In 1997 when the Tundra Times newspaper went bankrupt, Native Alaskans lost a unifying voice, an ardent advocate for indigenous rights, and a living link to the last 40 pivotal years of history. The Tuzzy Consortium Library aims to resurrect that voice through the Tundra Times Photograph Project. To that end, we scanned the wealth of the photograph collection of the Tundra Times newspaper.
The Tundra Times was the voice of Alaska Natives statewide from 1962 to 1997. At the time, the idea of a newspaper written by and for Alaska Natives was audacious. In the early 1960s, the state's indigenous residents were a disenfranchised people. With its first edition, the eight-page biweekly established a fascinating mix of articles ranging from politics and Native issues to coverage of the everyday experience of Native Alaskans. From the beginning, the paper sought to unify Natives. "Tundra," the basic ground cover of Alaska was chosen as its name. The masthead, designed by editor Howard Rock, an Iñupiat Eskimo from Point Hope, incorporated Eskimo, Indian and Aleut scenes that were flanked with "Iñupiat Paitot" (the people's heritage) in Iñupiat and "Dena Nena Henash" (the land speaks) in Athabascan. The paper's editorial policy was two-fold: to serve as the "medium to aid (Natives) in their struggle for just determination and settlement of their enormous problems...(and) to keep informed on matters of interest to all Natives of Alaska."
In 1997 the Tundra Times ceased publication. The Ukpeagvik Iñupiat Corporation (UIC) of Barrow acquired its archives and copyrights, including a photograph collection that consists of negatives and over 15,000 black and white prints. A year later the collection was turned over to the Tuzzy Consortium Library. In September 2000 a grant was received from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to archive and preserve the collection. Around 5,000 of the images will be digitized and published on a web site. The Tuzzy Library is also creating an indexed database of the photos, designed to record all known information and archival metadata for each photograph.
The entire database, and a low-resolution copy of each image, is available to the public over the Internet. Compact Discs of the archives, containing high-resolution copies of each image, are available to Native groups and other interested institutions for uses such as school curriculum development or historical research. Further, individuals and family members of those pictured are able to request photo-quality printouts of images.