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Alutiiq anthropologist honored as a MacArthur 'genius'

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/rural/story/9329624p-9244769c.html Alutiiq anthropologist honored as a MacArthur genius Award comes with $500,000 for
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 26, 2007
      http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/rural/story/9329624p-9244769c.html

      Alutiiq anthropologist honored as a MacArthur 'genius'
      Award comes with $500,000 for Haakanson

      By MIKE DUNHAM
      mdunham@...

      (Published: September 25, 2007)

      An Alaska Native anthropologist from the Kodiak Island village of Old
      Harbor has received one of the most prestigious -- and lucrative -- awards
      for intellectual achievement in America. Sven Haakanson, 41, is among 24
      new MacArthur Fellows announced Monday.

      A press release from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's
      Fellows Program called Haakanson "the driving force behind the
      revitalization of indigenous language, culture and customs in an isolated
      region of North America." It also mentioned his artistic accomplishments as
      a mask carver and photographer.

      The so-called "Genius Award" comes with a f $500,000 grant that recipients
      may spend as they see fit. The selection process is famed for its secrecy
      and candidates usually have no clue that they are under consideration.

      Haakanson learned of the award in a crack-of-dawn phone call on Monday of
      last week/ "They woke me up at 6:30 in the morning," he told the Daily
      News. "Anybody calling you that early, you think: Is this a joke?"

      When he realized the caller was serious, he felt humbled, he said. "To have
      someone even nominate me is wonderful."

      Then the caller informed him that he would receive a half million dollars,
      no strings attached, over the next five years.

      "I was shocked," Haakanson said, still sounding a little breathless.

      For 20 years, Haakanson earned money as a commercial fisherman. He is the
      son of the late Sven Haakanson Sr., the longtime mayor of Old Harbor and a
      respected elder.

      The younger Haakanson said his interest in anthropology began when he
      attended a youth conference in Denmark in 1988 and heard University of
      Alaska Fairbanks professor Lydia Black speak about the history of "Aleut
      people."

      "I thought to myself, 'Why am I on the other side of the world learning
      about my culture when I should be at home doing that?' " After the lecture,
      he sat and talked with Black for an hour or more.

      Inspired by Black, he attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he
      received a bachelor's in English in 1992. He then went on to graduate
      studies at Harvard University, where he earned his master's and doctorate
      in anthropology. He was selected as the executive director of the new
      Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak in 1999, a year before receiving his doctorate,
      and had to defer taking the post until he could finish his degree.

      Through the museum, Haakanson has spearheaded efforts to acquire and
      exhibit rare items from Alutiiq history scattered in collections around the
      world. His recent projects include taking a group of Kodiak elders and
      artists to France to inspect Alutiiq masks collected in Alaska in the 19th
      century. As a result of that trip, some of those masks will be displayed in
      Kodiak, then in Anchorage next year.

      He's also in the process of identifying a trove of petroglyphs and other
      stone carvings near the village of Akhiok, on the south coast of Kodiak.
      Working with villagers, he said, he has been able to locate 800 such
      carvings in recent years.

      He relishes such fieldwork, he said, but can break away only for about one
      week each year. Administrative responsibilities keep him near the office in
      Kodiak, where he lives with his wife, Balika, and daughters, Eilidh and
      Isabella.

      He hopes that the MacArthur money will free him up to get out to historic
      Alutiiq sites more often, he said. And some will be used to send his
      mother, Mary, on a pilgrimage to Orthodox churches in Russia.

      But the majority will go into savings, Haakanson said, because "I don't
      have retirement for my job at the museum."

      This is the second time an Alaskan has won a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2004,
      Katherine Gottlieb, president of Southcentral Foundation, received the
      award for helping to streamline the health care services for Alaska
      Natives.

      Also on this year's list of 24 "geniuses" named by the MacArthur Foundation
      today are scientists, engineers and artists, including short-story writer
      Stuart Dybek, blues musician Corey Harris, historian Jay Rubenstein and
      painter Joan Snyder.

      John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellows

      Proposed fellows are suggested by anonymous nominators who are selected by
      the foundation. The 20 to 25 fellows chosen each year receive $500,000 over
      five years to spend as they please. The MacArthur Foundation is a private
      institution named for insurance mogul John D. MacArthur and his wife,
      Catherine. John MacArthur was one of the wealthiest people in the United
      States when he died in 1978. The MacArthur Foundation makes about $225
      million in grants per year. Some of this year's fellows:

      • Mercedes Doretti, a forensic anthropologist unearthing evidence of crimes
      against humanity and of human losses omitted from historical record.

      • Cheryl Hayashi, a spider-silk biologist revealing the architecture,
      evolution and structural properties of spider silks and the possibilities
      of developing new synthetic materials.

      • Saul Griffith, an inventor engineering innovations that include optics,
      high-performance materials and nanotechnology.

      • Paul Rothemund, a nanotechnologist folding DNA to create complex shapes
      and patterns that provide a powerful tool for building devices from single
      atoms and molecules.

      • Lisa Cooper, a public health physician improving medical outcomes by
      analyzing and developing new approaches to patient-physician
      communications.

      • Shen Wei, a choreographer drawing from Western dance traditions and
      Chinese opera, acrobatics and martial arts to create bold and visually
      arresting dance-theater.

      Source: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
    • Rob Schmidt
      http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/northwest/story/889417.html Alutiiq anthropologist honored as a MacArthur genius Award comes with $500,000 for Haakanson
      Message 2 of 2 , Nov 23 12:59 PM
        http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/northwest/story/889417.html

        Alutiiq anthropologist honored as a MacArthur 'genius'
        Award comes with $500,000 for Haakanson

        By MIKE DUNHAM
        mdunham@...
        Published: 09/22/09 7:42 pm

        An Alaska Native anthropologist from the Kodiak Island village of Old Harbor
        has received one of the most prestigious -- and lucrative -- awards for
        intellectual achievement in America. Sven Haakanson, 41, is among 24 new
        MacArthur Fellows announced Monday.

        A press release from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's
        Fellows Program called Haakanson "the driving force behind the
        revitalization of indigenous language, culture and customs in an isolated
        region of North America." It also mentioned his artistic accomplishments as
        a mask carver and photographer.

        The so-called "Genius Award" comes with a f $500,000 grant that recipients
        may spend as they see fit. The selection process is famed for its secrecy
        and candidates usually have no clue that they are under consideration.

        Haakanson learned of the award in a crack-of-dawn phone call on Monday of
        last week/ "They woke me up at 6:30 in the morning," he told the Daily News.
        "Anybody calling you that early, you think: Is this a joke?"

        When he realized the caller was serious, he felt humbled, he said. "To have
        someone even nominate me is wonderful."

        Then the caller informed him that he would receive a half million dollars,
        no strings attached, over the next five years.

        "I was shocked," Haakanson said, still sounding a little breathless.

        For 20 years, Haakanson earned money as a commercial fisherman. He is the
        son of the late Sven Haakanson Sr., the longtime mayor of Old Harbor and a
        respected elder.

        The younger Haakanson said his interest in anthropology began when he
        attended a youth conference in Denmark in 1988 and heard University of
        Alaska Fairbanks professor Lydia Black speak about the history of "Aleut
        people."

        "I thought to myself, 'Why am I on the other side of the world learning
        about my culture when I should be at home doing that?' " After the lecture,
        he sat and talked with Black for an hour or more.

        Inspired by Black, he attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he
        received a bachelor's in English in 1992. He then went on to graduate
        studies at Harvard University, where he earned his master's and doctorate in
        anthropology. He was selected as the executive director of the new Alutiiq
        Museum in Kodiak in 1999, a year before receiving his doctorate, and had to
        defer taking the post until he could finish his degree.

        Through the museum, Haakanson has spearheaded efforts to acquire and exhibit
        rare items from Alutiiq history scattered in collections around the world.
        His recent projects include taking a group of Kodiak elders and artists to
        France to inspect Alutiiq masks collected in Alaska in the 19th century. As
        a result of that trip, some of those masks will be displayed in Kodiak, then
        in Anchorage next year.

        He's also in the process of identifying a trove of petroglyphs and other
        stone carvings near the village of Akhiok, on the south coast of Kodiak.
        Working with villagers, he said, he has been able to locate 800 such
        carvings in recent years.

        He relishes such fieldwork, he said, but can break away only for about one
        week each year. Administrative responsibilities keep him near the office in
        Kodiak, where he lives with his wife, Balika, and daughters, Eilidh and
        Isabella.

        He hopes that the MacArthur money will free him up to get out to historic
        Alutiiq sites more often, he said. And some will be used to send his mother,
        Mary, on a pilgrimage to Orthodox churches in Russia.

        But the majority will go into savings, Haakanson said, because "I don't have
        retirement for my job at the museum."

        This is the second time an Alaskan has won a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2004,
        Katherine Gottlieb, president of Southcentral Foundation, received the award
        for helping to streamline the health care services for Alaska Natives.

        Also on this year's list of 24 "geniuses" named by the MacArthur Foundation
        today are scientists, engineers and artists, including short-story writer
        Stuart Dybek, blues musician Corey Harris, historian Jay Rubenstein and
        painter Joan Snyder.

        John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellows

        Proposed fellows are suggested by anonymous nominators who are selected by
        the foundation. The 20 to 25 fellows chosen each year receive $500,000 over
        five years to spend as they please. The MacArthur Foundation is a private
        institution named for insurance mogul John D. MacArthur and his wife,
        Catherine. John MacArthur was one of the wealthiest people in the United
        States when he died in 1978. The MacArthur Foundation makes about $225
        million in grants per year. Some of this year's fellows:

        . Mercedes Doretti, a forensic anthropologist unearthing evidence of crimes
        against humanity and of human losses omitted from historical record.

        . Cheryl Hayashi, a spider-silk biologist revealing the architecture,
        evolution and structural properties of spider silks and the possibilities of
        developing new synthetic materials.

        . Saul Griffith, an inventor engineering innovations that include optics,
        high-performance materials and nanotechnology.

        . Paul Rothemund, a nanotechnologist folding DNA to create complex shapes
        and patterns that provide a powerful tool for building devices from single
        atoms and molecules.

        . Lisa Cooper, a public health physician improving medical outcomes by
        analyzing and developing new approaches to patient-physician communications.

        . Shen Wei, a choreographer drawing from Western dance traditions and
        Chinese opera, acrobatics and martial arts to create bold and visually
        arresting dance-theater.

        Source: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
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