Ilaten Kangiyarmiuwat. - (Some of) Your relatives are from Kaguyak.
The village of Kaguyak lies on the Aliulik Peninsula at the head of Kodiak Island’s Kaguyak Bay. Today, this once-flourishing coastal village is overgrown with brush and few remnants of its habitation remain. The fourth tidal wave generated by the Great Alaska Earthquake flattened the village in 1964 and killed two of its residents. Kaguyak was never resettled.
Prehistoric people lived in Kaguyak Bay and were among the first Kodiak Islanders to encounter Russian traders. However, the historic village of Kaguyak developed in the 1860s when people displaced from the nearby village of Old Kaguyak by the smallpox epidemic returned to their homeland. The nineteenth-century village was large, with many homes and several stores. The community rested on a small spit fronting a freshwater lake at the head of the Kaguayk Bay. Here, residents enjoyed an abundance of salmon, ducks, and ptarmigan. Kaguyak was also a destination for Alutiiq hunters, who traveled to the village to trade their furs for food, tools, and household supplies. Kaguyak’s population declined with the decimation of the sea otter population. By the early twentieth century, the village had less than one hundred residents. In 1964, only thirty-four people lived in the community.
Following the destruction from the 1964 tidal wave, the residents of Kaguyak relocated to Anchorage and then Kodiak, before settling permanently in the communities of Old Harbor and Akhiok. Villagers considered resettling Kaguyak, but opted to move into large neighboring communities where many had family ties. However, Kaguyak has not been forgotten. Alutiiq people continue to use the area as a seasonal fish camp, there is still a Kaguyak Tribal Council, and the village corporation that represents the Alutiiq people of southern Kodiak Island — Akhiok-Kaguyak Incorporated — bears its name.
Photo: Kaguyak Village, courtesy Tim nd Norman Smith.
Kal’uni sullianga. - I was born in Karluk.
The Alutiiq village of Karluk lies on the southwestern shore of Kodiak Island. Tucked between treeless rolling hills, the community rests on the banks of Karluk River. This is the longest fresh watercourse in the archipelago and once was the region’s most productive salmon stream. All five varieties of Pacific salmon still spawn in huge quantities in the Karluk, with fish continuously available from late May until late October. The river also supports steelehead trout.
Today less than forty people live in Karluk. This is perhaps the lowest population in a millennium or longer. Archaeological data indicate that the area has been intensively occupied for at least five thousand years. The fish resources that supported Alutiiq communities also drew Russian and American colonists to this corner of the archipelago. In 1786, Russian traders established a workstation (artel) with salmon drying racks and later a saltery on the north side of Karluk Lagoon. Here, fish were processed for shipment to other Russian posts. In 1878, the Karluk Packing Company built Kodiak’s first cannery on Karluk spit, which was followed quickly by many others. By the later 1800s, millions of salmon were processed annually at Karluk. This intensive fishing seriously depleted salmon stocks. Efforts to bolster the population with a hatchery failed, and the canneries were forced to consolidate. The surviving cannery eventually moved to Larsen Bay.
With careful management, Karluk’s salmon runs rallied in the twentieth century. Although the fish population has never returned to historically observed levels, the area still supports huge fish populations. Village residents continue to make a living from these runs, both as subsistence fishermen and as guides to the many sport fishermen who visit each year.
Photo: Aerial view of the village of Karluk, ca. 1985.
Kenaayut taugkut. - Those are Kenai Peninsula people.
Although it is separated from the Kodiak Archipelago by miles of open ocean, the Kenai Peninsula shares many features with the Kodiak region. Geologically, the two are formed of the same rocks, squeezed and folded into a continuous set of mountains. The Kodiak Mountains are the westernmost extension of the Kenai-Chugach Mountains, the steep-sided ridges that form the spine of the Kenai Peninsula and her fjorded southern coast. As on Kodiak, glaciers carved deep narrow valleys out of the Kenai’s bedrock, creating its rugged topography. Glacial ice is also responsible for separating the Kenai from Kodiak. Massive tongues of ice cut channels between the regions, which the sea flooded when the earth’s climate warmed and the glaciers retreated.
The biological and cultural histories of the region are also similar. Although the Kenai has been forested much longer than Kodiak and supports a wider variety of terrestrial mammals, its sea life is quite similar. Salmon, shellfish, sea mammals, and sea birds abound, especially along the southern coast. Archaeological data suggest that Alutiiq ancestors colonized this region, particularly Kachemak Bay, at least six thousand years ago. They were not alone, however. Indian societies also thrived on the Kenai, although in more northerly regions. Today there are two Alutiiq villages on the Kenai Peninsula: Nanwalek and Port Graham. Alutiiq people also live in Seldovia, Homer, Kenai, and Soldotna.
Image: Map of the Alutiiq world showing Kenai Peninsula communities.
Qaku-mi angiciqsit Sun’amen? - When will you come back to Kodiak?
Established by fur traders in 1793, Kodiak was the second major Russian settlement on Kodiak Island and the first capital of Russian America. It was originally called Pavlovskaia Gavan, Paul’s Harbor, or St. Paul’s Harbor. Although archaeological sites indicate that Alutiiq people lived in the area around the current city for millennia, the historic era Native village, Tangirnaq, was on nearby Woody Island.
Today, many Alutiiq families live in Kodiak because it is the economic center of the archipelago with job opportunities, stores, and other conveniences. However, they maintain strong connections with their ancestral villages, returning seasonally to hunt and fish and on holidays to visit family. In 2010, the city of Kodiak was home to 6,130 people, 594 of them Native. Many of the city’s Alutiiq residents work in the region’s major industries: fishing, logging, and tourism.
Kodiak’s Alutiiq people belong to a variety of Native corporations and tribal councils. Those who have ancestral ties to the Chiniak Bay region are enrolled in either Leisnoi, Inc., or Native of Kodiak, Inc.—regional corporations formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. These corporations are economic entities, designed to administer a portion of the lands and funds returned to Native people by the settlement. In contrast, tribal councils, including the Woody Island Tribal Council and the Sun’aq Tribal Council, tend to the political, social, and cultural affairs of their members.
Image: Watercolor of historic Kodiak by Helen Simeonoff, Alutiiq Museum collections.
Tamamta uyaqsarmiu’at. - We are all Larsen Bay people.
Tucked against the shore of Uyak Bay, sixty-two miles from Kodiak, the village of Larsen Bay is a cluster of houses, large metal-roofed cannery buildings, sturdy wooden docks, and boardwalks. Today, the community is home to about eighty-nine people. Named for Unga Island entrepreneur Peter Larsen, the modern community began to develop in 1888 when the Arctic Packing Company constructed a cannery on the western shore of Larsen Bay, opposite the present location of the village. Here a seasonal community processed salmon from southern Kodiak Island.
In 1911, the Alaska Packers Association built a large modern cannery next to the future site of Larsen Bay village. By about 1930, families living in the Uayk Bay region began to settle beside the cannery, and were joined gradually by residents from nearby Karluk and Uganik. This created the modern village. The cannery, which continues to operate seasonally under changed ownership, provides employment for community members. Many Alutiiq families also lead guided hunting and fishing excursions around scenic Uyak Bay.
Despite its association with the canning industry, Uyaqsaq was once home to many ancient Alutiiq families. A portion of the village rests atop the Uyak site, a massive prehistoric midden that holds houses, tools, and burials. This site is one of the best-known in Alaska due to its research history. In the 1930s, Aleš Hrdlička, a physical anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution, led investigations here. In his quest for human remains he paid little attention to archaeological details, destroying valuable information and removing hundred of ancestral remains. In 1991, Larsen Bay residents argued successfully for the return of these remains. One of the first repatriations in the United States, their efforts set a precedent for the return of Native American skeletons and reverential treatment of Native American graves.
Photo: Aerial view of Larsen Bay, 2001.
Camani ilangq’rtua. - I have family in the Lower Forty-eight.
When Alutiiqs speakers talk about the continental United States they use the word camani, which literally means “down there.” In Alaska, the English equivalent is “the Lower Forty-eight.”
Despite the separation between Alaska and regions south that camani implies, anthropologists believe that Alaska was the major gateway to the Americas, the region through which ancestral Native American societies arrived from Asia many thousands of years ago. In the past decade, however, opinions on the timing and the route of these migrations have changed. Archaeologists once argued that hunters simply walked into Alaska at a time when waters surrounding the Bering Straits were tied up in glacial ice and proceeded south to populate the remainder of North and South America about eleven thousand years ago.
While it is quite likely that some people walked into Alaska from Siberia, new archaeological data suggest that others may have boated east, arriving much earlier than expected. Although the oldest finds in coastal Alaska are less than 10,000 years old, data from the Channel Islands off the southern coast of California illustrate that maritime peoples were well established by at least 11,600 years ago.
Did North America’s earliest settlers paddle past Kodiak? Although archaeological data presently suggest that Kodiak’s first permanent settlers arrived about 7,500 years ago, evidence of earlier visitors may be present. People were living in on the Alaska Peninsula and the eastern Aleutian Island well before this time. Changing sea levels and millennia of erosion have likely obliterated much of the evidence of Kodiak’s first colonists, but careful research might one day expose evidence of very early connections between coastal Alaska and the Lower Forty-eight.
Map of North America
TRaapat allrani uluranartaartut. - Ladders are sometimes dangerous.
Apaangcuk Anwigmi et’aallria. - Father Herman lived at Monk’s Lagoon.
Monk’s Lagoon is a tiny, tree-ringed cove at the southeastern end of Spruce Island, about fifteen miles north of Kodiak harbor. It is named for Father Herman, a beloved Russian Orthodox monk who established a hermitage there in 1818. Father Herman ran a small school and an orphanage in Monk’s Lagoon, where he is believed to have performed miracles. He lived at the lagoon until his death in 1837. In 1935 another orthodox religious leader, Father Gerasim Schmaltz, moved to Monk’s Lagoon.
Today, Monk’s Lagoon is the site of an annual pilgrimage. Every August 9, the anniversary of Herman’s 1970 canonization by the Orthodox Church of America, the faithful return to the lagoon to celebrate his life. After gathering at the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church in Kodiak, they proceed to Kodiak Harbor where fishermen provide free transportation to Spruce Island.
Participants in the pilgrimage attend mass in the small wooden chapel, visit the graves of beloved local priests Father Gerasim Schmaltz and Father Peter Kreta, explore trails, and picnic. Many people also take a handful of dirt from beneath the chapel where Father Herman was buried until his canonization or fill bottles with water from a nearby spring, because the soil and water are believed to have curative powers.
Visits to Monk’s Lagoon aren’t limited to August 9. Families from nearby Ouzinkie often celebrate the Fourth of July by picnicking in the area, many people make spiritual visits on their own, and tourists can contact the church reader in Ouzinkie to arrange a tour of this sacred place.
Photo: Small chapel at Monk's Lagoon. Courtesy Tim and Norman Smith.