Robert McGhee | Monday, 1 November 2010 - Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Date(s): 
1 November 2010 to 3 November 2010
Speaker: 
Robert McGhee

Dr. Robert McGhee visited Cordova, Alaska on 1-3 November 2010. He presented several programs during his visit to community members, students, Native Elders, and Native Corporation staff. His programs compared the perception of the Arctic as seen through the written history of western civilization, to the perception of the Arctic as viewed through the eyes of the native Inuit people over time through the study of archaeology.

Dr. McGhee arrived in Cordova Monday evening. His first scheduled appearance was on Tuesday morning to Cordova Middle and High School students. He then presented his program to the Native Elders and Native Corporation staff during a potluck luncheon.

Following the luncheon, Dr. McGhee went to the U.S. Forest Service local office and gave a presentation to the Cordova community. The community presentation was broadcast live to the Prince William Sound Community College in Valdez, Alaska where attendees had the opportunity to interact and ask questions. Dr. McGhee left Cordova on Wednesday afternoon to return to his home in Canada.

Read Dr. McGhee's description of his lecture:

The Last Imaginary Place

To southerners the Arctic is seen as a region of alien landscapes, a place of dangerous and icy beauty. This perception is filtered through millennia of rumor and travelers' tales that have reached more southerly regions. Since the time of the ancient Greeks, stories of frozen seas, unicorn horns, and endless daylight have gradually accumulated to form the fantastic Arctic that is seen through the window of western culture. Although a century of scientific exploration has yielded a more realistic view of the arctic environment, it has done little to challenge the prevailing perception of arctic peoples as the isolated survivors of an ancient and primitive way of life. Archaeology provides a much different picture of Inuit history, one that is varied, interesting, and driven by the same motives of personal accomplishment and economic advantage as any other people. Southerners, and southern-based governments, should be aware of the consequences of dealing with real people as the products of our historical imagination.