Sven Haakanson

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Sven Haakanson
Alma mater
Occupation Anthropologist, university teacher Edit this on Wikidata
Awards MacArthur Fellowship Edit this on Wikidata

Sven Haakanson, Jr. (born 1967) (Alutiiq) is an American anthropologist who has specialized in documenting and preserving the language and culture of the Alutiiq. He is former Executive Director of the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska. He is currently employed by the University of Washington, Seattle, and the Burke Museum. In 2007 he was a MacArthur Fellow award winner.

Early life and education[edit]

Sven Haakanson, Jr. was born in Old Harbor, Alaska, a small-remote-island village, into the Alutiiq people.a [1] His father, Sven Haakanson, Sr., was a community leader serving as the Mayor of Old Harbor and the president of the Old Harbor Tribal Council.[2][3] As a child, Haakanson never heard about the history of the Alutiit in school. When he tried to ask the tribal elders about how their ancestors lived in the past, only one told him about the traditions. That single elder taught Haakanson the Alutiiq language and the culture of the Alutiiq people.

He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks and graduated with a bachelor's in English in 1992. While in college, Haakanson was invited to attend the Inuit Studies Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the conference, he attended a lecture on Alutiiq culture. Looking back on the experience, he remarked, "I wondered why I had traveled to the other side of the world to learn about Alutiiq history and culture when I could be doing the same thing at home."[1]

Haakanson continued his studies as a graduate student in anthropology at Harvard University in 1992, receiving his MA in 1996 and PhD in 2000. The title of his doctoral dissertation was "Ethnoarchaeology of the Yamal Nenets: utilizing emic and etic evidence in the interpretation of archaeological residues."


Haakanson's research centers around documenting and preserving the language and culture of the Alutiit. Currently, there are only 24 fluent speakers of the Alutiiq language. Because of this, there is a focus on recording everyday speech.[4]

Haakanson was the executive director of the Alutiiq Museum and adjunct professor at Kodiak College from 2000 to 2013.[5] Since 2009, he has served as a board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.[6]

In 2013 he became associate professor at the University of Washington Department of Anthropology in Seattle, and curator of Native American collections at the University's Burke Museum. He gained tenure in early 2016.

See also[edit]

Awa'uq Massacre [7]



  • ^a The Alutiiq People are known by many names, including the Pacific Yupik and the Sugpiaq. Alutiiq is used throughout for consistency reasons due to the lack of another preferred name.



  • Braun, David (2011). "For Alaska's Alutiiq, the Future May Be Found in the Past". National Geographic Society. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  • Fitzhugh, Ben (2003). The Evolution of Complex Hunter-Gatherers: Archaeological Evidence from the North Pacific. New York: Springer. ISBN 978-0-306-47853-6. 
  • Nicholas, George (2010). Being and Becoming Indigenous Archaeologists. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. ISBN 978-1-59874-497-2. 
  • Rostkowski, Joėlle (2012). Conversations With Remarkable Native Americans. Albany: SUNY Press. ISBN 978-1-4384-4175-7. 
  • "Sven Haakanson". MacArthur Foundation. 2007. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  • "Sven Haakanson - New Board Member". Native Arts & Cultures Foundation. 2009. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  • "Sven Haakanson, Sr". National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. 2012. Retrieved 11 November 2012. 
  • Haakanson, Sven David (2000). Ethnoarchaeology of the Yamal Nenets: Utilizing Emic and Etic Evidence in the Interpretation of Archaeological Residues. Ethnoarchaeology (PhD). Harvard University. pp. 472 pages. 

External links[edit]