June 21, 2015

Attu Boy: Unangax̂ Prisoners of the Japanese during World War II

Japanese troops raise the Imperial battle flag on Kiska Island in the Aleutians on June 6, 1942
Coordinated with the Battle of Midway as part the Pacific Theater of World War II, around the island of Amaxnax̂, at Dutch Harbor, the Japanese Navy attacked the American territory of the Aleutian Islands. On June 3rd and 4th, 1942, six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, they took the US Navy Weather Station on Qisxa island, Kiska in English, that held 12 Navy personnel. Two American soldiers lost their lives as the Japanese rounded up the island's residents. One man fled their capture, but turned himself in after about a month and a half of hiding on the island. One of the main reasons for the occupation was that is doing so they could control that shipping route corridor of the North Pacific. I have an Sugpiaq cousin who worked down in Dutch Harbor during the war when he was 16 years old, cleaning the pilot's sleeping quarters.

Picture of the June 3rd Attack on Dutch Harbor.
"The village. View of Attu." Photograph taken during the 1937 Smithsonian Institution's Archaeological Expedition to the Aleutian Islands. uaa-hmc-0690-s1-1937-69a 
On June 7th, the 301st Independent Infantry Battalion of the Japanese Northern Army invaded the Aleutian island of Atan, or Attu in English. The axis fighters made 44 villagers, two of them non-Native, prisoners of war. The villagers remained captive for months before they removed them from the island and interned them at a prisoner of war camp at Otaru, Hokkaido. Half of the islanders would never return from the camp.

 "Aleut (Unangan) relocation to Southeast Alaska: Kasaan, Killisnoo, and Ward Lake Refugee Camps, 1942." Photographer's notes: Vaccinations, Aleut Refugee children. Three girls, F. Prokopeuff, Oleana Snigaroff and Anfesia Gardner, laughing and holding their shoulder. ASL-P306-1065
On June 12, 1942 the United States began forcibly removing 880 Unangax̂ people, and their associated family members, from their villages in the Aleutians. After making them help raze their homes, the government boarded them on ships. Once in the water, government transported Non-Native villagers to the contiguous part of the nation and the Unangax̂ people taken to dilapidated facilities along the Alaskan Panhandle. Over the following two years, due to unsanitary conditions, one in ten islanders would lose their lives in residence at the camps. Important to note that just 30 miles away from one camp, the United States kept German prisoners of war in more humane conditions then they did their own citizens.


This month marks 73 years since the United States and Japan began the transnational project to intern the Unangax^. These islanders suffered great losses even though they were not at war with either nation. United States and Japanese efforts to fight one another worked together in dislocating a third group of people (note: Unangax̂ were and are US citizens). Hundreds of islanders would never return to their homes again, nor would they reunite with their Non-Native loved ones at the time of the war's end. Nick Golodoff was a child on Attu when the Japanese invaded and occupied the island. He returned to live his life away from the village after surviving the prisoner of war camp in Otaru. The reason why he didn't go back was because with so few remaining islanders the government choose to leave the village uninhabited, distributing them to other villages. Golodoff wrote a beautiful memoir  of his war time experiences in the book Attu Boy: A Young Alaskan's WWII Memoir. Leaving behind loving family, Golodoff passed away in 2013. Below is a moving interview he did with then KUBC reporter Stephanie Joyce in 2012.

June 1, 2015

The Politics of Alaska Native Arts and Culture Panel NAISA 2015

The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) 2015 Annual Meeting takes place from June 4-6 in Washington, DC, brought to life hosted by the National Congress of American Indians and other regional institutions. This year there are panels dedicated to Alaska Native Studies with other Alaska Native studies scholars in mixed panels. As 40 percent of the nation's tribes, I'm thrilled to see at all this work at the conference this year. Alaska specific things bolded, below. There maybe more, so we'll see.

2:00 PM – 3:45 PM Friday June 5 

063. Politics of Alaska Native Arts and Culture
4:00 to 5:45 pm
Hyatt Regency: Redwood
Thomas Michael Swensen, Colorado State University Participants:
“Propatriation: Tlingit Arts in the NAGPRA Era” Emily Moore, Colorado State University
“Arts and Oral Traditions: Engaging “Storywork” in Higher Education” Beth Leonard, University of

Alaska Fairbanks
“Uncovering a History of Art and Violence through Susie Silook’s The Anti-Depression Uliimaaq.”
Thomas Michael Swensen, Colorado State University 

Thursday June 4 

111. Indigenous Natural law and Natural Resource Governance: Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives
2:00 to 3:45 pm
Hyatt Regency: Concord

Establishing Indigenous Natural Law through Indigenous Ontology & Epistemology
Molly Sparhawk, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Re-examining Treaty through Nêhiyaw pimâcihowin (Plains Cree Way of Life): Paulina Reghan
Johnson, Western University
Uncovering the Doctrine of Mana Moana to Better Articulate Maori rights to Water Victoria Skelton,
University of Auckland
Changing corporate culture: Indigenous influence on extractive companies via negotiated agreements
Julia Keenan, The University of Queensland 

Saturday June 6

10:00 AM – 11:45 AM Saturday June 6

158. Ecological Knowledge and Imagination
Paper Session
10:00 to 11:45 am
Hyatt Regency: Yellowstone
Nancy Van Styvendale, University of Saskatchewan Participants:
"I’m Gonna Buy Me an Island": Road Development and Environmental Criticism in Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters Cameron Paul, Univerity of British Columbia
Decolonizing Dispossession: Rethinking Adivasi Land Relations in a Decolonial-Feminist Frame Padini Nirmal, Clark University
Indigenous Knowledge, Oral History and Place: Collaborative Research in a Northern Northwest community Judith D Ramos, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Views from the End of the World: Conservation Ethics in Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road Virginia Kennedy, PhD, Otsego Land Trust 

2:00 PM – 3:45 AM Saturday June 6 

162. Modernizing the Trust for Self-Determination: A Policy Forum on Indigenous Education in the U.S.

2:00 to 3:45 pm
Hyatt Regency: Columbia C 
Presenters:Malia Villegas, National Congress of American IndiansWilliam Mendoza, White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education Carrie Billy, American Indian Higher Education ConsortiumBrian McKinley Jones Brayboy, Arizona State University 

2:00-3:45 Saturday June 6

164. Resisting Boundaries
Paper Session
2:00 to 3:45 pm
Hyatt Regency: Congressional D
Dina Gilio-Whitaker, Center for World Indigenous Studies Participants:
Beading and Walking Sovereignty: Dene Resurgence against Canadian Sovereignty Kelsey Wrightson, University of British Columbia
Indigenous Nations Challenging Transnationalism: Anishinaabe Narratives Crossing and Creating Borders in Northern Minnesota Nicholas Cragoe, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Indigenous (Im)Mobility and the Borderlands of North America Levin Arnsperger, Emory University Between Empires and Frontiers: Alaska Native Sovereignty, Statehood, and U.S. Settler Imperialism
Jessica Leslie Arnett, University of Minnesota 

4:00 PM – 5:45 Saturday June 6
176. Diasporic Times: Complicating Space-Based Approaches to Native American and Indigenous Diasporas
4:00 to 5:45 pm
Hyatt Regency: Bryce
Will Rogers’ Occupations: Temporal Diaspora through Performance
Bethany Hughes, Northwestern
Remembering Aleut Internment in World War II Alaska Holly Guise, Yale University
Eradication Nation: Disrupting the Time of Settler-Colonialism in Simon Ortiz’s From Sand Creek and Sherwin Bitsui’s Flood Song Christopher Pexa, Cornell University
“A Meeting Place for All”: Cultural Production and Embodied Resistance at Haskell’s 1926
Homecoming and Powwow Beth Eby, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 
Jeane Breinig, University of Alaska, Anchorage