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Archaeology is an imprecise science.  Setting out to find something doesn’t mean that it is actually there to find! Museum Curator Patrick Saltonstall was reminded of this fact last October, during a survey of the Buskin River valley.

With funding from the Sun’aq tribe, Saltonstall and museum staffer Jill Lipka completed five days of investigation along the shores of Buskin lake and river.  Alutiiq people settled the banks of Kodiak’s resource rich salmon streams, including those of the Buskin.  A few sites were known in the drainage, but archaeologists had never reviewed the area thoroughly.  The Sun’aq Tribe wanted to correct this situation to insure the protection of ancestral settlements.

“We walked areas that had never been reviewed,” said Saltonstall.  “We examined eroding banks and areas disturbed by construction to look for buried materials.  We dug test pits in likely site locations.  We thought there would be additional sites, but we didn’t find any.”

Why?  Saltonstall believes that the answers lie in how Alutiiq people used the valley and not the disturbances of the past century. 

Read more: Settling the Buskin River Valley

Alutiiq weavers and museum staff members reveal weaving traditions in series of seven video podcasts, films of 4 to 7 minutes each.  Created by the video production company WonderVisions, these  films document the results of recent research on Alutiiq basketry. Viewers learn how the artists gained inspiration from studying ancestral baskets stored in a Russian museum, see how people weave, and learn of the cultural connections that working with grass provides.



My Basket

My Little Basket (5:15)

Elizabeth Peterson is learning Alutiiq weaving as an adult, a process that connects her to her ancestors.

Coral's Basket

Coral's Basket Feat: Russian Inspired (5:25)

A visit to St. Petersburg Russia and a collection of ancestral baskets inspired Coral Chernoff to weave a large carrying basket.


Coral's Cabinet

Coral's Cabinet (5:39)

Tour Coral Chernoff's workshop and see the materials she uses to create her artwork.


Grass Socks

Where are my grass socks? (7:27)

Weaving is a tradition in June Pardue's family.  She and her daughter Sofia explain the art and the connection it provides.

K1 Baskets

Karluk One Baskets (4:54)

Alutiiq Museum registrar Marnie Leist shares ancient Alutiiq basketry from the Karluk One site.


Collecting and Curing Grass (4:05)

Arlene Skinner, Melissa Berns, and others discuss the how wild rye grass becomes weaving material.


Teaching and Learning the Art of Grass Basket Weaving (7:17)

Weavers discuss how they learn and share their art.


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