People of the Seal


Uploaded by NOAAOceanMediaCenter on 03.02.2012

Transcript:

[THUNDER]
[DRUMMING]
[WOMAN SPEAKING UNANGAM TUNUU LANGUAGE]
- THE STORY THAT I'M GOING TO SHARE RIGHT NOW IS A STORY
THAT BELONGS TO OUR PLACE AS OPPOSED TO BELONGING TO ANY
ONE PERSON.
[SPEAKING UNANGAM TUNUU]
TRADITIONALLY, WHEN WE HAVE A STORY OF THIS NATURE,
IT DOESN'T BEGIN WITH "ONCE UPON A TIME."
IT BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE "TANAM AWAA," AND "TANAM AWAA"
MEANS "OUR COUNTRY'S WORK."
[SPEAKING UNANGAM TUNUU]
THE FIRST TIME THAT OUR PEOPLE HAD ANY INTERACTION WITH THIS
ISLAND CAME IN THE FORM OF AN ALEUT HUNTER, AND HIS NAME
WAS IG,ADAGAX,.
IG,ADAGAX, WAS OUT IN HIS SINGLE HATCHED IQYAX, ON HIS OWN WHEN
HE WAS SWEPT AWAY IN A STORM AWAY FROM THE SHORELINES
OF THE ISLANDS OF HIS VILLAGE.
HE CAME FROM WHAT WE NOW CALL
THE ALEUTIAN CHAIN, ISLANDS
THAT STRETCH FROM ALASKA
TO RUSSIA ON THE EDGE
OF THE BERING SEA.
HE TRAVELED A LONG PERIOD OF TIME ON HIS OWN, AND HE ENDED
UP ON THIS ISLAND.
HE CAME AND HE STAYED LONG ENOUGH TO SEE HOW LIFE EXISTED
HERE, LONG ENOUGH TO SEE THAT THERE WERE FUR SEALS HERE,
THAT THERE WERE SEA OTTERS HERE, THAT THERE WERE MANY SEA
BIRDS HERE.
SO HE PROBABLY STAYED A WHOLE YEAR, ONE WHOLE CYCLE.
IG,ADAGAX, TOLD THE STORY TO HIS BROTHER, TO HIS SON, TO HIS
RELATIVES, AND HE SAID THAT HE ALWAYS WANTED TO COME BACK.
IG,ADAGAX, WANTED TO COME BACK, AND HE DID, THROUGH US,
BY US BEING HERE, AND BEING THAT WE ARE A PEOPLE THAT LIVE
GENERATIONALLY, YOU CARRY ON WHAT HAS BEEN PASSED DOWN FROM
PEOPLE BEFORE YOU.
WE HAD TO COME, IF NOT ONLY TO FULFILL IG,ADAGAX,'S NEEDS,
BUT ALSO TO PROTECT THE FUR SEAL.
WE HAVE HAD TO BE KEEPERS OF THE SEALS AND MAKE SURE THAT
THEY CONTINUE TO LIVE HERE BECAUSE IF THE FUR SEALS
AREN'T HERE, THEN WE WON'T BE, EITHER.
- [CHATTER]
[HORN BLOWS]
- WHOO!
- [CHEERING]
- SO WHO ARE WE, THE PEOPLE OF THE SEAL?
NOW WE'RE AMERICAN CITIZENS, ALASKAN NATIVES.
- GO, GO, GO, GO!
- MANY OF US STILL BEAR OUR RUSSIAN HERITAGE IN OUR NAMES,
LIKE MERCULIEF, ZACHAROF, MELOVIDOV, BOURDUKOFSKY, AND MY
LAST NAME, LESTENKOF.
AND WE'RE ALEUTS, OR AS WE CALL OURSELVES IN OUR OWN
LANGUAGE, UNANGAN, NATIVES OF THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS AND
OF A CULTURE THAT STRETCHES BACK AT LEAST 9,000 YEARS.
WHO WE ARE WEAVES TOGETHER AT LEAST 3 VERY
DIFFERENT TRADITIONS.
OURS IS A STORY OF SURVIVAL, OF ADAPTATION, AND A CONSTANT
THREAT OF EXTINCTION.
WHAT'S HAPPENING ON THESE REMOTE ISLANDS IS BEING
REPEATED ALL OVER THE WORLD.
NATIVE CULTURES AND NATIVE SPECIES ARE FIGHTING TO KEEP
FROM DISAPPEARING.
MY NAME IS AQUILINA DEBBIE LESTENKOF.
WHEN I WAS LITTLE, GROWING UP, I JUST REMEMBER THAT ALL THE
ELDERS CALLED ME BY AQUILINA, AND FOR THEM IT WAS RESPECTING
MY BAPTISM IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH.
DEBBIE MEANS BUMBLEBEE, SO MY ALEUT NAME IS AANASNAADAX,,
AND AANASNAADAX, TRANSLATES INTO ENGLISH AS BUMBLEBEE.
THIS IS SAINT PAUL ISLAND.
THIS IS WHERE I LIVE.
PRESENTLY WE HAVE ABOUT 450 PEOPLE RESIDING ON
SAINT PAUL ISLAND.
PEOPLE COME AND THEY SAY, "OH, THAT'S IN THE MIDDLE
OF NOWHERE," BUT REALLY, IT'S IN THE MIDDLE OF IT ALL.
SAINT PAUL ISLAND AND ITS SISTER ISLAND SAINT GEORGE ARE
CALLED THE PRIBILOF ISLANDS.
THEY ARE 300 MILES WEST OF THE MAINLAND OF ALASKA, 250 MILES
NORTH OF THE ALEUTIAN CHAIN, AND WAY CLOSER TO RUSSIA THAN
TO ALASKA'S STATE CAPITAL IN JUNEAU.
WE'RE DRIVING ON MAIN STREET, WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED MAIN
STREET DOWNTOWN, AND IT'S NOT WHAT IT WAS WHEN I
WAS YOUNGER.
WE SEE BUILDINGS THAT ARE BOARDED UP.
WE HAVE A HISTORIC HOTEL THAT IS NOW BOARDED UP AND NO
LONGER USED, AND WE HAVE WHAT WAS AN OLD GOVERNMENT OFFICE
WHEN THE GOVERNMENT MANAGED THE COMMERCIAL FUR SEAL
INDUSTRY, AND IT'S ALL BOARDED UP.
FOR ALMOST 200 YEARS, WE UNANGAN PEOPLE HAVE HAD OUR
LIVES RULED BY ONE THING: THE COMMERCIAL HARVEST OF FUR
SEALS TO MAKE FUR COATS.
IT WAS AN INDUSTRY WORTH MILLIONS AND MILLIONS
OF DOLLARS, BUT IT ALL CAME TO A CRASHING HALT IN 1983.
THAT'S WHEN PRESSURE FROM ANIMAL RIGHTS GROUPS LED THE
UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT TO PUT AN END TO THE COMMERCIAL
HARVEST OF FUR SEALS.
WHAT WAS MEANT TO PROTECT THE FUR SEALS INSTEAD LED TO
THE FUR SEALS BEING IGNORED.
[FUR SEALS GRUNTING]
SOMEONE ONCE SAID THAT THE PRIBILOF ISLANDS ARE
A MICROCOSM.
THIS IS A PLACE WHERE WE CAN LOOK AT HUMAN INTERACTIONS
WITH THE PLANET IN GENERAL.
WHERE ARE WE GOING TO GO NEXT?
I CO-DIRECT THE ECOSYSTEM CONSERVATION OFFICE
FOR THE ALEUT COMMUNITY OF SAINT PAUL ISLAND'S
TRIBAL GOVERNMENT.
IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO ENSURE THAT NOT ONLY
THE ENVIRONMENT BUT ALL THE SPECIES THAT HAVE PROVIDED
FOR OUR PEOPLE CONTINUE TO EXIST IN ORDER THAT WE AND OUR
CULTURE CONTINUE TO EXIST.
[FUR SEALS GRUNTING]
MY FIRST MEMORIES OF THE FUR SEALS ARE KIND OF LIKE YOUR
VERY BEST FRIEND.
YOU DON'T REMEMBER WHEN YOUR FRIENDSHIP STARTED.
THE SOUNDS OF THE FUR SEALS HAVE HAD TO BE EMBEDDED
IN MY MEMORY.
EVEN WHEN THEY LEAVE HERE IN THE WINTER, THE SOUNDS ARE
STILL WITH ME.
[FUR SEALS GRUNTING]
WE CAN ONLY FATHOM HOW LONG THESE ISLANDS HAVE BEEN HERE,
AND THE FUR SEALS, THEY'VE BEEN HERE MANY, MANY YEARS
BEFORE HUMANS HAVE COME TO THE PRIBILOF ISLANDS.
FUR SEALS ARE MIGRATORY.
THEY SPEND THE WINTERS OUT AT SEA.
THEY DON'T COME BACK ASHORE TILL LATE SPRING.
IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER, THE ROOKERIES ARE EMPTY.
YOU CAN WALK OUT AND YOU CAN SMELL THEIR PRESENCE.
THEN BY MARCH, THE BULL SEALS START TO COME.
THEY HANG AROUND ON THE SHORES.
AND IN THE SUMMER, WE HAVE AN INCREASE OF SOUNDS, OF SMELLS,
KIND OF LIKE TURNING UP THE VOLUME.
[FUR SEALS BARKING LOUDLY]
NEVER A DULL MOMENT.
RIGHT NOW IT'S FALL.
THE CHILDREN ARE BACK AT SCHOOL, AND THE FUR SEAL PUPS
ARE IN SWIMMING SCHOOL.
THEY DO HAVE TO LEARN TO SWIM.
THEY WEREN'T BORN KNOWING HOW TO SWIM, OTHER THAN
HAVING FLIPPERS.
PEOPLE MAY THINK THAT IT IS THE SAME, BUT IT IS DIFFERENT
EVERY YEAR.
IT'S NOT SOMETHING YOU GROW TIRED OF.
IT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU LOOK FORWARD TO AND KNOW THAT
YOU ARE HOME.
WHEN THEY COME HOME, YOU'RE HOME, TOO.
BUT HOW DID THE HOME OF THE FUR SEALS BECOME OUR HOME?
THESE WIND-SWEPT, TREELESS ISLANDS, SEEMINGLY
UNINHABITABLE, SURROUNDED BY THE COLD, ROUGH WATERS
OF THE BERING SEA.
THE TATTOO ON MY FACE TELLS THE STORY ABOUT THE JOURNEY
OUR ANCESTORS TOOK TO GET HERE.
THE CURVES REPRESENT FUR SEALS, AND THE CIRCLES
REPRESENT THE 5 GENERATIONS OF MY FAMILY THAT LIVED ON THESE
UNANGAN ISLANDS.
ALASKA IS HOME TO OVER 200 FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED TRIBES
SPEAKING 22 UNIQUE DIALECTS.
THE UNANGAN PEOPLE COME FROM THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, AND WE
HAVE AT LEAST 3 DIALECTS.
THE FIRST OF MY UNANGAN RELATIVES THAT SHOWS UP
IN THE WRITTEN RECORD
IS MY GREAT-GREAT- GRANDMOTHER NEDEZHDA.
I KNOW THAT SHE WAS BORN ON ATKA AND THAT SHE HAD LIVED
PART OF HER LIFE ON BERING AND ATTU ISLANDS.
- UNANGAN CULTURE WAS SHAPED BY A TREMENDOUS RANGE OF BOTH
CHALLENGES AS WELL AS OPPORTUNITIES, AND RESPONDING
TO AN EXTRAORDINARILY DYNAMIC ENVIRONMENT
OVER THE SPACE OF 9,000 YEARS LED UNANGAN PEOPLE
TO DEVELOP AN AMAZING ARRAY OF TECHNOLOGICAL ADAPTATIONS,
INCLUDING, OF COURSE, THE FAMOUS KAYAK, WHICH WAS
THE FASTEST VESSEL IN THE WORLD.
I MEAN, THOSE THINGS COULD DO 12 KNOTS.
BEAUTIFULLY ENGINEERED TO RESPOND TO
THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT.
WEAPONRY SUPERBLY ADAPTED FOR GETTING SEA MAMMALS.
A DIFFERENT STYLE OF POINT WAS DESIGNED FOR EVERY TYPE
OF SEA MAMMAL.
GUTSKIN CLOTHING SEWED TOGETHER WITH BONE NEEDLES
SO FINE THAT SOME OF THE HOLES WERE BARELY AS BIG AS
A HUMAN HAIR.
A WATERPROOF STITCH WAS DEVELOPED TO HOLD THESE
GUTSKIN GARMENTS TOGETHER.
SO AN AMAZING ARRAY OF GADGETRY IS REFLECTED
IN THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECORD.
[MAN SINGING IN UNANGAM TUNUU]
- THAT KNOWLEDGE, PASSED DOWN THROUGH THE GENERATIONS,
IS FAST DISAPPEARING.
TODAY ONLY A HANDFUL OF PEOPLE KNOW HOW TO GET A MEAL FROM
A TIDE POOL.
VINCE TUTIAKOFF IS ONE OF THEM.
- WHERE WE'RE WALKING, THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO,
THE ALEUTS WERE OUT HERE PICKING THEIR BREAKFAST
AND THEIR LUNCH.
GREEN KELP--THEY'D COLLECT THAT TO COOK WITH THEIR FISH.
THEY'D FISH OFF THESE LITTLE EDDIES IN HERE AND GET POGIES,
BLACK BASS, SEA EGGS, BIDARKIES, BULLHEADS EVEN.
HUNTING IN THEIR LITTLE BOATS ALONG THE EDGES
FOR SEAL, SEA LION.
- MM-HMM. SO, WHAT YOU'RE SAYING IS WE'RE GOING TO
THE UNANGAN SUPERMARKET. HA HA HA!
- UNAGAN SUPERMARKET. YEAH, THAT'S IT.
WATCH WHERE YOU'RE WALKING.
DON'T STEP ON OUR BREAKFAST OR LUNCH HERE.
[BOTH CHUCKLE]
RIGHT NOW THE SEA URCHINS SHOULD START TO BE FILLING UP,
AND THEY'LL HAVE A LOT OF EGGS IN THEM.
A LOT OF PROTEIN AND IRON.
AND THERE IT IS.
THERE ARE SOME EGGS RIGHT THERE.
AND THEY'D SCOOP THEM OUT JUST LIKE THAT AND
OF COURSE EAT THEM.
CARVE THIS GUY.
THIS IS A TONGUE HERE.
- IS THAT EDIBLE, TOO?
- YES. THAT'S THE BEST PART.
THAT'S GOOD EATING THERE.
IF IT WASN'T FOR THE RED TIDE, WE'D HAVE A DINNER.
- YEAH.
- HERE'S THE GRASS THAT ALEUTS FED TO THE RUSSIANS WHEN THEY FIRST GOT HERE.
LOT OF THEM HAD SCURVY OR SOME SORT OF SICKNESS.
THERE WAS NO DOCTORS HERE, EITHER, YOU KNOW, FOR YEARS.
DIDN'T HAVE A CLINIC HERE.
- YEAH.
- GONNA CUT ONE OFF.
AND WHAT THEY DO IS CHOP IT UP AND BOIL IT,
AND WHAT COMES OUT OF THE LEAVES AND OUT OF THE VINES,
THEY DRINK IT.
IT'S LIKE A TEA.
TRY ONE OF THESE HERE. THEY'RE--ONCE YOU CHEW ON THEM--
YOU'LL FIND IT VERY BITTER.
- IT'S KIND OF LIKE IF YOU LEFT SOME SOAP
AND YOU TASTED IT, THAT'S THE BITTER.
- YEAH.
SAVED A LOT OF RUSSIANS' LIVES, AND MAYBE THEY SHOULDN'T HAVE.
OR THERE'D PROBABLY BE MORE OF US AROUND TODAY.
[LAUGHTER]
- [MAN SINGING IN UNANGAM TUNUU]
- ONE OF THOSE RUSSIANS SAVED WAS MY GREAT-GREAT-GRANDFATHER
MIKHAIL LESTENKOF.
HE BEGINS THE RUSSIAN CHAPTER OF MY FAMILY HISTORY.
MIKHAIL WAS BORN DURING THE REIGN OF CATHERINE THE GREAT,
AT A TIME WHEN THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE
WAS GROWING RICHER THROUGH THE FUR TRADE.
MIKHAIL WAS ONE OF HUNDREDS OF YOUNG RUSSIAN MEN
CALLED PROMYSHLENNIKI.
THEY WERE TRAPPERS AND TRADERS
WHO WERE THE BACKBONE OF THIS SOFT GOLD RUSH.
- THE FIRST RUSSIANS WHO CAME TO ALASKA AND THE ALEUTIAN CHAIN
WERE MARINE MAMMAL HUNTERS,
AND MOSTLY WHAT ATTRACTED THEM WAS THE SEA OTTER,
BECAUSE SEA OTTERS BROUGHT EXCEEDINGLY HIGH PRICES.
SO THAT WAS WORTH THE RISKS.
- MIKHAIL TRAVELED OVER LAND THOUSANDS OF MILES...
THEN HE SET SAIL FOR BERING ISLAND,
WHERE HE FIRST ENCOUNTERED THE UNANGAN.
- WHAT THE RUSSIANS FOUND WERE 30,000 HIGHLY ORGANIZED,
SUPERBLY ADAPTED MARINE HUNTERS,
AND THEY WERE ABLE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THOSE
TECHNOLOGICAL SKILLS AND THAT KNOW-HOW
TO FORM THE FOUNDATION OF THEIR FUR TRADE EMPIRE.
- IN 1805, A RUSSIAN SHIP-- "CONSTANTINE"--
DROPPED MIKHAIL AND 11 OTHERS ON BERING ISLAND.
FOR 7 YEARS, THEY HAD NO CONTACT WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD,
AND THEY SURVIVED ONLY BECAUSE OF UNANGAN GENEROSITY.
MIKHAIL BECAME A MANAGER IN THE RUSSIAN-AMERICAN COMPANY,
WHICH WAS THE MONOPOLY THAT RAN THE FUR EMPIRE
IN THE ALEUTIANS,
AND HE ENDED UP MARRYING NEDEZHDA.
- WHEN PEOPLE IN THE ALEUTIANS
CAME IN CONTACT WITH THE RUSSIANS FOR THE FIRST TIME,
THEY WERE IRREVOCABLY LINKED INTO THE WORLD ECONOMY.
MARKET FORCES IN OTHER CONTINENTS
WOULD DIRECTLY AFFECT THEIR LIVES
THROUGH THE RUSSIAN FUR TRADE IN TERMS OF
THE AVAILABILITY AND TYPES OF TRADE GOODS
THAT WERE ENTERING THEIR MATERIAL CULTURE.
- SOME RUSSIANS, LIKE MY GREAT-GREAT-GRANDFATHER MIKHAIL,
EMBRACED OUR PEOPLE'S WAYS,
BUT OTHERS, THEY JUST SOUGHT ONLY TO CONQUER.
THE RUSSIANS, THEY BROUGHT DISEASES THAT OUR PEOPLE
HAD NO IMMUNITY TO,
AND WHEN THE UNANGAN REVOLTED AGAINST RUSSIAN RULE,
THEY WERE KILLED BY RUSSIAN RIFLES AND SWORDS.
- AT THE POINT OF RUSSIAN CONTACT,
WITH THE INUIT PEOPLE IN THE MID-18th CENTURY,
THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS WERE FAR MORE DENSELY POPULATED
THAN THEY ARE TODAY.
WITHIN THE FIRST 80 YEARS OR SO
OF RUSSIAN OCCUPATION OF THE ALEUTIANS,
THERE'S AN 80% POPULATION DECLINE.
WE REMEMBER THE BLACK DEATH IN THE 1340s
AS THIS DRAMATIC EVENT
WHICH REALLY SHAPED THE COURSE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION.
BUT WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT THERE?
I MEAN, YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT 30%, 1/3, 1/4.
THIS IS 80%.
IT'S AN ARMAGEDDON.
- THIS SLAUGHTER OF SO MANY OF MY PEOPLE
LEFT A VOID THAT STILL HANGS OVER THESE ISLANDS.
THE SURVIVORS, THEY KEPT ALIVE SOME TRADITIONAL WAYS,
BUT MORE AND MORE, THE RUSSIAN CULTURE TOOK HOLD.
MY GREAT-GRANDFATHER INNOKENTY
WAS A FORCE IN THAT TRANSFORMATION.
HE WAS BORN ON THE ISLAND OF ATTU IN 1832,
AND AT SOME POINT, MID-LIFE,
HE MOVED TO THE ISLAND OF UNALASKA
TO SERVE THE COMMUNITY THERE AS A RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST.
[BIRDS SQUAWKING]
- IT'S AMAZING TO ME HOW THROUGH THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCHES,
WE STILL HAVE THE PRESENCE OF RUSSIA.
AFTER ALL OF THESE YEARS.
- ABSOLUTELY. - WE STILL HAVE IT.
SHARON SVARNY-LIVINGSTON IS LIKE ME--
TRYING TO BALANCE THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX FAITH WE WERE RAISED IN
WITH THE TRADITIONAL UNANGAN VALUES
THAT WE BOTH WANT TO PRESERVE.
- WHEN THE RUSSIANS FIRST CAME,
MODERN ARCHAEOLOGISTS SAY THE POPULATION
WAS SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 20,000 AND 25,000.
THE FACT IS THAT WITHIN 40 YEARS OF THE RUSSIANS COMING,
THE POPULATION WAS CUT DOWN TO ABOUT 3,000,
PROBABLY EVEN LOWER.
UM, AND WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT THOSE NUMBERS,
UNALASKA ISLAND ITSELF HAD 3,000 PEOPLE ON IT
BEFORE RUSSIAN CONTACT.
WHO WENT FIRST? THE CHIEFS, THE SHAMAN.
SO YOU LOST YOUR BASIS FOR YOUR RELIGION.
MISSIONARIES WITH INTENT
COME TO A PLACE AND INCORPORATE TRADITIONS AND CULTURES
INTO WHAT THEY'RE TRYING TO BRING,
AND, YOU KNOW, RUSSIAN ORTHODOXY IS EXTREMELY RITUALISTIC.
SHAMANISM WAS VERY RITUALISTIC.
YOU KNOW, THEY BELIEVED IN A GREATER BEING,
BUT IT WAS MORE TIED TO THE ENVIRONMENT.
AND I THINK THEY BROUGHT THOSE THINGS INSIDE THE CHURCH
TO MAKE IT AN EASIER TRANSITION FOR THE PEOPLE.
INSTEAD OF DOING IT OUTSIDE, LET'S GO INSIDE AND DO IT.
OK. YOU'RE GONNA BUILD A INDOOR SPACE FOR US? SURE.
- [SINGING IN CHURCH SLAVONIC]
- WHEN I LISTEN TO THE YOUNG MEN SING HERE,
I ALWAYS THINK ABOUT THE RUSSIAN FUR HUNTER SHIPS' CREWS
SINGING THE EVENING PRAYERS.
EVERY SHIP CARRIED ICONS, AND ON EVERY SHIP,
THE CREW HELD SERVICES.
I BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF MUSIC.
ALEUTS ARE VERY MUSICAL PEOPLE, AND I FIRMLY BELIEVE IN MY HEART
THAT IT WAS THE MUSIC OF THE SERVICE THAT ATTRACTED THEM.
- [MAN RECITING CHURCH SERVICE]
- I ALWAYS HAVE TO WONDER IF PEOPLE WERE REBELLIOUS
WHEN RUSSIAN ORTHODOXY CAME.
I'M SURE THAT PROBABLY SOME OF OUR PEOPLE SAID,
"WHAT ARE THEY DOING WAVING THAT INCENSE AROUND?"
- I WAS MYSTIFIED WHEN I FIRST CAME TO ALASKA
OVER 35 YEARS AGO--
WHY DO THE PEOPLE IN THE ALEUTIAN CHAIN
SO FERVENTLY HOLD ON TO THIS ALIEN FAITH
THAT HAD BEEN INTRODUCED TO THEM FROM SIBERIA,
NAMELY, THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH?
IF THIS IS THE RELIGION OF THEIR ENEMIES AND THEIR OPPRESSORS,
WHY WASN'T IT ALL ABANDONED
AS SOON AS THE RUSSIANS WERE GONE?
IT SEEMS THAT THERE WAS A WAY IN WHICH
EASTERN CHRISTIANITY RESONATED WITH
THE ANCIENT TRIBAL BELIEFS OF THE UNANGAN AND THE ALUTIIQ PEOPLES.
THE MISSIONARIES TOOK THE TIME TO LISTEN TO THE STORIES,
ANALYZE THOSE STORIES, AND BUILD ON THAT FOUNDATION.
THEY CAME TO UNDERSTAND IT IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE
AND ADAPT IT TO THEIR OWN LIVES
AS IT BECAME THE VERY CENTER OF ALEUT CULTURAL IDENTITY
AND ALEUT LIFE.
- YOU ARE GIVEN BETTER TREATMENT UNDER THE RUSSIAN RULES
BY JOINING THE ORTHODOX CHURCH.
IF YOU DID THAT, YOU WOULD BE TREATED MUCH MORE CIVILLY,
SO A LOT OF PEOPLE DID.
AND WHEN THEY DID, THEY HAD TO TAKE ON RUSSIAN NAMES
WHEN YOU'RE BAPTIZED IN RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH.
THIS IS WHY MOST ALEUTS HAVE RUSSIAN NAMES TODAY.
[CHURCH BELLS RINGING]
- ONCE WE GRAB ON TO SOMETHING, WE DON'T WANT TO LET IT GO.
WE MAKE IT OURS.
- [MAN RECITING CHURCH SERVICE, CHORAL RESPONSE]
- BUT I ALSO THINK THE CHURCH PROTECTED THE PEOPLE.
NOT ONLY FROM THE RUSSIANS, WHEN THEY WERE SO BRUTAL,
BUT THEY PROTECTED PEOPLE DURING THE AMERICANIZATION.
LIKE DAD SAID, YOU HAVE TO TAKE CARE
OF SOMETHING THAT TOOK CARE OF YOU.
- THAT'S RIGHT. - AND IT DID TAKE CARE OF OUR PEOPLE
THROUGH TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, THROUGH DIFFERENT POLITICAL ERAS
AND SOCIAL PRESSURES, LANGUAGE CHANGES.
- [PEOPLE SINGING HYMNS]
- [MAN RECITING CHURCH SERVICE]
- BUT HE ALSO SAID, "SOMETIMES I LONG FOR THE DAYS
WHEN MY PEOPLE RESPECTED THE EARTH, SEA, AND SKY."
AND I COULD SEE THAT HE WAS TRYING
TO HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.
- AMEN.
- RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIESTS CAN MARRY.
MY GREAT-GRANDFATHER INNOKENTY WAS MARRIED AND HAD CHILDREN,
AND HIS OLDEST SON DMITRI WAS MY GRANDFATHER.
MY GRANDFATHER DMITRI LESTENKOF WORKED HERE ON UNALASKA
IN THE EARLY 1880s FOR THE ALASKA COMMERCIAL COMPANY.
AND THE ONLY THING THAT I CAN FIND LEFT OF THAT COMPANY
IS THE A.C. VALUE CENTER, AS IN ALASKA COMMERCIAL VALUE CENTER.
BOTH MY GREAT-GRANDFATHER INNOKENTY
AND MY GRANDFATHER DMITRI HAD UNANGAN BLOOD AND RUSSIAN BLOOD,
WHICH MADE THEM CREOLES.
- [SINGING IN RUSSIAN]
- THE CONCEPT OF CREOLE, OR PEOPLE WHO ARE
OF MIXED SLAVIC AND INDIGENOUS BACKGROUNDS,
GOES BACK HUNDREDS OF YEARS BEFORE ALASKA WAS EVEN
DISCOVERED BY THE RUSSIANS.
THE RUSSIANS WHO CAME WERE REALLY NOT
BLUE-EYED, BLOND-HAIRED SLAVS FROM MOSCOW.
THEY WERE PRIMARILY MEN THEMSELVES OF MIXED
RACIAL AND CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS.
AND EVENTUALLY, THESE MEN SETTLED
WITH THE ALEUT PEOPLE, THE UNANGAN PEOPLE
IN THE ALEUTIAN CHAIN.
THE CREOLES HAD AN ELEVATED STATUS IN ALASKA.
THEY WERE THE MAINSTAY OF THE COLONY.
THE COLONY COULD NOT HAVE FUNCTIONED WITHOUT THEM.
THERE WASN'T AN ASSAULT ON NATIVE LANGUAGE AND CULTURE, PER SE,
BUT THERE WAS THE FOCUS ON TRAINING,
ESPECIALLY THOSE OF MIXED BACKGROUND,
TO READ AND WRITE AS WELL AS SPEAK
IN AT LEAST 2 LANGUAGES,
AND THEN THERE WERE CREOLES WHO SPOKE 3 AND 4.
THEY DIDN'T ABANDON THEIR LANGUAGE AND THEIR CULTURE,
BUT THEY ADDED TO IT.
- THIS CREOLE CULTURE WAS THROWN INTO TURMOIL
WHEN THE UNITED STATES PURCHASED ALASKA IN 1867
FOR $7.2 MILLION.
THE AMERICANS WERE SO KEEN ON REAPING
THE FINANCIAL REWARDS OF THE FUR TRADE,
AND THEY WERE JUST AS ADAMANT ON IMPOSING
AMERICAN LANGUAGE AND CUSTOMS.
- AT THE TIME THE AMERICANS ARRIVED IN ALASKA IN 1867,
ALEUTS WERE CONSIDERED THE ELITE NATIVE PEOPLE IN THE TERRITORY.
TO BE AN ALEUT WAS TO BE SOMETHING SPECIAL.
PARTLY THAT WAS BECAUSE ALEUTS HAD BECOME
A VERY EDUCATED PEOPLE.
THEY WERE LITERATE IN RUSSIAN, LITERATE IN ALEUT.
THEY HAD BEEN MANAGERS, STOREKEEPERS.
THEY HAD BEEN TEACHERS, PRIESTS, DEACONS.
BUT WITH THE ARRIVAL OF THE AMERICANS,
THEY WERE NO LONGER ELIGIBLE FOR ANY OF THOSE POSITIONS.
THERE WAS A SENSE THAT ALEUTS WERE INDIANS
AND THAT THEY WERE SAVAGE INDIANS,
BECAUSE THE INDIAN WARS WERE STILL GOING ON
IN THE LOWER 48.
IN ORDER FOR AN ALEUT TO BECOME
A FULL PARTICIPANT IN THE AMERICAN SYSTEM,
HE OR SHE HAD TO ESSENTIALLY ABANDON
THEIR TIES WITH THE ALEUT PEOPLE.
- AFTER THE AMERICANS CAME, THEY DISCOURAGED EVERYTHING THAT WAS NATIVE.
THEY DISCOURAGED EVERYTHING THAT WAS ALEUT
AND WANTED TO DO AWAY WITH IT.
ABSOLUTELY YOU WERE NOT ALLOWED TO SPEAK ALEUT IN SCHOOL.
YOU WERE PUNISHED FOR THAT.
- THE FEDERAL MARSHALS GOT INVOLVED.
THEY ARRESTED PARENTS. THEY CLOSED SCHOOLS FORCIBLY.
THE UNANGAN WERE BASICALLY A PERSECUTED MINORITY
IN THEIR OWN HOMELAND, WHERE THEY WERE
THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE POPULATION.
- MY PARENTS, WHEN THEY WERE GROWING UP,
GOING TO GRADE SCHOOL,
THEY WERE PUNISHED FOR SPEAKING OUR LANGUAGE...
SO THEY DIDN'T WANT US TO BE PUNISHED.
MY PARENTS COULD SPEAK TO EACH OTHER IN OUR LANGUAGE
AND NONE OF US WOULD UNDERSTAND.
IT WASN'T SPOKEN TO US.
SO THERE WERE 9 OF US IN MY FAMILY, 9 SIBLINGS,
AND NONE OF US PICKED UP THE LANGUAGE.
UNANGAM TUNUU, THE LANGUAGE, WASN'T THE ONLY THING
SLOWLY DISAPPEARING FROM THE ALEUTIANS ISLANDS.
BY THE LATE 1760s, SEA OTTERS
HAD BEEN BROUGHT TO THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION
BY THE DEMANDS OF THIS FUR TRADE.
THE HUNTERS NEEDED A NEW SOURCE OF FUR,
AND THEY FOUND IT IN THE NORTHERN FUR SEAL.
THE EASIEST WAY TO CAPTURE THE FUR SEALS
WAS AT THEIR BREEDING GROUNDS.
IN 1786, A RUSSIAN NAVIGATOR, GAVRIL PRIBYLOF,
FOLLOWED THE NORTHERN FUR SEALS
TO THEIR ROOKERIES ON SAINT GEORGE ISLAND.
THE RUSSIANS BEGAN BRINGING UNANGAN MEN
FROM THE ALEUTIAN CHAIN TO HARVEST THE FIRST SEALS,
AND BY 1867, WHEN THE AMERICANS TOOK OVER,
THERE WERE SIZABLE SETTLEMENTS ON BOTH ISLANDS.
IN 1882, MY GREAT-GRANDFATHER INNOKENTY
MOVED TO SAINT GEORGE ISLAND TO SERVE AS THE PARISH PRIEST.
HE HAD TO PETITION THE ALASKA COMMERCIAL COMPANY
FOR YEARS TO GET THEM TO ALLOW HIS SON DMITRI
TO RELOCATE, AS WELL.
[GULLS SQUAWKING]
THIS IS THE VILLAGE OF SAINT GEORGE.
THIS IS WHERE I WAS BORN...
AND RIGHT OVER HERE BEHIND ME
IS THE HOME OF MY GRANDMOTHER AND GRANDFATHER,
MY MOM'S PARENTS, AND SO FROM THE TIME I WAS BORN
TILL I WAS ABOUT 4 YEARS OLD, I SPENT A LOT OF TIME
COMING OVER HERE TO MY GRANDMOTHER'S HOUSE...
AND WHEN I COME HERE, I ALWAYS STILL FEEL QUITE AT HOME,
EVEN IF IT'S BEEN A FEW DECADES SINCE I'VE ACTUALLY SPENT
MORE THAN A FEW DAYS HERE.
WHEN YOU COME HERE TO SAINT GEORGE,
EVERYTHING IS NESTLED ALL TOGETHER,
THE VILLAGE WITH THE BIRD CLIFFS AND THE FUR SEALS.
IT'S ALL JUST RIGHT HERE AT THE DOORSTEP OF THE VILLAGE.
MY GREAT-GRANDFATHER, REVEREND INNOKENTY LESTENKOF,
WAS THE FIRST LESTENKOF ON THE PRIBILOF ISLANDS,
AND HE SERVED THE PARISH HERE IN THE LATE 1800s,
AND HERE IS WHERE HE IS BURIED--
REVEREND INNOKENTY MIKHAILOVICH LESTENKOV.
IN THE BELIEF OF UNANGAN PEOPLE, OUR LIFE IS A VISIT.
WE DON'T HAVE A WORD FOR DEATH.
WE USE A WORD THAT ACTUALLY TRANSLATES INTO ENGLISH
AS "DONE VISITING THIS LAND."
WHEN THE AMERICANS TOOK OVER THE FUR INDUSTRY
ON SAINT PAUL AND SAINT GEORGE ISLANDS,
THEY BEGAN KEEPING METICULOUS RECORDS.
PART OF MY JOB AT THE TRIBAL GOVERNMENT OF SAINT PAUL
IS TO LOOK AT THESE OLD ARCHIVES,
SO MY COWORKER SAMANTHA ZACHAROF AND I
HAVE SPENT MANY HOURS PORING OVER THESE RECORDS.
OH, I DIDN'T KNOW THIS WENT BACK THAT FAR.
BOTH SAINT PAUL AND SAINT GEORGE ISLANDS
WERE RUN LIKE COMPANY TOWNS.
THE UNANGAN WORKERS WERE WARDS OF THE STATE.
- WE BECAME IN A STATE OF SERVITUDE TO THE U.S. GOVERNMENT
AS THE ONLY CAPTIVE LABOR FORCE OF THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT
IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES.
- EVERY ASPECT OF THE FUR INDUSTRY OPERATED
UNDER GOVERNMENT SUPERVISION,
AND WORKERS WERE GIVEN ALLOTMENTS
THAT THEY USED TO MAKE PURCHASES.
EVERY TRANSACTION WAS RECORDED DOWN TO THE LAST PENNY.
SO FOR SOMEONE IN 1898 ON MARCH 26
TO PURCHASE TEA, SUGAR, MILK, BUTTER, FLOUR, SOUP,
TOBACCO, MATCHES, FRUIT,
AND--I DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT IS-- HANDKERCHIEFS,
ONE PAIR OF BABY SHOES-- 75 CENTS.
MOST PEOPLE DON'T EVEN KNOW THAT THE UNITED STATES
HAD A FUR SEAL INDUSTRY,
MUCH LESS THE CONDITIONS WITH WHICH THE WORKFORCE,
THE UNANGAN PEOPLE, HAD TO LIVE WITH.
- ALASKA WAS PURCHASED FOR $7.2 MILLION.
THE PRIBILOF ISLANDS ALONE HAVE PROBABLY PAID
FOR THE STATE OF ALASKA
AT LEAST 10 TIMES OVER.
I KNOW IT'S MORE THAN THAT.
DID WE GET OUR FAIR SHARE? NO.
IF YOU GET PAID 25 CENTS A SKIN WHEN THAT SKIN
IS WORTH HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS, I DON'T THINK SO.
- WHAT'S IN HERE?
- THIS IS JUST THEIR ORDER FORMS FOR SEARS.
- OK.
READING SOME OF THIS STUFF, I HAVE TO STAND UP
AND JUST TAKE A DEEP BREATH BECAUSE I WANT TO GET ANGRY.
THAT'S THE HARD PART.
HOW DO YOU HAVE A PIECE OF HISTORY BE KNOWN AND BE TOLD
WITHOUT MAKING THE NEXT GENERATION ANGRY?
- THIS IS PART OF HISTORY, NO MATTER HOW IT MAKES YOU FEEL.
- YEAH.
HOW DO YOU HAVE IT GO FORWARD INTO THE FUTURE
AND BE USED SO AS NOT TO REPEAT ITSELF?
I THINK IT AFFIRMS THE NEED FOR THIS HISTORY TO BE KNOWN.
IT'S NOT JUST OUR HISTORY. IT'S THE HISTORY OF THIS NATION.
BOTH MY FATHER AND MY MOTHER
WERE BORN ON SAINT GEORGE ISLAND.
MY FATHER, MICHAEL LESTENKOF, WAS BORN IN 1913.
MY MOTHER STEFANIDA LEKANOF WAS BORN IN 1919.
IN 1938, THEY GOT MARRIED.
LIKE ALL THE MEN ON SAINT GEORGE ISLAND,
MY FATHER WORKED IN THE FUR SEAL INDUSTRY.
THAT'S HIM TAKING A CIGARETTE BREAK
IN FRONT OF THE SEAL PLANT.
- THAT'S IT. THAT'S IT. A LITTLE MORE. A LITTLE MORE.
THAT'S IT. COME ON.
- ALL IN A DAY'S WORK, THE FIRST SEAL HARVEST WOULD BEGIN
WITH AN EARLY-MORNING ROUNDUP FROM THE BEACH.
PLACING THEMSELVES BETWEEN THE SEALS AND THE SEA,
SHOUTING AND WHISTLING, THEY DRIVE THE SEALS INLAND.
USING LONG HICKORY STICKS, THEY DIVIDE OUT A POD
OF ABOUT 6 TO 12 SEALS.
- YEAH. A LITTLE MORE. THAT'S IT.
- EACH SEAL IS DELIVERED A SINGLE BLOW TO THE HEAD,
WHICH STUNS THEM...
AND WITH A KNIFE PIERCING TO THE HEART, THEY ARE KILLED.
THE WASHHOUSE BUILDING ON SAINT GEORGE ISLAND
IS THE ONLY REMAINING EVIDENCE OF WHAT WAS ONCE
A VERY BUSY FUR SEAL INDUSTRY.
- ONCE THE FUR SEAL PROCESS...
- ANTHONY MERCULIEF IS ONE OF THE LAST PEOPLE
ON SAINT GEORGE ISLAND TO HAVE WORKED AT THE SEAL PLANT.
- THE DUMP TRUCKS WOULD BRING THE PELTS TO THIS PLATFORM HERE.
THE WINDOWS WERE OPEN, AND THE SEAL SKINS
WERE THROWN INSIDE THE TANKS THAT ARE IN THERE
THAT ARE FILLED WITH SALTWATER.
- SO THIS WOULD BE THE SKIN HOUSE OR THE WASHHOUSE?
- WASHHOUSE. YEAH.
THIS IS WHERE THE SKINS WERE BROUGHT IN
THROUGH THE WINDOWS OVER THERE.
THIS WAS FILLED UP WITH SALTWATER,
AND THE SKINS WERE PUT IN HERE AND SOAKED OVERNIGHT.
- DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY SKINS THEY WOULD BE ABLE TO FIT IN?
- IN EACH TANK, PROBABLY 100 OR MORE.
THEY HAD AN OVERHEAD TROLLEY
THAT HUNG FROM THIS TRACK RIGHT HERE.
THEY WOULD FILL THE THING WITH SEAL SKINS
AND HAUL THEM DOWN THROUGH THIS TRACK
TO THAT FAR END OF THE BUILDING,
WHERE THEY WERE PUT ON THE TABLES
AND GIVEN TO THE BLUBBER PEOPLE TO BLUBBER THEM.
- THEN FROM IN HERE AND ON THESE TRACKS,
IS THIS HOW SKINS WERE BROUGHT INTO THIS ROOM?
- RIGHT.
- AND THIS WAS THE BLUBBERY SHOP, HUH?
- YEAH.
- AND WHAT ARE THESE TABLES FOR?
- THIS IS WHERE SKINS WERE STACKED.
- SO HOPEFULLY, YOU DIDN'T HAVE A BIG PILE.
- RIGHT, AND SMALL SKINS.
- YEAH. OH, OK, SIZE.
- THE EASY ONES.
THE BIG ONES WERE STRINGY AND HARD TO BLUBBER.
- OH, OK. SO YOU BLUBBERED HERE, TOO.
- YEAH. - YEAH?
- YOU WOULD REACH OVER AND GRAB A SKIN,
PUT IT ON THE BEAM FUR SIDE UP,
AND YOU'D GRAB A KNIFE FROM HERE,
CUT THE EARS OFF, CUT A LITTLE BIT
OF THE SKIN AROUND THE ARM HOLES.
THEN YOU TAKE THE SKIN AND TURN IT AROUND
WITH THE BLUBBER SIDE UP AND SCRAPE THE BLUBBER OFF.
THEN WHEN YOU GOT DONE WITH THAT,
YOU FLIP IT OVER AND DO THE OTHER SIDE.
- IN 2000, I CAME OVER WITH MY DAD INTO THE SEAL PLANT HERE,
AND WHEN HE COUNTED DOWN, HE SAID,
"THIS IS BLUBBER BEAM NUMBER 13,"
AND HE SAID, "NO ONE WANTED TO BLUBBER HERE
"BECAUSE 13 WAS AN UNLUCKY NUMBER,
"BUT SINCE I WAS BORN ON OCTOBER 13, 1913,
IT'S MY LUCKY NUMBER, SO THIS IS WHERE I BLUBBERED PELTS."
HE'D SAY, "I WAS BORN ON THE 13th HOUR, TOO,"
BUT I DON'T THINK HE WAS.
HE JUST THREW THAT IN FOR THE STORY.
[BOTH LAUGH]
IN 1941, THERE WERE ABOUT 500 UNANGAN
LIVING ON SAINT GEORGE AND SAINT PAUL ISLANDS,
BUT ONE YEAR LATER, THERE WOULD BE NONE.
WORLD WAR II SHATTERED LIFE ON THE PRIBILOF ISLANDS.
- WE USED TO HEAR THE PLANES GOING OVER THE ISLAND.
THE BLACKOUTS STARTED RIGHT AFTER PEARL HARBOR WAS BOMBED.
- MY MOTHER-IN-LAW MARY BOURDUKOFSKY
WAS A YOUNG WOMAN WITH YOUNG CHILDREN
WHEN WORLD WAR II BROKE OUT.
SAME RIGHT HERE. - MM-HMM.
ALL THE WINDOWS AT NIGHT, YOU HAMMER A BLANKET
TO MAKE IT DARK, NO LIGHTS,
NO KIND OF A LIGHT, AND YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED
TO EVEN SMOKE CIGARETTE OUTSIDE OR NOTHING.
- IN JUNE 1942, THE JAPANESE BOMBED THE HARBOR AT UNALASKA.
THEY INVADED THE ISLANDS OF ATTU AND KISKA...
AND THEY TOOK AMERICAN CITIZENS CAPTIVE.
- JUNE 1942.
THE NEWS ABOUT DUTCH HARBOR BEING BOMBED
AT 6 A.M. REACHED US YESTERDAY.
NEXT CAME NEWS OF ATTU.
THE WAR BECAME TOO HORRIBLY REAL.
IT SEEMED SENSIBLE TO PREPARE,
SO THE FIRST AND ONLY AIR RAID SHELTER
IS BEING ERECTED ON SAINT PAUL.
WE APPEALED TO THE GOVERNMENT AGENT
TO TAKE SOME ACTION FOR THE COMMUNITY'S SAFETY.
WE BEGGED HIM TO EVACUATE THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN AT LEAST.
- THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT ORDERED A COMPLETE EVACUATION
OF ALL UNANGAN FROM THE ALEUTIAN AND PRIBILOF ISLANDS.
YOU DIDN'T KNOW BEFOREHAND...
- NO. WE DIDN'T KNOW.
- THAT YOU WERE BEING EVACUATED?
- NO. WE DIDN'T KNOW. - WHEN DID YOU FIND OUT?
- IT WAS SUNDAY AFTERNOON,
AND THEY USED TO HAVE A BIG BALL GAME GOING ON ON SUNDAYS.
THAT SUNDAY HAPPENED TO BE A BEAUTIFUL DAY,
AND MY HUSBAND WAS A BALLPLAYER, AND HE WENT OUT, BUT I WAS HOME.
I HAD A LITTLE, 3-MONTHS-OLD BABY
AND A TWO-YEAR-OLD LITTLE BOY.
SO I WAS WASHING DIAPERS BY WASHBOARD, YOU KNOW?
I DIDN'T HAVE NO WASHING MACHINE,
AND THE BIG TRANSPORT LANDED OVER THERE IN EAST LANDING.
PEOPLE WERE JUST PUZZLED, WHAT WAS GOING ON,
AND THEN MY HUSBAND CAME RUNNING HOME TO TELL ME
THAT THEY'RE TAKING EVERYBODY.
SAID, "THEY TELL US TO TAKE JUST WHAT YOU HAVE ON YOUR BACK
AND CHANGE OF CLOTHES. THAT'S ALL,"
AND WE DIDN'T HAD NO SUITCASES BECAUSE WE NEVER TRAVEL,
SO I START FILLING UP CLEAN 50-POUND FLOUR SACKS
I HAVE WITH MY CHILDREN CLOTHES,
AND A CARDBOARD BOX I HAVE, I FILLED THAT ONE, TOO.
THEY WALKED ALL THE WAY TO EAST LANDING HERE.
IT WAS SO SAD. WOMEN WERE CRYING.
ELDERS WERE CRYING,
AND PEOPLE CARRY A SACK OF THEIR CLOTHES.
- EVERYONE WAS EVACUATED--
MARY'S FAMILY, MY FATHER AND MY MOTHER,
MY OLDER SISTER AND BROTHER.
THEY WERE ALL TAKEN TO A CAMP IN SOUTHEASTERN ALASKA,
TO A PLACE CALLED FUNTER BAY.
- THE HUNGER AND THE COLD,
THAT REALLY GETS US IN FUNTER BAY.
I HAD TO DRESS MY LITTLE KIDS WITH WHATEVER THEY HAD.
ALL THEIR THINGS GOT WORN OUT. THEY GOT SMALL.
MY LITTLE BOY HAD NO SHOES, AND IT'S BARE FLOOR,
AND THE MEMORIES COME BACK TO ME.
- MM-HMM. - YEAH.
WHAT THEY ISSUE US IS POWDERED--
POWDERED EGGS, POWDERED MILK.
WE HAD NO STOVE TO COOK, ANYWAY.
THERE WAS NO RUNNING WATER, NO BATHS, NO TOILETS,
EXCEPT FOR ONE OVER THE BAY.
YOU HAVE TO WALK ON A PLANK.
- THERE WAS JUST THE HOLE.
- YEAH. THE WASTE JUST GOES IN THE BAY...
AND THERE WERE FISH SWIMMING AROUND, AND WE COULDN'T EAT IT.
HOW COULD WE?
AND THE BABIES WERE SICKLY-- COLD, SORES, IMPETIGOS...
AND WE WERE INFESTED WITH LICE.
ALL THAT 2 1/2 YEARS, WE WERE THERE
CLEANING OUR HEADS EVERY NIGHT SOMETIMES.
I ALWAYS SAY, "I HOPE IT NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN."
- YEAH.
- TOGETHER, WE TRY TO REMEMBER WHAT OUR PARENTS
AND GRANDPARENTS WENT THROUGH DURING THE WAR.
SUFFERING THAT DIDN'T END WHEN PEOPLE CAME BACK FROM
FUNTER BAY.
OUR PARENTS AND OUR GRANDPARENTS CAME HOME TO FIND
THEIR HOUSES RANSACKED.
[PRIEST RECITING SCRIPTURE]
AMERICAN SOLDIERS HAD TAKEN EVERYTHING OF VALUE,
EVEN ICONS FROM OUR CHURCHES.
BUT THE DEEPEST LOSS WAS OF THOSE WHO NEVER RETURNED.
BECAUSE THEY DIED AT FUNTER BAY.
IN 1960, I WAS BORN ON SAINT GEORGE ISLAND,
THE 8TH OF 9 CHILDREN.
AND WHEN I WAS 3 YEARS OLD, MY DAD FOLLOWED IN MY GREAT
GRANDFATHER INNOKENTY'S FOOTSTEPS, AND HE BECAME
AN ORTHODOX PRIEST.
IN 1964, MY FATHER WAS TRANSFERRED TO SERVE THE
PARISH OF SAINT PAUL ISLAND, SO WE MOVED THERE.
[YELLING, METALLIC CLANGING]
THE 1970's WOULD LEAD TO DIFFICULT TIMES
FOR THE COMMERCIAL FUR SEAL INDUSTRY.
- WITH MAN'S DOMINION OVER ANIMALS--AS GOD KNOWS,
THAT BIBLE IS QUOTED TO US ENOUGH--
WITH THAT GOES RESPONSIBILITY.
- ON JANUARY, 1970, PRESIDENT NIXON PROMISED PEACE WITH
NATURE, AND I QUOTE THAT "PEACE WITH NATURE."
AND WHAT BETTER PLACE TO START THAN TO END THE MASSACRE
OF SEALS BY GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES?
- IT'S FOR NOTHING EXCEPT A LUXURY PRODUCT.
IT'S STRICTLY TO PLEASE THE VANITY OF SOME WOMEN THAT
THESE SEALS ARE BEING CLUBBED AND BLED AND STUCK AND SKINNED.
- WE ARE OPPOSED TO THE UNNECESSARY KILLING OF ANY
ANIMAL, AND I THINK IT'S OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO TAKE A COLD,
HARD LOOK AT WHAT WE'RE DOING.
- IT WAS AN INDISCRIMINATE OUTRAGE, I THINK, THAT WAS
FOCUSED PRIMARILY ON OUR PEOPLE.
WE WERE GETTING HATE MAIL FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD FROM PEOPLE
WHO WERE BEING MISLED BY CERTAIN KINDS OF ANIMAL RIGHTS
GROUPS FIGHTING AGAINST THE TAKING OF FUR SEALS FOR THEIR
PELTS BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT.
- TIME AND TIME AGAIN, WE'VE BEEN THE ONES TO HAVE TO STAND
UP TO IGNORANCE ABOUT THE FUR SEALS.
THE RUSSIANS AND THE AMERICANS WANTED TO TAKE ALL THE FUR
SEALS FOR A QUICK PROFIT.
WE HAD BEEN THE ONES TO SAY THE HARVEST HAD TO BE SUSTAINABLE.
NOW, OUTSIDERS HAD A NEW DEMAND--
STOP THE HARVEST ALTOGETHER.
- WE HAD NO PLANS FOR AN ALTERNATIVE ECONOMIC BASE,
SO UNCERTAINTY WAS THERE, DEPRESSION SET
IN ON A COMMUNITY-WIDE BASIS, AND WE BEGAN TO HAVE ONE
SERIES OF TRAGIC EVENTS AFTER ANOTHER.
BETWEEN 1982 AND 1983, WE HAD 100 DOCUMENTED SUICIDE
ATTEMPTS, 4 SUICIDES, 3 MURDERS.
DEFINITELY, WE SAW THE EFFECTS OF A GOVERNMENT-RUN COMPANY
TOWN WHEN THE GOVERNMENT DECIDES TO PULL OUT.
WE WERE LITERALLY PLANNING ONE-WAY TICKETS
FOR PEOPLE OFF THE ISLAND.
[MOTOR RUNS]
- IN 1983, WE SAW THE END OF THE COMMERCIAL
FUR SEAL INDUSTRY.
SO YOU WOULD SUSPECT YOU WOULD SEE THE NUMBER OF
FUR SEALS INCREASE.
EVERYBODY ASSUMES THE POPULATION IS GOING UP.
SOMETHING IS HAPPENING.
THIS HISTORICALLY WAS A FUR SEAL ROOKERY.
WHEN THE RUSSIAN FUR TRADERS FIRST CAME HERE, THE ROCKY
AREAS ON TOLSTOY ROOKERY WERE COMPLETELY COVERED
WITH FUR SEALS.
IT'S REALLY HARD TO GIVE PEOPLE AN IDEA WHAT A FEW
MILLION FUR SEALS WOULD LOOK LIKE.
PEOPLE COME HERE NOW AND THEY IMAGINE THAT THERE ARE A LOT
OF FUR SEALS.
YES, BUT NOT WHAT THEY USED TO BE.
MY HUSBAND, PHIL ZAVADIL, MOVED TO SAINT PAUL ISLAND
IN 1998 TO WORK WITH THE TRIBAL GOVERNMENT OF SAINT PAUL
ON STARTING UP A NEW ECO SYSTEM CONSERVATION OFFICE.
- WHEN I FIRST GOT HERE, THERE WAS PROBABLY 1.2 MILLION
FUR SEALS ON THE PRIBS.
HERE WE ARE, 10 YEARS LATER, AND YOU KNOW, I THINK THEY'RE
UNDER 600,000 FUR SEALS NOW.
UNLESS WE DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT, I DON'T SEE
ANYTHING GETTING ANY BETTER.
- THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT REMAINS RESPONSIBLE
FOR THE WELFARE OF THE FUR SEALS UNDER THE MARINE MAMMAL
PROTECTION ACT.
THE TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS ARE WORKING WITH THE NATIONAL
MARINE FISHERY SERVICE TO CO-MANAGE THE FUR SEAL HERD
ON THE PRIBILOF ISLANDS.
- THE NORTHERN FUR SEALS ARE FACING A LOT OF THE SAME
THREATS THAT MARINE MAMMALS THROUGHOUT THE BERING SEA FACE.
THERE'S THE POTENTIAL OF COMPETITION FOR PREY
WITH COMMERCIAL FISHERIES.
THE PRIMARY PREY FOR FUR SEALS ON THE PRIBILOFS
IS WALLEYE POLLOCK.
IT'S ALSO THE LARGEST FISHERY IN ALASKA.
THERE'S PREDATION.
KILLER WHALES TAKE NORTHERN FUR SEALS ALL
AROUND THE PRIBILOF ISLANDS.
THERE'S DISEASE.
DISEASE HAS ALWAYS BEEN PRESENT IN ANIMAL POPULATIONS,
BUT COULD INCREASE.
IT COULD BE BROUGHT IN BY AN OUTSIDE SOURCE, OR SOMETHING
ELSE COULD TRIGGER AN EPIDEMIC OF SORTS.
THERE'S ALSO ENTANGLEMENTS.
PACKING BANDS, TRAWL NET, MONOFILAMENT.
ALL THESE THINGS THAT CAN COME OFF OF FISHING BOATS OR OTHER
BOATS THAT FUR SEALS CAN BECOME ENTANGLED IN.
AND THEN THERE'S CLIMATE CHANGE.
AS WE SEE A WARMING OF TEMPERATURES AND RECEDING
OF THE ICE PACK IN THE BERING SEA, IT COULD CERTAINLY AFFECT
FUR SEAL BEHAVIOR, AS WELL AS THE AVAILABILITY OF PREY.
SO COLLECTIVELY, ALL OF THOSE THREATS TOGETHER MOST LIKELY
HAVE SOME SORT OF INFLUENCE.
AND WE'RE JUST TRYING TO TEASE OUT WHICH ONE, OR MAYBE SOME
OTHER MIGHT BE AFFECTING THE DECLINE.
- WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING.
THERE'S NOT GOING TO BE ONE SIMPLE ANSWER, AND IT'S NOT
GOING TO HAPPEN OVERNIGHT.
I MEAN, IT'S TAKEN US A COUPLE HUNDRED
YEARS TO GET HERE, AND THAT'S PROBABLY HOW LONG IT'S GOING
TO TAKE TO GET THINGS BACK ON TRACK.
I FEEL HOPEFUL, AND EQUALLY, I FEEL UNCERTAIN.
[WOMAN SPEAKING UNANGAM TUNUU LANGUAGE]
- KLUUCHIN. - KLUUCHIN.
- HOPEFULNESS AND UNCERTAINTY ARE THE FEELINGS THAT WE HAVE
ABOUT OTHER ASPECTS OF OUR CULTURE.
THERE ARE 6,000 DIFFERENT LANGUAGES SPOKEN TODAY
AROUND THE WORLD.
CLOSE TO HALF OF THEM ARE ON THE VERGE OF DISAPPEARING.
- SAAGLAX.
[SINGING]
- WHEN YOU LOSE A LANGUAGE, YOU LOSE A WAY OF THINKING,
A WAY OF SOLVING PROBLEMS.
IT'S A LOSS.
IT'S A LOSS THAT HURTS ALL OF US.
THERE ARE FEWER THAN 200 PEOPLE LEFT WHO GREW UP
SPEAKING UNANGAM TUNUU.
MARY IS ONE OF THEM.
HOPEFULLY, MY NEPHEW WILL BECOME ANOTHER.
- I WANT TO GET TRADITIONAL TATTOOS LIKE MY MOM'S.
THE LITTLE BLUE MOONS AND THE DOT ON THE OTHER SIDE
OF THE CRESCENT IS TO REPRESENT THAT THE MOON
IS ALWAYS WHOLE, EVEN WHEN IT DOESN'T APPEAR TO BE.
- ALONG WITH MY DAUGHTER, KATIA, MY SISTER, STEPHANIE,
AND OTHERS IN THE COMMUNITY, WE'VE INITIATED A TRADITIONAL
DANCE GROUP.
- FOR OUR DANCE, WHENEVER WE PERFORM--I WANT
THIS ONE RIGHT HERE.
-THE SEAL HEAD? - MM-HMM.
- IT WILL FACE THE--
- FACE IN?
- MM-HMM. - THIS ONE?
- YOURS DO THAT, TOO?
- DO THEY? - YEAH, THEY DO.
- YOU THOUGHT THEY WERE FRECKLES, HUH?
[LAUGHTER]
- YOU SAID IT WOULD GO THE OPPOSITE WAY, THE OTHER
WAY, RIGHT? ON THE OTHER CHEEK.
- NO, THE SEALS-- OH, YEAH. THE OPPOSITE.
IT'S LIKE A MIRROR IMAGE.
I LIKE IT WHEN MY MOM COMES TO ANCHORAGE.
I LIKE TO WALK BEHIND HER IN PUBLIC PLACES AND WATCH
PEOPLE'S REACTIONS AS WE'RE WALKING BY.
- OH.
- SHE GETS A LOT OF DOUBLE TAKES?
- MM-HMM.
WHEN I FIRST DREW THEM, I WANTED TO GET THEM PERMANENTLY DONE.
I WANTED TO JUST DO IT. JUST DELVE RIGHT INTO IT.
- AND WHEN I DID MY FACE, I WANTED TO DO IT 12 YEARS
EARLIER THAN I ACTUALLY DID IT, BUT MAYBE THE TIMING
WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN RIGHT THEN, ANYWAY, BECAUSE I STILL HAD
SOME THINGS THAT I NEEDED TO EXPERIENCE.
AND SO, IT'S ALL ABOUT TIMING.
THAT'S WHY I SAID YOU WILL KNOW--WHEN THE TIMING IS
RIGHT, YOU'LL KNOW.
- OF COURSE, EVERYONE'S GOING TO BE CURIOUS.
YOU KNOW, LIKE, I'VE SEEN PEOPLE ASK YOU,
"ARE THOSE PERMANENT?" OR "ARE THOSE REAL?"
AND THOSE ARE GOOD QUESTIONS, BUT THE BETTER QUESTIONS ARE,
"WHAT DOES IT REPRESENT?" "WHAT MADE YOU DO IT?"
"WHY DID YOU DO IT?"
TIMES HAVE CHANGED. TIMES ARE CHANGING.
TIMES WILL ALWAYS BE CHANGING.
AND THIS IS MY CHOICE THEN TO REPRESENT WHO I AM AND WHERE I
COME FROM, WHETHER OR WHETHER NOT PEOPLE LIKE IT.
- IF AND WHEN YOU DO, IF SOMEONE SAYS TO YOU,
"ARE THOSE PERMANENT?," WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO SAY?
- I DON'T KNOW.
I LIKE YOUR RESPONSE-- "ONLY AS PERMANENT AS I AM."
- YEAH.
YOU DIDN'T LOOK AT THEM YET.
- I WANT TO SEE.
[DRUM BEATING/SINGING]
- IF MY CULTURAL BASIS IS BASED ON A RELATIONSHIP TO
SEALS AND SEA LIONS AND BIRDS, WHEN THOSE ANIMALS ARE GONE,
WE'RE GONE.
THE ALEUT CULTURE WILL NOT EXIST.
THE HOPEFUL THING IS THAT WE ARE RAISING YOUNG GENERATION
PEOPLE WHO ARE REALLY WANTING TO HAVE THAT BACK.
- HOW CAN WE REALLY SUSTAIN THE ISLAND?
BUT IT'S REALLY UP TO THE PEOPLE OF THE ISLAND TO MAKE
THAT DECISION FOR THEMSELVES.
- WHAT I WANT TO TELL THE YOUNGER PEOPLE...
BE PROUD THAT YOU'RE AN ALEUT.
SOME PEOPLE CALL THOSE ISLANDS OUT THERE ROCKS.
THEY'RE MORE THAN ROCKS.
THEY'RE OUR HOME.
[APPLAUSE]
[DRUM QUIETLY BEATS STEADY PULSE]
- AS I WEAVE THIS ALEUT BASKET,
I'M USING MODERN MATERIAL.
IT'S ACTUALLY TELEPHONE WIRE.
BUT I'M USING A TECHNIQUE THAT IS MOST LIKELY THOUSANDS
OF YEARS OLD.
AND AS I LOOK BACK AT OUR HISTORY,
THAT'S WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT.
WEAVING TIMES AND PLACES TOGETHER.
I THINK ABOUT THE LAYER UPON LAYER OF PEOPLE'S PASSAGES
HERE ON THE ISLAND...
THROUGH DIFFERENT ERAS FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS.
AND THE NEXT BASKET WE WEAVE...
WELL, IT'S GOING TO HAVE A BIT
OF EACH ONE OF THOSE INTERACTIONS.
I DON'T EVER COMPLETE A BASKET WITHOUT HAVING FIRST STARTED
ANOTHER ONE.
ALL OF MY BASKETS ARE REALLY ONE BASKET INTERLACED
AND WOVEN TOGETHER.
YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THE RESULT IS GOING TO BE, BUT YOU JUST
KEEP WEAVING.
YOU JUST KEEP THINGS GOING THROUGH TIME FOR COMING
GENERATIONS THAT WE DON'T SEE YET.
[DRUM BEATS 3 TIMES]
[SINGING IN UNANGAM TUNUU]
- OVER HERE, YOU THINK IT'S FLAT?
- YEAH, YOU AND I MIGHT TUMBLE DOWN.
[LAUGHTER]