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Lydia Black, 81; anthropologist who wrote books on Alaska

March 14, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Lydia T. Black, 81, an anthropologist who wrote several books on Alaska native culture and history, died Monday in Kodiak, Alaska. A cause of death had not been determined, but she had been suffering from liver failure, said one of her daughters, Zoe Pierson.

Black was born in Kiev in the former Soviet Union on Dec. 16, 1925, and came to the U.S. in 1950. She studied at Northeastern University and Brandeis University in the Boston area before receiving her doctorate from the University of Massachusetts. She became a professor of anthropology in 1973 at Providence College in Rhode Island and began teaching at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1984.

Black traveled in southwest Alaska throughout her career to research the culture and traditions of the region, specializing in the native people of the Aleutian Islands and the Kodiak Archipelago.

Black translated many firsthand accounts of native cultures written during the Russian colonial period in Alaska.

After retiring from the university in 1998, she continued to edit and write in Kodiak, where she helped translate and catalog the Russian archives of St. Herman Theological Seminary.

One of her best-known books, "Aleut Art" (1982) is a collection of documented art made by natives of the Aleutian Islands.

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