The Department of Anthropology at the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences will present a lecture, “Tlingit Relationships with Sea Otters: What can we learn from zooarchaeology?” with University of Oregon’s Madonna L. Moss, professor of anthropology and curator of zooarchaeology.
The lecture will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, in Giffels Auditorium on the second floor of Old Main, as part of the Robert L. Stigler Lecture in Anthropology and Archaeology series.
The event is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception with Moss immediately following the lecture.
Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) were once common in the North Pacific but were extirpated from southeast Alaska by about A.D. 1830. In the 1960s, sea otters were re-introduced and now their populations are rapidly increasing.
Today, sea otters and people are competing for some of the same commercially important invertebrates. After having been absent for nearly 150 years, the re-entry of sea otters into the food web has unsettled people who make their living from the sea. While some communities perceive sea otters as a threat to their economic livelihoods, some environmentalists view the return of sea otters as restoration of the marine ecosystem.
The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972) authorizes any Alaska Native who resides in Alaska to harvest sea otters for the purpose of subsistence provided that the harvest is not wasteful. Some are seeking to define “traditional” Tlingit use of sea otters as not only utilizing their pelts, but as consuming them as food: in their view both of these conditions have to be met before Alaska Natives would be entitled to harvest sea otters. This project investigates the zooarchaeological and ethnoarchaeological evidence as to whether Tlingit ancestors consumed sea otters as food in the past.
Moss is professor of anthropological archaeology at the University of Oregon. She has led and participated in multiple projects, including the Coffman Cove Community Archaeology Project. She is currently working with the Sitka Tribe on The Archaeology of Herring: Reconstructing the Past to Redeem the Future and with Sealaska Heritage Institute on “Did Tlingit and Haida eat sea otters during the pre-contact period?”
She has taught university courses for 30 years and has mentored dozens of graduate students. Her books include Northwest Coast: Archaeology as Deep History and The Archaeology of North Pacific Fisheries. Her current research is focused on how use of animal resources is foundational to the cultural identity and heritage of Indigenous groups, and how zooarchaeology can contribute knowledge to improve fish and wildlife management and simultaneously support Alaska Natives in their contemporary subsistence practices.
Moss also serves as curator of zooarchaeology for the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History.
Moss’s lecture is a part of the Robert L. Stigler Lecture in Anthropology and Archaeology series. The series is supported through a trust established by Mr. and Mrs. Robert L. Stigler of Pine Bluff, in their son’s memory. Its purpose is to bring distinguished scholars to address the university community and the public on diverse archaeological topics. The Stiglers’ generous endowment of this lecture series is an especially fitting memorial to their son, who enjoyed a wide-ranging professional career in archaeology, and provides opportunities for all to share in the knowledge of past peoples and cultures.