Alutiiq (Sugpiat) ancestors

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My son, Doug traveled to Alaska from Georgia during the summers from 1986 to 1996 to be with his grandmother (my mother). Doug returned from Alaska every fall of the year with exception of one year that he stayed at Larsen Bay, Alaska until December. Salmon fishing in Alaska is summer seasonal work, for many years the only work in the village. The salmon-fishing season usually started in June and lasted until late August or early September. When not in Alaska, Doug attended college at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. Doug graduated with a major in physics and continued on to get a Masters in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, a field which he is now employed. I was not in a position to travel to Alaska because of job requirements. I asked Doug to take pictures of my childhood home while he was at Larsen Bay, Alaska. Some of the pictures Doug took of Larsen Bay, Alaska and surrounding areas are shared with you on these pages. My mother was a life long commercial salmon harvester; she owned a salmon fishing boat and a salmon gill net site. Doug commercially salmon fished during summers while at my childhood home, it was all part of the great adventure for him.

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Photo credit Douglas Jager. Old salmon fishing boats.

Doug fished on APA 10 on his first salmon-fishing season in 1986. APA 10 was about 40 years old. APA 10 was a scary rotten boat - according to Doug. APA 10 fished another season then ended up in Larsen Bay boat graveyard. APA 10 was built and originally owned by the Alaska Packers Association. The Alaska Packers Association salmon cannery located in Larsen Bay, Alaska was built in 1911; that salmon cannery is now under new ownership as Kodiak Salmon Packers. APA 10 was part of the salmon fishing fleet of the original Alaska Packers Association. Salmon fishing boats like APA 10 only fished about 3 months out of the year, then laid up in dry-dock for the rest of the year. While I was growing up in the village, the Alaska Packers Association operated the only year round store at Larsen Bay.

Old boats (74kb jpg)
Photo credit Douglas Jager.
Salmon fishing boat graveyard at Larsen Bay, Alaska

Alutiiq Natives dig (115kb jpg large file)
Photo credit Douglas Jager.
Doug participated in an archeological dig at Larsen Bay, Alaska -- receiving one college credit.

Repatriation -- Alutiiq ancestor re burial ceremony

In September 1991, the Smithsonian Museum returned Alutiiq Native human bones and artifacts that they collected from archeological digs. The Alutiiq Natives remains were re-buried at Larsen Bay, Alaska under Native American Graves Protection Repatriations Act (NAGPRA). An elaborate Christian Russian Orthodox ceremony was performed at the re-burial by Russian Orthodox priests at Larsen Bay's Bone Yard. The Bone Yard is where Ales Hrdlicka in the 1930's dug up some 765 people and carted them off to the Smithsonian Institute for display. I took exception in using of this type of religious ceremony because; Russians brutally slaughtered many of our Alutiiq ancestors in their struggle for power and control of the Kodiak Island area. After the slaughter of the Alutiiq (Sugpiaq), heavy handed proselytizing used by the churches to impose its religion and change native culture. The Churches heavy-handed proselytizing was so appalling that Christian Churches publicly apologized on October 30, 1991 in the Anchorage Daily News. Salvation as churches understood it required eliminating vital aspects of native culture. The churches mission was to destroy native culture and replace it with their own -- in this they have succeeded. Performing a Christian Russian Orthodox religious service for my ancestors who were neither Christian nor Russian Orthodox has added insult to injury. Older natives that I have asked to tell me about our ancestors could only trace their culture back to the time of the Russians. By performing a Christian Russian Orthodox religious service, we have broken all cultural ties to our Alutiiq ancestors. The re-burial of our ancestral remains at Larsen Bay's Bone Yard was symbolic of us burying our own heritage.

Modern Alutiiq Natives would do well to use NAGPRA to establish ties to our prehistoric past and for us to learn about our ancestors. We could also learn about the objects that were returned and how they were used.

The work being done by the Alutiiq Museum at Kodiak and other archeological research centers into the pre-Russian Alutiiq period is a great service to all those truly interested in the Alutiiq culture. Check here for more information on the - Alutiiq Museum.

More about Repatriation at: Repatriation - Laws

Alutiiq remains(125kb jpg - Large File)
Photo credit Marion Stirrup, reprinted with permission. Alutiiq remains re-burial.
Religious ceremony for Alutiiq remains re-burial performed by Russian Orthodox Priests at Larsen Bay, Alaska.

The photo above was taken by Marion Stirrup (Marion Stirrup Photography, P.O. Box 1694, Kodiak, Alaska). This photo appeared in Vol. 19, Number 3/92 of the Alaska Geographic (Alaska Geographic Society, P.O. Box 93370, Anchorage, Alaska 99509-3370).

Marion Stirrup also has a web page for another business at:-Plan Tea

In the image above, members of the Larsen Bay village witness the historic return and re-burial of our ancestral remains. Some of the remains that were re-buried were as old as 2,000 years. These were a proud people that lived in a different time, different culture and had different religion. It is an insult to see the lack of respect shown by Russian Priests and members of the village -- in imposing their own brand of religious beliefs onto those Alutiiq ancestors at their final resting place.

"Russian penetration into Alutiiq territory was successfully resisted for 20 years until villagers were overwhelmed by gunfire at Three Saints Bay in 1784." . . . "The Alutiiq people were forced to labor for the Russians, who used methods of conquest, repression, and colonization similar to those used in the British colonies. Alutiiq and Unangan hunters pursuing sea otters traveled in their kayaks as far as the Russian outpost of Fort Ross, California." Native Peoples of Alaska by Jan Halliday.

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Photo by Bill Jager. Aleut-Alutiiq ceremonial hunting hat.

Genuine Aleut/Alutiiq ceremonial hunting hat made by an Alaska Native, Peter Lind. The ceremonial hunting hat was worn during elaborate rituals and when hunting whale or sea otter. The ceremonial hunting hat was colorfully decorated with ivory sculptures, sea lion whiskers, colorful bird feathers and was worn by important men. A similar, simple wooden hat was worn when men hunted, but it had an open crown and short visor. If anyone would like more information on the Aleut/Alutiiq ceremonial hats, contact Peter Lind at 4215 West Overby St, Wasilla, Alaska 99623. Telephone (907) 376-0746. Click here to see more of Peter Lind's Aleut/Alutiiq Ceremonial Hunting Hats.

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Photo by Bill Jager. Aleut-Alutiiq ceremonial hat.

Another view of the Aleut/Alutiiq ceremonial hat made by Peter Lind. Peter Lind is a master at keeping Aleut art alive and passes his skillful knowledge onto Native Alaskan students. Peter Lind is also a master at smoking salmon.

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Photo credit Douglas Jager. Ancient Alutiiq ceremonial mask found during an archeological dig. Jerry Laktonen from Larsen Bay, Alaska is keeping the Alutiiq culture alive and has created some very beautiful Alutiiq ceremonial masks that can be seen at: Whale Dreams.

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Photo credit Douglas Jager. Ancient Alutiiq tools.
Primitive Alutiiq tools on display found during an archeological dig, these artifacts are being cataloged at Larsen Bay, Alaska.

Private collection(74kb jpg)
Photo credit Douglas Jager. Private collection.

Image made of my sister's (Margaret) collection of ancient Alutiiq artifacts. We strolled the beaches after a storm near the village of Larsen Bay and collected Alutiiq artifacts that the storm waves washed out of the ground. This is a poor quality image. This photo was taken at an angle to prevent the camera flash reflection from a glass plate that covered the display.

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Photo credit Douglas Jager. Exxon Valdez oil spill clean up collection point.

Doug arrived in Larsen Bay, Alaska in the spring of 1989 to find the salmon fishing season closed because of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Doug participated in the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill effort by cleaning up the oil off the beaches and collecting dead birds and wildlife.

Image above: Carrying oil soaked rags to the collection point. Rags were used to absorb oily rocks on beaches. A collection point was set up to pile oil soaked cleaning equipment, dead birds and animals.

Bill Jager

Alutiiq ancestor re burial Kodiak Island Alaska

© Copyright 2001 Bill Jager.
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