Making Connections at Egan Library

Students are back on campus and with them comes great energy and so many opportunities to build new relationships and make new connections.

Last month, I made a wonderful connection that I want to share. As a librarian, it’s my goal to build relevant collections that reflect the interests of students and support academic programs at UAS. Occasionally I get to witness moments in which students find the right book at the right time or better yet, find themselves in a book! 

I first connected with James Williams at the end of 2022 UAS New Student Orientation when he asked me for help finding books on Northwest Coast Formline. I introduced myself as we headed to checkout the Cyril George Indigenous Knowledge Collection, a special collection named after Ḵaalḵáawu Cyril George, a Tlingit leader from the Deisheetaan Clan of Angoon. The Cyril George Collection honors Indigenous voices and Alaska Native Knowledge in a collection of over 3,000 volumes on the main floor of Egan Library.

James is from Metlakatla, his crest is Killer Whale and he is from the House of the Blue-Billed Duck. James is also an artist and eager to browse  books on formline, carving and Alaska Native Artists. I asked if he knew the work of Nicolas Galatin and James asked if I knew the work of Wayne Hewson. While sharing highlights of each artist’s work, James asked if we had the book Children of the First People: Fresh Voices of Alaska’s Native Kids which we found on nearby shelves. A proud smile spread across James’ face as he opened the book and showed me that he was featured in the book’s chapter about Metlakatla. 

In one photo, James wears his Killer Whale regalia with unique gold elements designed and painted by his uncle, Peter Clevenger. As a youth, Clevenger  gave James the nickname, King James. James described the influence of another uncle, Tsimshian carver Wayne Hewson. Hewson’s Sm’algyax name was “Sm Xsgyiik” meaning “True Eagle.” Wayne was also one of the Eagle Clan representatives to give James the name “Lukwil Gatgyeda T’aamtsooyax” which could be interpreted as “he who is at the head of the canoe” or “he who is a leader.” Hewson carved dozens of totem poles that stand at Ketchikan’s Rainforest Sanctuary, and contributed to the design and painting of the Metlakatla Long House (pictured above with a young James standing in the foreground). Hewson passed away in August and James’ hair is still growing back since cutting it in mourning. 

I am so grateful to have spent a Friday afternoon connecting and learning from new UAS student James Williams. We have so much to learn from each other: Faculty learn from students, students learn from each other. It is a great privilege to work in a library committed to centering Indigenous Knowledge and creating a safe space for the exchange of ideas. Thank you, James.

James in his Killer Whale regalia from the book Children of the First People: Fresh Voices of Alaska’s Native Kids.

by Jonas Lamb, Public Services Librarian, Egan Library

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