Haunted by World War II internment - Alaska Natives The Aleut People

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  kavika  •  4 weeks ago  •  32 comments

By:   Joaqlin Estus (Indian Country Today)

Haunted by World War II internment - Alaska Natives The Aleut People
Joaqlin EstusIndian Country Today The Alaska Legislature unanimously voted on Monday to help protect an Unangax, or Aleut, cemetery in Southeast Alaska. The

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



As a country, as a state, as a people, 'we are still capable of these atrocities' Author: Joaqlin Estus Publish date: May 18, 2021

A photo of unidentified Aleuts (Unangan) being transported from Pribilof and Aleutian islands to camps in Southeast Alaska during World War II. (Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration)

As a country, as a state, as a people, 'we are still capable of these atrocities'

Joaqlin Estus
Indian Country Today

The Alaska Legislature unanimously voted on Monday to help protect an Unangax, or Aleut, cemetery in Southeast Alaska. The cemetery holds the remains of Aleut people who died in a World War II era internment camp.

"The main thing about this bill is that as a country, as a state, as a people, we are still capable of these atrocities. And unless we remember the history, we're at risk of repeating it again," testified Martin Stepetin, Aleut, at a Senate Resources Committee hearing on May 12.

The cemetery needs protection, Stepetin said. It's being taken over by the dense rain forest surrounding it. People who stumble across its Russian Orthodox Church style crosses find no information about the cemetery or its significance.

Stepetin's father was born at one of the two camps at Funter Bay and was one of the few babies who survived the internment, which extended from 1942 to 1945.

At the committee hearing, bill sponsor Rep. Sara Hannan, a Democrat from Juneau, said House Bill 10 would add 251 acres of state-owned land in Funter Bay to an existing state marine park. "The purpose of it is to protect the cemetery that exists from a World War II relocation camp," Hannah said.

Niko Sanguinetti is curator of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, which has created an exhibit about the internment. She is also secretary of the Funter Bay Working Group, which is made up of representatives of nearly every organization from the Pribilof and Aleutian islands — non-profit, for-profit, tribal, historical, governmental — and interested individuals. They've been working for years to build recognition and awareness of this piece of history.

The Pribilof Islands and the chain of Aleutian Islands to their south are strategically located between North America and Asia. In the Aleutians, the Japanese bombed one town and occupied two islands during World War II, a history that is often forgotten or overlooked.

Sanguinetti said early in the war the U.S. military discussed but didn't take steps to relocate civilians from the Pribilof and Aleutian islands for safety. Then in June 1942 Japanese forces bombed Dutch Harbor and occupied the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska. Captured Indigenous civilians were transported to Japan as prisoners of war.

Within a few weeks, various branches of the U.S. military swept in to evacuate the remaining Aleuts.

Sanguietti said the relocation "ostensibly" was for the Aleuts' protection. "However, the civilian population...who were not Alaska Natives were not forced to leave."

The Natives, Sanguinetti said, "were forcibly removed. And they were really only given in some cases one day or a couple of hours notice that they were leaving. They were only allowed to bring one bag or suitcase per person. And they were told to leave fishing gear, hunting gear, anything like that."

"They didn't know how long they were going to be gone for. They didn't know where they were going," Sanguinetti said. The military set fire to homes in the village of Atka. Others were to return years later to find their homes ransacked.

The 881 were moved to Southeast Alaska. About 360 were shipped 1,300 miles to Funter Bay, and left at abandoned cannery and mining facilities. Some were housed in tents. People were still living in uninsulated buildings meant only for seasonal summer jobs when winter temperatures fell to 10 degrees. Some lacked stoves. Pipes froze.

Map with markers for Pribilof and Aleutian islands and Funter Bay, site of a World War II internment camp. (Courtesy of Google Earth).

Funter Bay camps would turn out to be among the deadliest of the Aleut camps, with a mortality rate of more than 10 percent. The elderly and very young died by the dozens.

Stepetin said, "Tuberculosis and other diseases were rampant throughout the camps. There was obvious malnutrition and just a lack of care, no running water, no heat."

"So it was just a terrible, terrible time for the Aleuts of St. Paul and St. George," he told Indian Country Today.

Russian Orthodox Church crosses mark the entrance and the graves at the Unangan cemetery at Funter Bay, where Unangan (Aleut) people were relocated from the Pribilof and Aleutian islands during World War II. (Photo courtesy of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. Photographer: Niko Sanguinetti)

In the early 1800s Russians had relocated Aleuts to the Pribilof Islands to harvest fur seals for their valuable pelts. The U.S. government kept that going and paid Aleuts to keep revenues flowing into the U.S. Treasury from the lucrative harvest. The federal government took Aleut men from internment camps back to the Pribilofs for the seasonal fur seal harvest.

Sen. Peter Micciche, a Republican from Soldotna, said when the bill was introduced last year, "we investigated the potential value of minerals on site. The Alaska Miners' Association has now provided a letter that says there is no documented mineral occurrences on the land in question." Witnesses testified hunting and recreational access would not be impacted.

Resources Committee Chairman Sen. Joshua Revak, a Republican from Anchorage, said he had attended the commemoration of the Japanese bombing of Dutch Harbor in Unalaska. The event included World War II veterans, a Japanese film crew, and evacuees. "And I will tell you that it was one of the most amazing experiences of healing that I have ever encountered," Revak said.

He said having learned from that experience, "I think that the cemetery is especially important to remember these things, but also to make it be about a time of healing and a place of healing as well for those that have ancestors and have been involved in any way."

The Senate Resources Committee voted the bill out of committee. It went to the full Legislature and was unanimously approved May 17. It is being transmitted to the governor for signature.

THIS IS JUST PART OF THE STORY, PLEASE CLICK ON ALL THE LINKS TO GET A BETTER IDEA OF HOW HORRIBLE THIS WAS FOR OUR ALASKA NATIVES. THEY WERE ALSO USE AS FORCED LABOR WITH THE PROFITS GOING INTO THE GOVERNMENT COFFERS.

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/02/21/516277507/the-other-wwii-american-internment-atrocity

https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-05-31/attu-descendants-visit-their-ancestral-home-first-time

https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2020/09/04/battle-of-attu-wwii-greatest-gen-orig.cnn/video/playlists/military-wwii-sponsorship/

https://www.nps.gov/articles/aleu-mobley-intro.htm


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Kavika
Professor Principal
1  seeder  Kavika     4 weeks ago

NO POLITICS 

In 1988 the US Congress authorized $12,000 payments to the survivors of this Aleut ''internment'' saying that their civil rights were violated. In the same year, Congress authorized $20,000 payments to the survivors of the Japanese Internment Camps. 

In should be noted that in addition to the hardships of the Aleut by our government the Japanese took 44 Aleut civilians captive and they were sent to Japan labor camps where half of them died during their internment.

I do not know why the difference in monies between the two groups. 

During WWII it should be noted that the Alaska Territorial Guard was made up of a large number of Alaska Natives. 

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
PhD Guide
2  Paula Bartholomew    4 weeks ago

How did I not know this happened when I lived in AK?

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Paula Bartholomew @2    4 weeks ago

Another horrific event regarding native people that have been covered up, add it to the list.

It's worth noting that 30 miles away from the Aleut was a German POW Camp, they had the better living conditions, food and non died while they were POWs in the US.

So it seems that Germans POWs who were killing Americans were held in higher regard than our own indigenous people.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2.1.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Kavika @2.1    4 weeks ago

I've heard stories of German POWS being transported by train and African-Americans were forced to give up their seats to them. How many of those people fought against the Nazi menace or had husbands and sons who gave up their lives?

 
 
 
devangelical
PhD Principal
2.1.2  devangelical  replied to  Kavika @2.1    4 weeks ago

well of course, the nazis were white people.

stories like this are why our history needs to be free from revisionists. it's still our history, warts and all, and it should be left for the young as the lessons we've learned and are still learning. great seed kav.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
2.1.3  CB   replied to  devangelical @2.1.2    4 weeks ago

Stories like these are essential to us, all of us, doing better as humanity. We can look at our pitiful states in the past and plan (swear) to be better somewhere in the future present or new generations. Nothing is accomplished by leaving the truth out, quenching it, or whitewashing it.

I "second" great seed, Kav'.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2.1.4  seeder  Kavika   replied to  devangelical @2.1.2    4 weeks ago
stories like this are why our history needs to be free from revisionists. it's still our history, warts and all, and it should be left for the young as the lessons we've learned and are still learning

If we don't face our history, this type of thing goes on and on.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
2.1.5  CB   replied to  Kavika @2.1.4    4 weeks ago

I whole-heartedly agree. Where Black America has failed to keep up its 'end of bargains' We too can and must take the heat and consequences of hearing and dealing with our truths - no whitewashing it either! Let it be "soul medicine."

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
2.1.6  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Kavika @2.1.4    4 weeks ago

Which is why it is important to maintain and build upon museums, like the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. It would be good to know how to donate to them.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2.1.7  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @2.1.6    4 weeks ago

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @2    4 weeks ago

Neither did I, Paula. I had heard vague stories about the Aleutian Islands being bombed but never verified it for myself

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2.2.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Trout Giggles @2.2    4 weeks ago

One of the bloodiest battles of WWII took place on Attu. The US 7th Infantry suffered badly.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
2.2.2  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Kavika @2.2.1    4 weeks ago

Dad told me. He has a whole series of DVD's on it.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
3  Trout Giggles    4 weeks ago

Why did they inter the Aleuts? I can't think they would be a threat to national security

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
3.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Trout Giggles @3    4 weeks ago

Aleuts and Alaska Natives were not considered to be equal to whites and they used them for free labor. Why did they intern Japanese Americans?

Research the history of Alaska and you'll get a much better look at it. Here is an excellent link to it...

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
3.1.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Kavika @3.1    4 weeks ago

Thanks for the info

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
3.1.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  Kavika @3.1    4 weeks ago

She was a remarkable woman

 
 
 
Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom
Professor Guide
4  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom    4 weeks ago

I hate that their homes were ransacked and destroyed during their absence.  I read that the Japanese were only going to occupy those islands for a short period of time, but decided not to leave.  Who knows what they did during that time?  

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
4.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom @4    4 weeks ago

The Japanese took 44 of the Aleut as POW and half of them died in POW camps in Hokkaido Japan. 

The US put them in ''internment camps'' used some of them as forced labor and some were never allowed to return to their ancestral homes. 

The capture and death of US Citizens during the war can somewhat be understood since we were at war with them. What cannot be explained or understood is how US citizens were treated by our own government.

It is another example of how American Indians and Alaska Natives are and have been treated by the US Government.

Sadly Sister, it seems to be a re-occurring situation when it comes to the indigenous people of the US.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
4.1.1  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Kavika @4.1    4 weeks ago

I find this all too depressing. Just when I think I have heard it all when it comes to our people, it gets worse. 

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
4.1.2  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4.1.1    4 weeks ago

I've known about this for a very long time, when I put the article and links together it was a kick in the stomach again. 

 
 
 
pat wilson
Professor Guide
5  pat wilson    4 weeks ago

I had no idea Native Alaskans were put in internment camps. I thought it was just Japanese and Japanese Americans. 

The low level of humanity is depressing as Perrie says.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
6  seeder  Kavika     4 weeks ago
I had no idea Native Alaskans were put in internment camps.

Most Americans don't, pat. The US is very good at not teaching the ugly parts of our history, especially when it comes to the indigenous people of the US.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Principal
6.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Kavika @6    4 weeks ago
The US is very good at not teaching the ugly parts of our history, especially when it comes to the indigenous people of the US.

Unfortunately, many consider teaching anything unfavorable about our history to be propaganda.  They seem either unaware or unwilling to admit that by only teaching the favorable and omitting the stains, they are engaging in propaganda, themselves.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
6.1.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  sandy-2021492 @6.1    4 weeks ago
they are engaging in propaganda, themselves.

Exactly.

 
 
 
Veronica
Junior Guide
7  Veronica    4 weeks ago

I knew about the Japanese internment camps, but I never knew about the ones for Aleut people.

In history class (when I was in high school - many centuries ago) I got scolded for my essay on how I thought the internment camps for Japanese Americans in the US was atrocious.  I compared it to the reservations for Native Americans and even the concentration camps of Germany (although not as horrific).  The backlash was awful.  

I shudder to think that today there are many who would love to round up certain types of people and put them in "camps".  

I am glad they are protecting that cemetary.  WE need to know of this so we can try to prevent a repeat.  It should be a part of what they teach in our US history, maybe they do now, but they never really taught me the nastiness in our own history.  We skimmed over the Salem Witch Trials, we demonized the Native Americans, skimmed over the deplorable conditions on reservations & in the internment camps & I was never taught about the treatment of the Native Americans during WWII.  And don't get me started on Columbus.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
7.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Veronica @7    4 weeks ago

The ugly parts of our history are rarely taught the US is very good at avoiding many of the things that we don't want to face. This is simply another in a long line of horrific things perpetrated on the indigenous population of the US.

 
 
 
Veronica
Junior Guide
7.1.1  Veronica  replied to  Kavika @7.1    4 weeks ago

I have to thank you for bringing these things up so I can learn.  We are never too old to learn. 

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Principal
8  sandy-2021492    4 weeks ago

Putting them into shelters with no heat and poor insulation, to the point that many died, could, IMO, be considered murder.  Slow murder, but murder all the same.  Shameful.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
8.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  sandy-2021492 @8    4 weeks ago

It was murder, sandy. Another sad chapter in the treatment of the indigenous people of America.

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
Professor Expert
9  FLYNAVY1    4 weeks ago

Even with what I consider is  an above average exposure to NA and military history, this is a topic I've never been exposed to.  Thanks Kavika.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
10  seeder  Kavika     4 weeks ago

Your welcome, FLY.

 
 
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