FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Efforts to explore the 19th century intersection of Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and New England cultures could get several million dollars under the education bill approved by Congress.
The bill authorizes grants to support educational, exchange and internship programs to help people in the far-flung regions learn about their shared history.
The language was a joint effort of U.S. Sens. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.
In the 19th century, according to the bill, ships from Salem, Mass., visited Alaska, where crews traded for fur. The ships continued to Hawaii, where they traded for sandalwood, and then embarked for China.
At the same time, whaling ships from New Bedford, Mass., visited Alaska's Arctic coast before also heading to Hawaii.
To investigate and revive the connections, the education bill authorizes at least $2 million each for the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts and the Inupiat Heritage Center in Barrow.
It also calls for at least $1 million each for educational programs at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Alaska, the Bishop Museum in Hawaii and the Peabody-Essex Museum in Massachusetts.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Bishop and Peabody-Essex museums would also get $1 million each for internships to train Alaska and Hawaii Natives and low-income Massachusetts residents for careers in ''cultural institutions.''
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