Culture and Environment in Sitka, Alaska

  • Course name: Anthropology 280 and Environmental Studies 280
  • Dates: July 26-August 7, 2021
  • Info Session: Tuesday, April 13, 12 pM-1:00 PM 
  • Contact: Prof. George Gmelch
  • 2020 Syllabus.

This field course examines the relationship between culture and the
environment in the unique island setting of Sitka, Alaska. Students
learn about the region’s marine and terrestrial environments, its
occupation and use by the indigenous Tlingit Indians and
Euro-Americans, and contemporary controversies surrounding the use of
its natural resources – its fish, timber, and natural beauty. Students
learn about Tlingit and Western views of nature and compare their
ideas about stewardship and conservation.  We will also learn about
current conservation initiatives in the town. Wherever possible the
emphasis is on experiential learning.  There is a fair amount of
outdoor activity including hiking and camping.

This three-minute video about Stanford University’s Sitka field course
shows the place and the issues.  USF course is very similar but with
more emphasis on culture and anthropology:


What Students are Saying:

Having the opportunity to travel to Sitka has been one of the most valuable learning experiences of my entire college career. The ability to work with a community and culture hands-on instead of sitting in a lecture room allowed me to understand they Native Alaskan and white heritage, the importance of wild foods in their lives, and their views on the environment, all in a holistic, cohesive way.  Sitka is a beautiful town, full of diverse people and experiences. Getting to learn about it has been a privilege.

Marisa Tanaka

The Alaska field program was, without a doubt, the most inspiring class I have taken at USF. We learned so much about Native Tlingit culture, the Tongass National Forest, the seafood industry, conservation, and how local people interact with the beautiful and wild environment of SE Alaska. This program is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from experts hands-on, while being immersed in a stunning wilderness.

Hugh Nicklason

Participating in the Alaska immersion program was one of the best opportunities I’ve had in all my time at USF. From meeting local people and forming friendships with other students to learning about the local culture, sustainability issues, and Sitka's stunning natural environment, it was truly an invaluable experience.

Maria Delgado