Dr. Alexandra M. Peck is an anthropologist, art historian, and material culture specialist whose scholarship primarily concerns Native tribes and First Nations in the Pacific Northwest. Using a multi-modal approach, she draws upon oral histories, objects, interviews, land-based knowledge, and archives to shed a comprehensive light on historical Northwest Coast art. Her work examines how art and artifact represent experiences of cultural exchange, adaptation, and change, with an emphasis on Coast Salish territories during and prior to the colonial period. Peck is particularly interested in the unique anomalies, contradictions, and ironies communicated in Northwest Coast art, as well as highlighting underrepresented and underrecognized artists and makers of the past.
With Dr. Adam Rorabaugh at Simon Fraser University, Peck serves as co-editor of Archaeology in Washington. Her past research investigated the intersections of totem poles, land reclamation, and modern Coast Salish identity, which form the basis for her first book, Totem Poles, a New Mode of Cultural Heritage? The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s Efforts to Restore Native Presence, Preserve History, & Combat Settler Colonial Amnesia. Peck’s prior publications explored the role of traditional waterways in Coast Salish women’s art forms, competing narratives symbolized by totem poles, ancient Coast Salish mortuary practices, living history museums in New England, and Tlingit regalia in the Journal of Northwest Anthropology and the Journal of American History. Her current projects are diverse, and embrace Indigenous cartography and decolonizing the idea of wilderness via art, as well as Pueblo-made tourist ceramics of the railroad era and gambling artifacts in ancient Indigenous societies.
Peck’s scholarship has been funded by institutions such as the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund, via the Reed Foundation. Awarded her Ph.D. from Brown University, where she was a student of Drs. Patricia Rubertone and Robert Preucel, she also holds a certificate from Brown University’s John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities & Cultural Heritage. Peck has worked as a NAGPRA consultant for New England museums including the Smith College Museum of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum. In 2017, she completed a survey of Coast Salish tribal museums in Washington. In addition, she has curated and acted as a consultant for various museum, gallery, and university exhibits. Exhibit themes included 20th century female Native artists and collectors, contemporary Coast Salish and Makah art, the material culture of enslaved Indigenous and African American individuals, the 2016 Standing Rock/Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests, and historical Inuit experiences with anthropologists and archaeologists.
Prior to joining AHVA, Peck served as Visiting Scholar of Indigenous Studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities’ Institute for Advanced Study, where her work with local Ojibwe and Dakota communities was supported by the Mellon Environmental, Place, & Community Initiative. While at the University of Minnesota, she was also a Residential Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study and a Visiting Art Critic for the Art Department. At UBC, Peck teaches courses on Native North American art, placing equal emphasis on both the aesthetic and cultural significance of historical objects.
Native American & First Nations art (pre-colonial and early colonial), Northwest Coast art, archaeology, material culture, cultural adaptation and exchange
“Mariners, Makers, Matriarchs: Changing Relationships Between Coast Salish Women & Water,” Open Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place, & Community 21, no.1 (2022): 7-29.
“Deconstructing Cultural Patterns in Anthropology: Totem Poles & the Diverse Native Narratives That They Elicit,” in Decolonizing Place-Based Arts Research, ed. Mary Modeen (University of Dundee Press, 2021), 22-33.
“‘We Didn’t Go Anywhere’: Restoring Jamestown S’Klallam Presence, Combating Settler Colonial Amnesia, & Engaging with Non-Natives in Western Washington,” Journal of Northwest Anthropology 55, no. 1 (2021): 105-134.
“Coast Salish Social Complexity, Community Ties, & Resistance: Using Mortuary Analysis to Identify Changes in Coast Salish Society Before, During, & After the Early Colonial Period,” Journal of Northwest Anthropology 54, no. 2 (2020): 175-202.
“Wampanoag Homesite: Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, Massachusetts,” Journal of American History 105, no. 3 (2018): 625-630.
“Give & Take: Shakee.át Entanglements,” Manual: A Journal About Art & Its Making 8, no.1 (2017): 51-60. Co-authored with Robert Preucel.