Aleut Story


Mary Bourdukofsky (off camera)
Interned at Funter Bay Duration Camp
We really didn’t know where they were going to take us.

Walter Dyakanoff (off camera)
Interned at Ward Lake Duration Camp
They kicked us all out. Then they burned the churches, burned the buildings … it was terrible.

Jake Lestenkof (off camera)
Interned at Funter Bay Duration Camp
American citizens were starving … were dying.

Harriet Hope (off camera) 
Interned at Burnett Inlet Duration Camp
The story was never told. It was purposely held secret.

His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska (off camera)
What happened here, on our own continent, is a tragedy. If this was known the American people would be appalled.

ANNOUNCER
This program is made possible, in part, by The Aleutian Heritage Pribilof Islands Restitution Trust, Rasmuson Foundation, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and by: (on screen visuals of additional underwriters).

Mike Zacharof
Interned at Funter Bay Duration Camp (Speaking in Aleut)
(Repeating his statement in English)
This place is called East Landing, and this is one of the docks used during the evacuation of the Aleut People to Funter Bay. We were told to take one bag and get ready to leave the island.

Narrator (Martin Sheen)
The Aleuts of Alaska would experience war as few other Americans. The only campaign of World War II fought on American soil, the battle for the Aleutians would extract a heavy toll.

But in the end, it would not be invading Japanese forces who posed the greatest threat to the Aleut survival. That would come from the country Aleuts pledged allegiance to—the United States of America.

Flore Lekanof
Interned at Funter Bay Duration Camp
The Government owned us  … and they treated us as property. People learned that they weren’t being treated as full citizens.

Narrator
Aleuts would be sent to isolated interment camps. There they would find pain … and grief. And strangely enough … possibility.

Ms. Hope 
The story was never told. And it was such a big story. It was just like it was purposely held secret, and nobody should know this, because I think it’s a big, black mark on the United States government. I know there are some elders here, they refuse to utter a word about it, they’ll just say, “No,” (she wipes away tears) “I won’t talk about it.” And … that’s the saddest part.

I think if we can all get together and talk about it, like we all got together and went through it, I think we’d all be a lot less burdened. It needs to be told. And I think it will now.

Title Graphic: Aleut Story

William Ermeloff
Interned at Ward Lake Duration Camp
(Speaks in Aleut, then translation fades in) This story is passed down through many years …

Narrator
Ancestors of modern Aleuts, migrants from Asia, settled along this sweeping arc of volcanic islands.

Mr. Ermeloff
It happened to be a clear day and they saw the islands on the horizon …

Narrator
The Aleutian Chain separates the Pacific Ocean from the Bering Sea. Stretching 1,300 miles west from the Alaskan peninsula to the International Date Line. And here, on the edge of tomorrow, Aleuts have lived for 9,000 years.

Two hundred miles north are the Pribilof Islands: Saint Paul and Saint George are home to the world’s largest Aleut population. Most written histories say Aleuts first came to these islands as slaves of Russian fur traders. But Aleuts – who call themselves Unangan – tell the story differently.

Aquilina Lestenkof
Aleut Culturalist, St. Paul Island, Alaska
There was a man named Igadagax, who lived in a village on the Aleutian Chain. And he was out paddling his single-hatched igax (Ich’-yah) or kayak and he was washed away in a storm. And he lived to tell the tale of coming to a land where there were fur seals and sea otters and abundant bird life …  And he told his people that he had been to a place called “Tunan Amix” (tah-NAH-ah-mee) – “Land of Mother’s Brother.” And that anyone who had ever gone to Tunan Amix would always carry a longing to return.

(Sound of fur seals, fade to new scene)

Narrator
The United States bought Alaska from Russia’s Czar in 1867. The Department of Interior, headquartered more then 4,000 miles away in Washington D.C., assumed charge of the Aleuts as it had other Native Americans.

Dorothy Jones, Ph.D.
Author, “Century of Servitude”
In many regards it was the same paternalistic set-up that other Indian groups in the United States experienced.  But it was unique in that the government wanted land from American Indians but—in the case of the Pribilofs—they wanted, and needed, the Aleuts’ labor.

Narrator
Under the terms of the treaty, Aleuts were United States citizens. But for decades to come, virtually every aspect of Aleut life was subjected to federal scrutiny and control.
 
Ms. Jones
We bought Alaska right after the end of the Civil War and after we emancipated the slaves, while we continued a system of enslavement in these remote islands.

Stephen Haycox, Ph.D.
Historian
Greed and racism in 19th century America are handmaidens to one-another. They march is lock step, they are married. Slavery was profitable. If slavery hadn’t been profitable, slavery would have disappeared in the 1830’s. It might even have disappeared in the 1780’s.

The legacy of that lasts into Reconstruction after the Civil War. Blacks are cheap labor. Indians, Indians aren’t even mattering.

Anybody who came into the Aleutian Islands, the Pribilof Islands, hoped for maximum profitability. One piece of that formula was to employ the local people on the cheapest possible terms.

Narrator
Federal officials under pressure to justify the purchase of Alaska wanted to maximize income. Commercial sealing was an obvious source of revenue, and Aleuts the obvious source of labor. Many in government believed that to profit from one, you had to control the other.

Ms. Jones:
To subdue a people, to render them submissive, you degrade them. That’s part of any colonial system. And one of the ways they degraded the Aleuts was by segregating them and humiliating them.

The agents, for example, issued orders: what time they were to go to bed. They controlled the choice of marriage partners. There was a recreation hall, but only the whites were allowed to use it. They were treated like dogs. And though there were some protests, nobody heard them in those years.

Narrator
Well into the 20th century, Aleuts would remain unheard and unseen. Then, World War II found Alaska. And the Aleuts lives, already a study in oppression, took an ugly turn.

Mrs. Bourdukofsky
I was born and raised on St. Paul Island.

We had a boat that comes four times a year that brings the mail. There was no … radios hardly, and no T.V., nothing like that.

And I started school when I was seven years old. And the one thing that I really learned in English was, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of America.”

One day I told my dad what I learned in school, and he was so proud of me, he said, “We’re part of United States, you know, I’m glad you learned that.” And so from then on, I used to be proud to be an American, you know. Not just an Aleut.

We celebrate Fourth of July, and they dressed us up in nice Sunday dresses, and my Mom and Dad ordered a flag, so we hold a little flag and just go around town and have picnics and lemonade.

We didn’t know the outside life too much.

The Fish and Wildlife was the one that run the island. There was an agent, and he has an assistant. And there was a storekeeper, and there was a doctor. I think there were about seven or eight employees. Oh, they had all the power they could. We couldn’t, we couldn’t go over them. If you do, you’re punished for that.

As we were growing up, I got married to a local boy there, and we had a wonderful life together. And he was a baseball player, so I used to look forward to that Sunday afternoon baseball game.

It happened, one Sunday afternoon. I was home, staying with my children, and my husband was playing ball. Then he came running in, and said, “They stopped they ballgame. They come to evacuate us people.”

Narrator

The evacuation of nearby St. George Island began that same Sunday in June 1942.

Mr. Lekanof
We were just got home from church. We had a priest there, his name was Father Theodosy, and my father was a reader in the church, so we, we all went to church and came home and had some hot biscuits and coffee and so on. And then somebody came to our door and said, “We have to get ready because we will be taken off the island very soon.”

1st Reader
(Reading from Agent’s Log, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Seal Division, June 1942)

Having received orders from the Navy to prepare for immediate evacuation, the entire village has been mined with TNT, the cattle rounded up and stanchioned and then shot, pails of gasoline stationed at each house to facilitate destruction.

Mr. Lekanof
We were allowed to take one bag apiece and clothing on our backs. And, uh, that was the way we were to get on the ship.
 
Narrator

A total of 19 Fish and Wildlife Service employees, and 478 Aleuts, were herded aboard the U.S. Army Transport Delarof.

Mr. Lekanof

We didn’t know were we were going, but we left the island.

Narrator

Nobody, not even the federal officials in charge, knew where they were going. Ordered to follow a devious a course, the Delarof began to zigzag its way south …

The Evacuation had begun suddenly, but not without warning. Unidentified planes had been buzzing the islands for months and U.S. Army Intelligence had repeatedly warned Japanese Imperial forces were preparing to invade Alaska—America’s northern frontier.

Victor Malavanksy
Interned at Funter Bay Duration Camp

People scared of hearing the planes, you know. Night time, you could hear those planes. People sometimes, they hear the planes, they knock on the doors, you know, like outside (knocks on table, as if rapping on door) “Hey! Turn your lamps off! Turn your lamps off!” Everybody was scared, they blackout everybody. They don’t want to see the lights down on the village.

Narrator

The world was at war—and a new enemy close at hand. The Alaskan Defense Command had been created under the control of General Simon Bolivar Buckner. More than five thousand soldiers were ordered to garrison a heavily fortified post at Dutch Harbor, near the Aleutian village of Unalaska.

Ms. Hope

There were dugouts and foxholes being dug everywhere. The sirens, when they went off … we had to move, we had to move to our designated areas and everyone had a designated area, and our family happened to be down by the town creek, and we were in a large dugout in the side of the riverbank. I remember my mother always brought holy water and holy bread with us, ‘cause I guess each time you never knew if it was the real thing.

I remember one particular morning, it was a bright sunny day and I woke up and looked out the big hole … entrance way, and across the creek, all the military men, all of the sudden, they were there—it seemed to me like over night.

Narrator

When Pearl Harbor was bombed, in December of 1941, Buckner ordered the evacuation of all white women and children from Unalaska. Even the prostitutes were told to go, allowing the Navy to take over a brothel for storage space. But there was no agreement on whether to remove the Aleuts, American citizens all, from harms way.

2nd Reader
(reading from official correspondence)

“These decisions must be made by military authorities … ”

3rd Reader
(reading from official correspondence)

 “Aleuts would be safer placed upon other islands”.

4th Reader
(reading from official correspondence)

“These people could never adjust themselves to life outside … ”

2nd Reader
(reading from official correspondence)

“Request authority to evacuate all natives … ”

Narrator

Federal and Alaska territorial officials seemed incapable of reaching a decision. There arguments clouded by paternalism, prejudice, and political jealousies.

3rd Reader
(reading from official correspondence)

“Their immoral nature makes them a menace to soldiers and other workers at the base..”.

1st Reader
(reading from official correspondence)

”We try to teach them safety but they have primitive tendencies … some of our Alaska natives are in serious trouble … ”

2nd Reader
(reading from official correspondence)

I would like to clean out the entire town.”

Alice Petrivelli
Interned at Killisnoo Duration Camp

In my mind, we were just nuisance, okay, as far as the government was concerned. Yes, it was a time of war but we were citizens of the United States.

Narrator

Around the world G.I.s were fighting a desperate war against fascism. But at home, America still placed race above individual rights.

Ms. Petrivelli

The treatment we got was not right. And I don’t think anyone else would go through what we did.

Narrator

Shortly after midnight, on June 2, 1942, air raid sirens shattered the peace. Japanese aircraft carriers and bombers had been sent to attack Dutch Harbor, with the aim of diverting U.S. forces from the naval battle at Midway, two thousand miles to the south.

Maria Turnpaugh
Interned at Burnett Inlet Duration Camp

Everything went so fast. We had to get to the bomb-shelter. So many people scared. It was just—unbelievable.

Narrator

The air strike set in motion a full-scale, 15 month battle, second only to Iwa Jima for bloody, hand-to-hand combat. Unopposed Japanese troops seized the islands of Kiska and Attu 850 miles west of Dutch Harbor. On Kiska, 10 U.S. weather crew were captured. On Attu, a white radio-operator was killed and 42 Aleuts, and a white schoolteacher, were taken prisoner.

Mr. Dyakanoff

Well, it was sad, ‘cause we couldn’t do nothin’ about it. The chief of Attu, told the Coast Guard, “The Japanese will be here” that was Mike Hodiakoff, and they didn’t listen to him.

Narrator

Hodiakoff would die in a Japanese POW camp in 1945. Sixteen other Attuans perished along with him.

Incredibly, even as enemy forces became more entrenched, officials continued bickering over whether to evacuate the Aleuts. Finally, Navy Admiral Charles Freeman made a command decision, ordering the immediate evacuation of all natives from the Aleutian Islands.

Angus MacBeth
Special Counsel, Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians

It was an unhappy story of the government bungling something—and I think they were trying to do the right thing, they were trying to protect people—but they didn’t have the wherewithal to do it very well and they managed it miserably. And, it had terrible, terrible costs for a great many of the Aleuts.

Gert Hope Svarny
Interned at Burnett Inlet Duration Camp

We were evacuated out of here, but my father couldn’t go because he was white.

Narrator

Aleuts had intermarried with Caucasians for nearly two centuries but officials adopted a blood-quantum rule: Anyone of 1/8th or more native blood was compelled to ship out immediately.

Ms. Hope

My father was from Manchester, England and he was in the Navy. And he got stationed up in Alaska, and he was stationed in St. Paul. That’s where he met my mother. And they got married, and they moved to Unalaska.

We had a big family, and we always had people, extra people, for dinner, people visiting us. We always had a houseful.

Mrs. Svarny

Our family was never again together. Never again … so.

When we left here, when we were evacuated from here, we never were, never, never got together again, so …

Mr. Haycox

I think the context that explains the Aleut episode after the invasion of the Japanese and the bombing of Dutch Harbor—I think what explains all of that is racism. It’s a blatant racism, and by blatant I mean it’s a racism that no one feels they need apologize for. And that reflects where American culture was in the 1940s, and still into the 1950s.

Narrator

Like Americans of Japanese descent, Aleuts would find themselves shunted into government camps. Suspected of nothing, accused of nothing, Aleuts never imagined they too would be segregated, isolated in American gulags. Dark, dank camps, mired in the coastal muck of southeast Alaska’s dense intemperate rainforests.
 
Mr. MacBeth

One of the problems was that they weren’t really respected as individuals.

What this country stands for very much is personal dealings with the and between the government and the citizens. But that was one of the things that had gone off the rails in a very profound and important way in the beginning of the Second World War—and, given the terrible conditions in which people were placed, it puts a heavier weight on the government’s shoulders.

Ms. Hope

Everybody onboard from Unalaska was at the railing, you know, just saying goodbye to home and hoping to be back soon. And my father had come out and my mother had held me up to the railing so I could say goodbye.

I was dressed in my Sunday school coat, and for going to Sunday school every Sunday I’d earned a Sunday school pin, and I had a pair of my Sunday school gloves. And we had a good view of my house. My dad was out there jumping up and down and doing this (waves arms overhead) and I could still see his white sleeves.

Narrator

After leaving the Pribilofs, the Delarof picked up 83 more Aleuts from the village of Atka in the Aleutian Islands.

Mrs. Bourdukofsky

The boat was really crowded, so you line up … and, and  it takes about an hour to get where you’re going, like going up the steps and so on.

Narrator

The aging transport ship had a capacity of 376 passengers. Now the ships company numbered 570 men, women, and children. Illness spread rapidly, but the government doctor on board refused to enter the Delarof’s hold where the Aleut lay sick and dying.

Mrs. Bourdukofsky

And then this lady that was having a baby wanted a doctor, and there’s no …  She ask around and her husband asked around to see if they could check on the baby. And they never did. And that poor little baby died.

The priest was on there and used holy water and named the baby.

Voice of Father Michael Lestenkof
Interned at Funter Bay Duration Camp

Holy God, Holy Almighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy … 

Mrs. Bourdukofsky
And then later on they wrapped her up in canvas and they just slid her overboard, her little body.

Fr. Lestenkof

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit …

Mrs. Bourdukofsky

That was our first casualty we had.

Fr. Lestenkof

Now and unto the ages and ages, Amen.

(fade out)

Mrs. Bourdukofsky

Four o’clock in the morning, my mom, she wakes us up. “Girls! Girls!, “she said, “There’s trees!” We’d never seen trees before. Oh, we got so excited. Four o’clock in the morning we got up to see the trees.

But we didn’t know we were going to be tired of them for two-and-a-half years (laughs).

Narrator

This was a strange, new land—unlike the treeless, windswept world the Aleuts called home.

But as the Delarof put in at Funter Bay on June 24th, 1942, the Aleuts looked with relief on the densely forested landscape of Southeast Alaska.
 
 
Mr. Zacharof

Me, being so young, I didn’t know what was going on. Where, other people were worried about being taken off the island, in a way I was happy because, you know, I didn’t realize there was a war going on.

And when we got to Funter Bay I saw my very first tree,.

You know, I thought there was no other place except St. Paul when I was a kid. I really did. I mean, I just thought, “This is it” (gestures back toward the village of St. Paul).

Vlass Shabolin
Interned at Funter Bay Duration Camp

There was myself, and the other boys, and when we first got here, the first thing we saw was a frog. And by golly, we went huntin’ for a frog (laughs). We never knew what that was, so … we got, I got one. I came home all muddy and my mom looked at me and said, “Now what am I gonna do with you!” (laughs) you know.

Mr. Lekanof

Shortly after we arrived at Funter Bay I think the novelty wore off.

We started unloading the ship there. We were all unloaded on the cannery side, the old cannery that had not been operating for several years. The facilities were really deplorable.

Narrator

Hidden by the tall, fragrant spruce was a terrible reality: The deadly conditions on the ship were more than matched by the conditions on shore.

1st Reader
Agent’s Log, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

If you think any of this is fun, you should be here. The water system cannot under any condition be made usable for winter …  the outdoor privies empty into the water at high tide … but the sewage still washes back onto the beach for the children to track around. All houses are gone from rot.

Narrator

A long abandoned fish cannery and crumbling gold mine offered the only shelter.

Mr. Lekanof

There were no toilets, no washrooms. No partitions between the rooms we were put in. For privacy’s sake they put up blankets between one family and another. For a lot of us young people, I think there were about a dozen of us, ended up in an attic of a warehouse. I don’t even remember how we slept that night—probably on the floor somewhere.

Mrs. Bourdukofsky

And that night I saw the elder women crying, and I hide away and cry, and I just, I just feel hurt. My little babies, you know, they were crying. I said, “How we gonna live here?” Everybody ask each others, how are were we gonna live here?

Narrator

They would live, but barely. Sustained only by their powerful faith and will to survive.

Mr. Lestenkof

I lost my mom. Losing a mother is a traumatic time. It is more traumatic, I think, if you are in strange surroundings.

Some years later, I became the head of that agency that was responsible for Aleuts during that evacuation period. I used to reflect on the charge of my predecessors during the war years and, while I was not faced with the magnitude of problems that they were faced with, the inattention that was paid to the living conditions of those evacuees I think is—criminal.

Narrator

The 479 Pribolovians at Funter Bay represented more than one-half of all Aleut evacuees.

Mr. Lekanof

Technically we were not internees, but neither were we free to leave the camps.

I think some people in government believe we needed to be confined for out own good.

1st Reader
(reading from official correspondence)

They’ll get into all kinds of scrapes, drunk. They’ll be robbed, fleeced at bunko games, and the first thing some government office will be getting calls.

Mr. Lekanof

But there were others—they wanted to keep us in the camps so that it would be easy to round us up back to the islands for seal-harvesting.

4th Reader
(reading from official correspondence)

It is our desire to keep the native organization as intact as possible. No individual should be permitted to take his family and leave camp. If he insists on doing so, he should lose all rights and should not be allowed to return to the islands. Seal Division Superintendent Edward C. Johnston

Mr. Lekanof

We were treated little better than animals, you know, for service to the government.

Narrator

Officials hadn’t found the time to plan for the Aleuts relocation, but they did find time to organize a press tour.

5th Reader
(reading from War Discovers Alaska, by Joseph Driscoll)

Never before had any ship brought such a strange cargo to American shores. Lining the rails of the big transport, towering over our little craft were hundred of aborigines: men, women, and children, especially children, from the north Pacific and Bering Sea outposts of the empire.

Narrator

Reporter Joseph Driscoll of the New York Herald Tribune looked on as the last of the Delarof’s passengers, 83 evacuees from Atka, were loaded onto a fish-scow to be taken to Killisnoo, an abandoned whaling village about 50 miles south.

5th Reader

Shepherding the natives were two white teachers who had been evacuated with them. As the native children lined up in the fish-stinking scow they sang, “God bless America” to the tune of Irving Berlin.

(Overlap of children singing “God bless America”).

Somehow, it was rather touching to hear the little aborigines singing their heads off before breakfast, to prove that they were just as patriotic and just as Rotarian as the rest of us. I must say these little yellow-skinned barbarians were much better mannered than many children back home.

Mrs. Petrivelli

When we first got here it felt good cause we had been on the boat for so long. And to breath the fresh air, to smell the trees and the roses. I didn’t know at that time that eventually I would not like the trees, but it was nice to be ashore.

We saw this kind of an open field, so the kids were running, all of us, and they were saying, “ouch, ouch”. Here we ran into nettles and we didn’t know what they were. Left blisters on our legs (laughs).

Narrator

The Atkans arrived at Killisnoo equipped with the accumulated knowledge of 9,000 years of survival. But this environment was completely alien.

Ms. Petrivelli

We were kind of lost. Back home we had routine, there were certain things we had to do to survive. Here they kind of dumped us, nobody told us what we needed to do. We knew we had to do something, but what?

Narrator

The last of the evacuees from the villages of Unalaska, Akutan, Nikolski, Kashega, Makushin, and Biorka arrived in southeast Alaska later that summer. Taken to Wrangell Institute, a boarding school for native children, villagers were quartered in wooden-floored tents.

Doctors inoculated the Aleuts against typhoid and smallpox, but other medical measures were tainted by racism. Assuming Aleuts were of low moral character, government doctors required all females, twelve years of age and older, to undergo physical examinations for venereal disease.

Ms. Hope

I remember … in particular … the urgency of once we got there, they had to give us all medical treatment of some kind. And my sister, again being in a certain age group, she was subjected to physical examinations that were so degrading to her, and we felt really bad about that, but we had no say in the matter.

Narrator

From Wrangell, the Aleuts were moved to more isolated camps.

Mr. Dyakanoff

The houses were in pretty bad shape. Very bad shape. And they put a whole bunch in a bunkhouse, and that was not good, families and all. Just.. not good. We had to rebuild. They supplied the lumber and we put houses together, built a church, built a school, built the boardwalks, repaired everything.

Ms. Hope

The elders just did the best they could. Of course my Mom, she was one of the ones in charge. She was one of those people–everybody looked up to her. She took care of medical problems. Like broken bones, and sowed up wounds, and delivered all babies in town, all by herself.

 I don’t know where she got that strength from, but she sure had it.

Narrator

A handful of evacuees were lost in the system.

George Gordaoff, a 15 year old from Kasheega, a tiny Aleutian village, was left to fend for himself.

George Gordaoff
Aleut American Evacuee

It was kinda weird. I, uh, I felt like I was, well, I was separated.

But, uh, it was kinda strange. I knew I had to work, support myself, the best I can. So I worked in Juneau ‘til I joined the service. Then I just kinda lost track of everybody after that ‘cause I was moved from place to place.

If you look back on it, you know, it really hurt a lot of people. I mean, taking people away from their environment and their homes—such as they were, such as they had—and to take to a strange place and strange people and ordered around like we were, you know, dogs or something,

 I mean, you know, it’s just …  At that time I never though too much of it, you know, but now I think about it and—they could a done a lot better.

Narrator

In fact, America was doing better for its prisoners of war.

Just 22 miles northwest of Funter Bay at a place called Excursion Inlet, 700 Nazi prisoners of war were eating regular meals, sleeping in warm beds and receiving regular medical care.

Protected by the Geneva Conventions, the prisoner’s living standards were much higher than the Aleuts.

Mrs. Turnpaugh

Well, it made you feel like you were nothing. I mean, we didn’t do anything wrong. And yet we were treated like that. It was hard to understand.

Ms. Hope
I’m sure everybody thought with the amount of supplies and clothes we were allowed to take we would only be gone a few days at the most. And then, um, pretty soon it was weeks, and then months, and then, phff, years. Nobody ever knew from day-to-day how much longer we’d be there.

And then people started getting sick.  People were getting boils—they were running rampant through the camp. And then, we had eye infections, we had impetigo—it was just one thing that was so contagious. We had hair lice, that was just rampant. TB was another big problem. We lost several people to TB, tuberculosis.

Mrs. Svarny

We lost lots of elders. I think that that’s why our culture just stood still for a long time.

I think that the poor people from Funter Bay, I think that they suffered the most. The things that they went through were really terrible.

1st Reader
(Reading from Agent’s Log, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Seal Division, June 1942)
 

Pribilof Evacuation Camp, Funter, Alaska, October 7th, 1942. I wish to submit my resignation as agent and caretaker. I feel I cannot stay and watch a people I have grown attached to …  Only a miracle can prevent a tragedy of sickness and extreme suffering to them.

Mr. Lekanof

I don’t know how families survived that summer. Some people were sick, they really belonged in a hospital—like my sister and grandmother. 

Mrs. Bourdukofsky

So we all got together and had a meeting and then we wrote this letter. I’ll read it: “We the people of this place want some better place than this to live. This place is no place for living creatures. We drink impure water and then get sick. The children get skin disease, even the grown-ups … ”

Narrator

The evacuees protest were echoed by Territorial Attorney General Henry Roden.

6th Reader
(Reading from official correspondence)

I have no language at my command which can adequately describe what I saw. If I had, I’m confident you would not believe my statements. In short, the situation is shocking. I have seen some pretty tough places in my days in Alaska, but nothing to equal the situation at Funter.

Mrs. Bourdukofsky
(Continuing to read petition from Aleut women)

“Why they not take us to a better place to live and work for ourselves? Do we have to see our children suffer? We all have rights to speak for ourselves.”

Narrator

Federal officials, responding from their warm offices in the Lower 48 states, refused their appeal.

2nd Reader
(Reading from official correspondence)

Let them know we are all called upon to make sacrifices in connection with the war program. Ward T. Bower, Director of Alaska Fisheries

Narrator

With little help, Aleuts worked to improve the camps. But all their labors could not protect them from destitution, disease, and death.

During the years 1942 and 1943, one in 10 Aleut evacuees would die—a death rate comparable to that of American soldiers in foreign prisoner of war camps.

Like the fine, cold mist filtering through the rain forest, grief settled on the camps—chilling the Aleuts to their very core.

Mr. Shabolin

During the evening, there’s no heat, no heat in the house at all. There’s three, four, of us kids got together and slept in one bed with, if you’re lucky, you had a blanket, one army blanket that covered you up. If you’re lucky you had a slice of bread and a cup of hot water, with sugar in it.

Even though I was cold, I used to run over to my uncle’s. He was sick with TB. Name was Vlass Pankoff. He’s the one that raised me on St. Paul, actually. So, I used to run over in the morning, and make sure I could light the stove for him and get him warm, you know? And fix him a cup of tea. And he’d tell me some stories, you know, “Believe in God, and do this or that with God on your side,” you know. He was a religious man, so I enjoyed his life.

Narrator

Vlass Pankoff was buried on a moldering hillock beneath a dense canopy of spruce and fir, the ground so wet water filled the grave before his body could be laid to rest.

The Aleuts put up crosses, and built a fence around the cemetery. Then they made a marker out of twigs, pointing the way to the Pribilof Islands.

The twigs represented depravation and death. But the sign itself was one of faith and hope. The Aleuts, ever determined, would one day go home.

Mrs. Bourdukofsky

There was a priest on the mine side, so every two weeks, if the weather is good, he used to come and have a service. They had a little, they fixed up a tent as a temporary church. And he used to talk to us, and said, “This won’t last forever. God has a lot of love and he will help us.”  He said, “One of these days, help will be coming—just pray that it will come soon.”

(Prays for deliverance in Unangan/Aleut language, then in English)  … please God, help us.

Narrator

Before World War II, most Aleuts had never been away from their islands. But they knew American offered more than this.

Mr. Lekanof

That was my mother’s vision of a “dream home.” (Points to a needlepoint of a large colonial-style home.) She had a nice yard in front and swimming pool—and she like the spaciousness of the house itself.

That was tragic, to end up in a place like Funter Bay. Yeah, there were no dream homes there.

Narrator

News about life in the camps was being carefully censored under the First War Powers Act. But complaints were finally beginning to circulate outside the camps.

Ms. Jones

Doctors and nurses and newspaper journalists and others were visiting these camps and they said, “What’s going on here?”

Well, tor one thing, the Draft Board wanted to register the Aleuts. The United States Employment Service wanted to employ them in Juneau and places because there was a labor shortage.

At first the agents resisted it, but then they couldn’t carry it, they couldn’t carry it off. We were fighting a war against fascism.

Narrator

A conference was called in Washington D.C. to discuss the Aleut problem. Government lawyers concluded that the Department of Interior had no legal authority to confine the Aleuts.

Andronik Kashevarof
Interned at Funter Bay Duration Camp

They weren’t afraid anymore—they just go

Mr. Malavansky

Yeah, they moved from Funter Bay to Juneau.

Mr. Kashevarof

I was fifteen when I got my first job in Juneau at Percy’s Café as a dishwasher. Five dollars for one day, that was good enough. (Both men laugh).

Then they had a fire there after three weeks and I lose my job—all closed up. Then I looked into the newspaper; they wanted somebody to work in the governor’s house. I got my job there.

Mrs. Bourdukofsky

The ones that weren’t drafted, they start going to Juneau. After they work two weeks or so, they sent for their family. And I was just kinda upset because, here my husband is—I don’t know where he was—he can’t do that to me, he’s in (military) service. And so I had no choice. I had to stay there; I was gonna have my third child.

Mr. Lekanof

It was a big educational process that took place from then on. People learned that, really, they weren’t being treated as full citizens.

Narrator

The U.S. Interior Department, which had administered the Pribilof Islands like a virtual prison colony for 80 years, wasn’t about to give up control.

In 1941, the year before the Aleut evacuation, the annual seal slaughter delivered 2.4 million dollars to the U.S. Treasury. In 1942, the year of the evacuation, the operation lost a million dollars.

Now the Interior Department wanted to make up its losses. Problem was, the Aleuts didn’t want to go. The seals were in a combat zone. And, an entire summer of sealing wouldn’t amount to a month’s wages in their newfound jobs.

Mr. Lekanof

The people that were working in Juneau were told that “If you don’t go, we won’t take you back on the Pribilofs. You’ll lose the house that you we were allowing you to live in. If you don’t come and work with us during the summer, we’ll just disown you.”

Narrator

The sealing gang finally assembled included 116 evacuees and 12 Aleuts on active military duty, furloughed for the seal harvest.

1st Reader
(Reading from Agent’s Log, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Seal Division, June 1943)

Pribilof Evacuation Camp, Funter, Alaska. Thursday, May 6th. As we drew away from the dock, a choir of native voices began a farewell chant in Russian which was answered by those remaining on shore. Many of the women were crying their farewells never having experienced the parting of their loved ones. It was a sight not soon to be forgotten.

Narrator

Sealing resumed in the Pribilofs on June 10th, 1943 with phenomenal success.

Mr. Ermeloff
(seated next to Mr. Lekanof)

I remember the largest kill that was ever made up there was over 5,800 some odd on St. Paul Island. And I got a 153 out of that bunch. (laughs)

Mr. Lekanof

Times three cents or five cents?

Mr. Ermeloff:

A nickel a piece (laughs).

I think it was the hardest work imaginable.

Narrator

Commercial sealing in the Pribilofs ended in 1984. Pressure from wildlife conservation groups and declining consumer demand shut down the washroom and the salt house.

But in 1943, the U.S. sealing operation was unrivalled.

Mr. Malavansky
(Standing inside St. George Seal Plant, St. George, Alaska, blubbering room)

Pretend this is skin. Take the skin and put it right here like that. Now, take your blubbering knife. ‘Ok, everybody start blubbering.’ And then turn it over. Put it up over, and then start from middle and all the way down.

Everybody was tired, sweaty. You could see the row, from right here to over there, just steaming like, people sweating up.

Anthony Merculief
St. George Island

We went out early in the morning. We took pride in what we did, you know? And there was people assigned to different tasks. I was assigned, when I first started, to be a watchman. I watched the big herd of seals that were rounded up.

Narrator

An experienced crew could stun, kill, and skin a seal in little more than minute. Federal agents supervised the Aleuts in partnership with the employees of the Foulk Fur Company of Missouri, which acted as a wholesaler of the sealskins.

Mr. Malavanksy

The government and the company, they balanced, you know? They talked to each other and stuff like that, you know? They had respect for the agents up there, you know, something like that.

Mr. Kashevarof

He was a pretty hard man to talk to. He used to be out there with us, because he’s an agent. If you would make a little mistake in what you’re doing, boy, that guy used to just jump on us.

Mr. Merculief

There was a lot of talk, you know, between the blubberers. They talked to each other, and tease each other and, you know, about how many skins they were getting.

Mr. Kashevarof

Some of those temporary men, they were from the Aleutian Islands. Well … sometimes I used to talk to them and in Aleut. “Hey (speaking in Aleut)”

Mr. Merculief

(translating) “You got all the small skins and I’m getting. All the big skins.”

The tough ones were the big ones, they were very stringy. 

Narrator

That summer saw an all-time record harvest: some 125,000 skins taken.

The agents were jubilant but reluctantly paid the Aleut sealers.

Mr. Kashevarof

My share, you know, from a sealing division for the summer was $45.00. Forty-five bucks. I made that in two weeks as a dishwasher Percy’s Café.

Mr. Malavansky

They used us just like slaves, just like slaves, you know.

Narrator

Worse for the men, a deadly epidemic of influenza was sweeping the camps. Their families were suffering. The unceasing toll of disease and death was recorded in official camp logs:

1st Reader
(Reading from Agent’s Log, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Seal Division, June 1943)

Thursday, July 8th. St. George Evacuation camp. Every man except the cook, the priest, and I have the flu.

Monday, July 12th. Still having the flu.

 Friday, July 16th, about 5am. Alexandra, the wife of Isador Nestoroff died. One man helped build a casket. Two men dug a grave.

Mr. Shabolin

My mom had, ah, little Sergie, “Baby Sergie” we called him. And, uh, he was three months old when he got double pneumonia. And there was the government nurse there, uh, sent him back home with my mom, saying there was nothing they could do for him.

So my mom took him to the midwife and she told her to keep him warm. But where we live, we only had a 55-gallon drum to warm up something like a 40 by 80 cannery. My mom and the midwives tried their best to get him healthy, but they couldn’t, and she just cried. He died in my mom’s arms.

They went and got the priest; the priest came over and gave a blessing to the child. Next day the carpenters were down at the shop, making a little coffin for him. And then, uh … (fights back tears)

Those were the hardest childhood days we had.

Narrator

Evacuees from the Pribilofs returned home in the spring of 1944.

Mrs. Bourdukofksy

We were so happy, we were just crying. We were so happy to be back.

Mr. Lestenkof

I had lost my mom the year before, so I was going back with my grandfather. And I remember the great excitement, the anxiousness and expectation.

Mr. Kashevarof

I was only 14 and I was really happy to come back home.

Mr. Shabolin

The first thing we had here after we got back, my dad went out and got a seal, and we had seal meat dinner that evening, and it was good. It was home again for all of us.

Narrator

Evacuees from the Aleutians returned home in 1945, nearly a full year after the Japanese had been vanquished from the islands.

Mrs. Turnpaugh

Well, it was a very happy time, at first. Just to get home. We stopped at that hill up there and, looked down and saw the church. Our whole life revolved around that church before the war, our whole family. It was just like a dream, I mean, it was like … is this really happening?

Narrator

But home was not as they’d left it. The U.S. military had billeted troops in native homes. Army and Navy inspectors confirmed what was obvious to the eye.

Mrs. Turnpaugh

Ransacked. Doors and windows broken. It was just terrible. We had no furniture. The B.I.A. bought a few little pieces of … it wasn’t hardly anything at all. And here they were dismantling the base, and they were taking furniture up to the dump. Rugs, beautiful furniture, beautiful … and burning them, burning them.

Narrator

Even their churches had been vandalized. Centuries-old religious icons had been damaged, destroyed, or stolen.

His Grace Nikolai, Bishop of Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska

Tragic. Just tragic. What happened here, on our own continent, in this very place is a tragedy.

Narrator

After all the Aleuts had endured, this was devastating.

Mrs. Turnpaugh

It was just a waste of time. We lost so much.

Narrator

Like the patterns woven into the Aleuts’ fine grass-baskets, their experiences would be woven into their culture. So, too, the lost of four Aleutian villages: Attu, Biorka, Makushin, and Kashega.

Deciding it would be too costly to repatriate the villagers, U.S authorities declared their homes off limits … forever.

Mr. Gordaoff

I guess you might say I was homeless. I didn’t know where to go. My parents were all gone. I had a few cousins. And I … it was a hard decision for me. I guess I took a plunge, or whatever you want to call it, to face the world.

Narrator

The world had changed. And so had the Aleuts.

Mrs. Bourdukofsky

Little by little, the men started having secret meetings in their homes. They didn’t want what they were talking about to leak out to the government.

Mr. Lekanof

They learned from being in Juneau, being in the armed forces, and having seen how other people lived, other places, they began to realize that they were losing out on a lot of things: Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement. And I think it was those kinds of freedoms that the Aleut people decided they better do something about.

Mr. Haycox

They have to become the agency of their own mattering. In a very real sense, the World War II experience gives them a reference point, a negative, declined reference point, from which to step forward.

Narrator

In 1951, Aleuts from the Pribilof Islands filed a precedent-setting claim against the United States government for gross mistreatment between the years 1870 and 1946.

The Aleut independence movement had begun.

Ms. Jones

The Justice Department contacted me to write a report that they needed in response to the Pribilof Aleuts suit against the government for 100 years of servitude. What I learned was shocking.

I had access to the confidential files that spanned 100 years in the federal archives. I had heard things, but I didn’t know the extent of the enslavement and oppression of the Aleut people.

The government agents were police, they were investigators. They acted as prosecutors, and judge and jury. They had totalitarian authority.

Mr. Lekanof

I think one of the important things was to be treated as bona fide American citizens. I think that’s where the idea of citizenship came up, and the fact that they weren’t given any opportunities to vote.

And it really went into a blown-up affair when Carl Moses, who was running for the state legislature, came to St. Paul Island, and the agent that was there on the island, then, wouldn’t let him off the airplane.

Rep. Carl Moses (D-Alaska)

That was 1964. I was astounded. Apparently he knew I was coming, because he picked me out of the group and came over and told me that I couldn’t stay. I’d have to get back on the plane.

It got national attention, the fact that a politician was refused entry into a local precinct.

But that was the last time that would ever happen.

Narrator

The Aleut’s lawsuit against the U.S. government was providing a more difficult challenge.

Mr. Lekanof

The case took a long time. Although it started back in 1951, it wasn’t settled until 1978. But even then, the distribution that was made based on treatment, ill treatment, and deprivation of civil rights and so forth didn’t amount to very much.
 
Mr. Haycox

We have a tendency to forget, although we’re reminded now more often than we used to be, that we’ve never been without a race problem in American history. The change that the Aleut people have made is really quite remarkable.

Narrator

Aleuts were making incredible gains. But the World War II experience continued to haunt them.

Mrs. Petrivelli

My oldest daughter Patricia was about 15 years old and I was telling her about her Aleut family, and etc., and I told her that one time the U.S. Navy burned our village and evacuated us. And I told her about how hard life is in Killisnoo. She looked at me and said, ‘Mama, are you sure it happened?’ I said, ‘Yes, it happened.’ ‘But it’s not in history books.’ She didn’t believe that it actually happened.

We almost lost our culture. It came to a halt. Although it wasn’t our fault, it made you feel that you had something to be ashamed of.

John Kirtland
Attorney for Aleut American internees

The nature of injustice is such that the numbers of people who are affected, in my view does not quantify it.

Injustice is something that happens to individuals. Individuals suffer injustice, perhaps groups of individuals. But they are individuals. I think that our society recognizes that individuals matter.

Narrator

Attorney John Kirtland took up the Aleuts cause in 1978.

Mr. Kirtland (archival news clip)

This is vandalism by U.S. Forces. So we’re recommending that compensation, a lump-sum amount be …

Narrator

Retained by the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, he would prove an effective ally in an historic campaign to seek reparations from the U.S. government.

Mr. Kirtland (archival news clip)

 … to be used to rehabilitate churches and church properties and the maintenance of Aleut cemeteries in remote from the villages, such as Funter Bay.

Mr. Kirtland

We went through literally thousands of documents and scores of boxes, just focused on this period—letters, logs, Western Union telegrams, minutes of meetings—that established, fundamentally, the case for the Aleut people to show the injustices they had suffered.

Narrator

A decorated military veteran, Kirtland shared the Aleuts view that America could have done better.

Mr. Kirtland

In many ways, there was a humanitarian impulse for the removal of the Aleuts. But there was an abysmal bureaucratic failure in terms of the duty to care for the Aleuts, and once they had been removed from their homes, and relocated to these camps.

We don’t have, I don’t believe, an absolutely accurate enumeration of those who passed away. But we do know that at least 10 percent died while they were in the camps in the government’s care. That mortality rate was shocking.

Narrator

Japanese Americans interned during World War II were already lobbying congress for reparations. An alliance was formed between the two, affording both groups greater political influence. But the Aleuts, still invisible to their nation, would have to make their own case.

Mr. Kirtland

It was completely different from the Japanese American experience in the internment camps in World War II. There was no question, in anyone’s mind, about the loyalty of the Aleuts.
 
Narrator

In Washington, and across the nation, the attitude was conciliatory. No question World War II had been an epic struggle for good. But Vietnam and Watergate had taught that governments make mistakes.

Mr. Kirtland

And so, President Carter, on July the 31st, 1980, signed into law a bill, which established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians—with two principle mandates: to consider the claims of the Japanese Americans, and to consider the claims of the Aleut people.

And so the process began.

Network News Announcer

From CBS News Headquarters in New York, this is the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
 
CBS News Anchor Dan Rather

Tens of thousands of them were sent to concentration camps …

Narrator

News around the globe focused on the Japanese American internment. The Aleut story was a mere footnote. But that hardly mattered. For the first time in U.S. history, Aleuts had a place on the nation’s political agenda.

CBS News Anchor Dan Rather
(Video Footage of CBS Evening News with Dan Rather)

Now some 40 years after the fact, a federal commission is investigating that dark chapter in the nation’s past to seek appropriate remedies …

Hon. Arthur Goldberg

(Archival news footage of Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians)

Today we open our hearings first with concern about the Aleuts.

Mr. Kirtland

One of the real leaders in this cause was Philemon Tuitiakoff.

Philemon Tutiakoff
(Archival news clip of CWRIC hearings)

Yes, thank you for your welcome.

Mr. Kirtland

He was a wonderful little man. And yet he was a towering giant of a person. He was effective, he was articulate, and he spoke from the heart.

Philemon Tutiakoff
(Archival news clip of CWRIC hearings)

Our rights as U.S. citizens were taken from us …

Mr. Kirtland

We had compelling Aleut witnesses that appeared before this distinguished commission.

Aleut American internment survivor, speaking in Aleut; interpreted by Mr. Lekanof
Mr. Lekanof (archival news clip)

Food was hard to come by all during the time we were there. And Mr. Sheishnakoff says, “I don’t know how I made it.”

Mr. Kirtland

And we had the deposition of scores of more of them. And all of this effort caused the commission to recommend back to the Congress, to recommend back to the Congress, restitution for both the Aleuts and the Japanese Americans.

Narrator

The commission concluded that the United States had failed its citizens. “The government’s failure to care was directly responsible for widespread disease and death in the camps, and the lost of community and personal property in the Aleuts’ villages.”  The government had, as a matter of simple convenience, limited the Aleuts’ personal freedoms, “treating them as a herd of animals.”

Mr. MacBeth

I think that one thing that one takes away from this is it’s very important to respect the dignity of individuals and to give people the authority to be in charge of their own lives. That’s, and I think, I hope, that is a core value of this country. That made what happened in the Second World War to both these groups of individuals important to remember and to learn from.

Narrator

In the camps, Aleuts’ protests had fallen on deaf ears. The commission’s report gave them a voice. And Alaska’s lawmakers, closely aligned with Japanese American leaders, would provide the political muscle for the coming debate on Capitol Hill.

U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)

No one other than the Japanese or Alaskan natives were actually taken from their lives and interned and treated as though they were aliens. No other Americans that were moved out of harms way were not interned. They were. They were put on islands, they had no ability to leave, and they had no ability to work. And they were really, totally left in isolation during the period of war. So I thought they should be compensated, as well as those who were interned as Japanese.

We were seeking just simple justice, that’s all.

Narrator

Between 1983 and 1988, seven different redress measures were introduced in Congress.

(Archival news clip U.S. Congress)

The bill to implement the recommendations of the Commission on the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians …

U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)

My father instilled in me the injustice of what we did with the Japanese, and that extended to the Aleuts.

(Archival news clip Rep. Young, U.S. House of Representatives)

 … actually used as slave labors by the U.S. government …

Rep. Young

It was a very emotional thing for me, because probably one of the most unjust things that have happened during our civilization.

U.S. Rep. Peter W. Rodino, Jr. (D-New Jersey)
(Archival news clip U.S. Congress, House of Representatives)

Mr. Chairman, today as we celebrate the signing of our Constitution 200 years ago, we have an opportunity to reaffirm that this great document of human liberty applies to all Americans.

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, (D-Mass)
(Archival news clip U.S. Congress, House of Representatives)

We are going to admit that we made a mistake. And I think it is part of a great nation to be able to admit that we made a mistake.

Sen. Stevens

Governments do things wrong. And only democracies have the ability to right those wrongs.

Narrator

On August 10,1988, President Ronald Reagan signed Public Law 100-383. The long battle for redress had been won.

Mr. Kirtland

This was truly a tremendous achievement.

The new law provided for a $5 million trust fund, for the benefit of the villagers who had been returned and their descendents. It also provided $1.4 million for restoration of church properties, $15 million for the loss of Attu Island, and individual payments of $12,000 to those Aleuts who had survived the camps and were still alive at the time the public law became effective. The total amount authorized, and ultimately appropriated, was $26.4 million.

No amount of money can restore priceless icons that were lost from the churches or the loss of a loved one due to neglect and disease. No amount of money can compensate for the loss of a traditional village site on Attu. But it’s necessary sometimes to compensate a people for injustices by helping the next generation and the generation thereafter. Generations that have been set back by the losses.

We have to remember that our country is going to suffer calamities, threats, attacks by foreign enemies. But in the course of these events we must ensure that the liberties of our individual citizens are not shunted aside in some misguided effort to protect the greater good.

The experience of the Aleuts is significant. It’s just a few people, it’s just a few people, but many of their fundamental rights were ignored or shunted aside in the course of World War II, and we cannot allow the same thing to happen to others today.

Mr. Shabolin

When we go t back from Funter Bay, my mom used to be so quiet, she’d come here and sit here in this chair I’m sitting in now, looking out at the cemetery. So one day I asked her, “Mom, you’re so quiet because you’re missing grandma? You’re looking at the cemetery every day.” And she said, “Yeah.” And I said, “Well, maybe one day we’ll go back and visit grandma and Baby Sergie and Uncle Vlass Pankoff and the rest of the people we left behind.”

Narrator

After nearly 60 years, that day has come.

A distance of some 1,500 miles separates the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands from Funter Bay. But the distance this group will travel is more rightly measured in memories than miles.

Mr. Lekanof

I was a young man, you know. I was only 15 years old when we came here. It was tough.

That mountain that you see in the background there (gestures to mountain), several of us went up to the top and stayed over night to hunt for deer. We came back with six deer and fed the people with venison stew. That was great; I enjoyed that very much. That was the experience of my life.

(Aleut Americans at bow of boat singing Slavonic hymn of deliverance.)

Narrator

Returning is hard. But a lifetime of achievements has given them insight; individuals are not defined by what is done to them but rather by the choices they make.

(Maj. Gen. Jake Lestenkof, ret. arrives by floatplane)

Jake became a general in the U.S. Army, one of only a few Native Americans to achieve that rank.

Mr. Lekanof
I’d like to welcome you to Funter Bay, General Jake.
 
Mr. Lestenkof

It’s a beautiful day, indeed.

Mr. Lekanof

Well, you’ll be here for two years now.

Mr. Lekanof and Mr. Lestenkof

Oh no … (laughter).

Narrator

Flore became an influential business and political leader. Mary is widely respected as a keeper of Aleut traditions. And Vlass served in the U.S. Marine Corps and then with the Alaska State Troopers. Peter Bourdukofsky, the third child of Mary and George Boudukofksy, was born at the camp.

Most of the old cannery has rotted away. What remains are memories.

Mrs. Bourdukofsky

This is the cabin where my friends used to stay. She used to have candy, (holding up a rusted five gallon can tin), from Imperial Candy Company, Seattle, U.S.A. She said her husband went to Juneau for medical reasons and brought this big can of hard candies for her and her children. So this brings me lots of memories, yes.

Mr. Lekanof and Mr. Shabolin speaking in Aleut at Funter Bay Cemetery
 
Mrs. Bourdukofksy

I’m looking for my father-in-law’s grave; his name is Peter Bourdukofsky.

Mr. Lekanof and Mr. Shabolin speaking in Aleut at Funter Bay Cemetery

Mrs. Bourdukofksy

I have some flowers for him …

Peter Bourdukofsky?

Oh! He’s right over there.

Mr. Lekanof

This is in memory of my grandmother (holds up flowers), Pelagai Lekanof. She died here summer of 1943.

Ah, (places flowers in a holder at the grave site)  there we go.

Rt. Rev. Peter Bourdukofsky
(leading commemorative prayer service)

 … Holy God-bearing Father and all of the Saints, and stab at the souls of the servants of God and all those who lost their life during the World War II encampment, who have been taken from us, and give them rest in Abraham’s bosom, number them among the just, have mercy on us, for as much as He has good and love in mankind. Amen.

(Group sings hymns in Slavonic and Aleut)

Mr. Shabolin

After 60 years I’m finally getting to clean this stone. Great-grandma this woman here, Daria Tetoff: She passed on after she broke her leg on one of those plank rolls we had here, plank walkways.

I can say that ‘Why?’ was the biggest question as we got here the first time. And I know why now …

Ah, (rinses away dirt and soap from headstone) that’s a little better isn’t it?

(St Paul, Pribilof Islands, Alaska)
 
Mr. Lestenkof

World War II was a traumatic experience for Aleut people. They have lived with that experience and those memories for a long time. And now’s the time to rebuild and replace some of those things that were lost.

Narrator

Today, six Russian Orthodox Churches in the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands are being carefully rebuilt.
 
Voice-over of radio disc-jockey

You’re tuned in to listener-supported KUHB, St. Paul, and 91.9 FM. It’s time for the Pribilof postcard for Friday, June 9th, 2000. You’re tuned in … (fades) … The Russian Orthodox Church is being restored this summer. If you can help remove and store the church icons.

Jesse Zacharof
St. Paul Island resident

This is my first restoration project. I’ve never done anything like this before. You gotta put a lot of heart and effort into your work, since this is the church that most everybody in the community comes here to pray, so … it’s gotta be a good job.

Mr. Lestenkof

Symbolically, the last nail in the St. Paul Church closes the World War II chapter of the Aleut history.

Aquilina Lestenkof

My father, and my grandfather and people of that generation, their history has given us energy that we could use for our time. But at the same time we can’t carry some of the burdens of it with us. We didn’t go through the interment. We are not slaves of the harvest. Those days are gone.

Rt. Rev. Michael Lestenkof

Oh bless the Lord, our God. Harkin to the prayer we should now address unto thee. And bless this cross.

Ms. Lestenkof

We have an opportunity to restore ourselves and our purpose here.

Narrator

Much more than a physical act, the historic restoration of these churches symbolizes the resurrection of a people.

Mr. Lestenkof

Restoring the spirit. Restoring the soul. Restoring the culture of the Aleut people will go on forever.