Aleut Story

Aleut Story was developed, researched, filmed and edited for national television over five years. Thousands of pages of historical documents, public testimony, congressional debate, personal memoirs, photographs and scholarly texts wereReturn to Funter Bay reviewed. Filmed entirely on location, the project took the film crew to the Aleutian Islands, the Pribilof Islands, the historic sites of federal duration camps at Funter Bay and Killisnoo, to Anchorage, Juneau, Seattle and Washington, D.C. But the real strength of this film is the chorus of first person voices.

Many historical films merely echo the past. But Aleut Story presents a living history, told by Aleut American evacuees and internment survivors themselves. It is their stories, their voices, that resonate across time and distance. Their unflinching accounts lending an inexpressible eloquence to the film.

Many other evacuees and internment survivors with stories were not interviewed as a result of the practical constraints of weather, time, money, and technical failures. Even some people interviewed for the film do not appear in the final broadcast version. It was with regret and difficulty that entire scenes were cut to keep the program to the allotted 90-minutes (a half-hour more than is allowed for most broadcast documentaries).

We owe a debt of thanks to all who participated in the making of this film, but especially to Aleut Americans — those who agreed to be interviewed before our cameras, those who advised us quietly behind the scenes, and those we did not have the honor of meeting. It is their story we tell.

“Removal from their homeland permanently changed nearly every aspect of Aleut life,” the special Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians concluded in a report to Congress. “The many who died in the camps were a huge loss to both family and community which also endangers the future of the Aleut as a distinct people. Evacuation meant irreversible cultural erosion … America, proud of its cultural diversity, thereby lost a distinctive part of itself.”

Only through the telling of the Aleuts’ story will America ever truly regain that part of itself which was lost. As filmmakers, it is our hope this documentary will contribute to a more accurate understanding of our civil rights history and a renewed appreciation for the diversity of our nation.

Marla Williams
for the Aleut Story team