th, for six weeks. The webinars will be free to the entire Alaska museum and cultural organization community—including volunteers and board members.

Webinars will also be made available on the First Alaskans Institute YouTube Channel.


If you are unable to participate in the cohort, but would like to sign up for any of the webinars, you can register on our events page. Webinars are free to all Alaska museum professionals and volunteers, as well as to any Indigenous peoples. For those based outside of the state who are not Indigenous, the webinars are $10 each.

As a reminder, if you would like to join the cohort, email Dixie Clough with the name, email addresses, and titles of both cohort participants from your organization. She will register you for all trainings, webinars, and discussions.

The webinars will prioritize giving voice to Indigenous people, who are not often heard on these topics.

*Schedule & topics are subject to change.

This project was co-hosted by Museums Alaska and First Alaskans Institute and was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.