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Blue Star Museum

We Support Military Families
Free admission for Active Duty Military & their Families
Memorial Day through Labor Day
May 24 - September 7, 2014
Thank you for your service
If you have Alutiiq cultural knowledge to share, please help Sun'aq Tribe in their effort to survey the community about cultural practices on Kodiak. Sun'aq received a National Park Service grant to develop a database of culture-bearers and the types of knowledge in each community on Kodiak. In order to preserve the unique history and knowledge of each village on Kodiak Island please complete this survey:


Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at Sun'aq Tribe, 907-486-4449, with any questions, or read the letter explaining the project below.


Survey Summary


Photo:  Old Harbor Elder Mary Haakanson with sea urchin eggs.


kalunek Book




The presses are rolling on Kal'unek – From Karluk, the Alutiiq Museum's study of the Karluk One archaeological site. This 383-page book explores Alutiiq life along the Karluk River 400 years ago. Information from archaeological studies, photographs of rare wooden artifacts, essays by community members, and a glossary of Alutiiq terms tell Karluk's story and illustrate the impact of research on the Alutiiq heritage movement. The University of Alaska Press will release the book in June. To reserve a copy, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at the Alutiiq Museum Store, 907-486,7004. The book will sell for $50.


groundbreakingSmSuinaq Cali! – Twenty More!

Personal Reflections by Dr. Alisha Drabek

On May 13th, we will celebrate the Alutiiq Museum's first 20 years. Back in 1994, while home from college, I remember standing on the empty lot where the museum now stands. I watched our leaders (including my father) dig the first shovel loads at the groundbreaking ceremony. A year later, we were fortunate to witness the first oil lamp lit and the first Alutiiq dance at the museum during its grand opening ceremony.


When I was a child growing up in Kodiak, and more so in my father's generation before, being Alutiiq wasn't something people celebrated or knew much about. In fact, it wasn't until I was in college that I learned much about our history or ancestral traditions. Not until 2004, in my early thirties, did I start to learn to speak Alutiiq from a few fluent Elders. It has been a long and amazing journey we have taken together as a community. As this year's anniversary slogan states—Suinaq Cali!—I'm looking forward to seeing what the next twenty years will bring.

Over these past two decades, we have been blessed to witness the growth of amazing craftsmanship, the rebirth of traditional arts, the beauty of being surrounded by Alutiiq conversation, and an entire generation of children growing up proud to learn about Alutiiq history, language, and traditions—a heritage born from the pulse of sea foam and the cradle of this land.

Photo: Ground breaking ceremony for the Alutiiq Center Building, 1994. With shovels, from left: Carl Rosier (Commisioner of Fish and Game), Hank Eaton, Nancy Anderson, Governor Walter Hickel, and Pete Olsen. On platform, Father John Zabinko, Tony Drabek, Gordon Pullar Sr., Jerome Selby, Rita Stevens, and Ermalee Hickel.
AlutiiqClubPSA1smOn a recent sunny afternoon, teens from the Alutiiq Club meandered over to KMXT, Kodiak's public radio station. Their goal was to learn about the station's recording studio and create some public service announcement for the radio–using the Alutiiq language. On this bright afternoon, ten students found comfortable seats in KMXT's production room. They began by recording a PSA to be aired in April. Then, two of the students assisted with recording for the Alutiiq Word of the Week, the museum's popular series of cultural lessons.

The idea for Alutiiq language PSAs came from KMXT. Every week, the station airs announcements that inform the community of current events and issues. As Kodiak has a rich mix of cultures and languages, KMXT routinely creates PSAs in Spanish, Tagalog, and English. With revitalization of the Alutiiq language, they wished to include announcements in Alutiiq. The Alutiiq Club was a perfect fit for this effort.

Alutiiq Club is an after-school program for middle and high school students. Participants explore Alutiiq language and culture through activities and outings. At KMXT, students experienced recording in Alutiiq and English for April's PSA on child abuse prevention. Through the recordings they shared an important message, and transmitted Alutiiq words and sentences over the airwaves.

In a similar effort to bring young voices to Kodiak, two students volunteered to be the Alutiiq voice for the Alutiiq Word of the Week program. For the past seventeen years, Alutiiq Elders have been the featured speakers for weekly program. Having developing speakers guest star as the Alutiiq voice, created a unique opportunity for the students to be both learners and teachers at the same time. It also illustrated the growth of the language; the commitment that younger community members are making to preserve Alutiiq speech. These young people represent a sample of the many voices of the Alutiiq community, and the many voices of a modern Kodiak community.
NatalieSmWhy is archaeology important? Who owns archaeological sites? What should you do if you find an artifact? These are some of the common questions we explore in a new series of short videos. Scheduled for release in June, the three short films are funded by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as part of an effort to advance public education about historic preservation. They will be about five minutes each.

"We've written a lot about the need to preserve archaeological sites and artifacts, and the laws that protect these fragile, non-renewable resources," says Curator of Archaeology Patrick Saltonstall. "But the information can be confusing. Videos give us a chance to explain in greater detail, add images, and involve community members in telling the story. Ruth Dawson, Andy Christofferson, and Jesse Nakasone are helping us by sharing their perspectives."

Filming for the project is taking place both in the museum and at archaeological sites near Kodiak, with the permission of landowners. The films begin with a discussion of archaeology and its value to communities. They also discuss the great variety of archaeological sites found across the landscape, follow the journey of an artifact into the museum, consider the sensitive issues that surround the care of human remains, and invite community members to be partners in preservation.

"We want people to understand the laws that protect sites, and the ethical issues around digging and collecting artifacts. But we don't want to discourage people from enjoying the past," says Saltonstall. "I always tell people look with your eyes and your camera when you find a site or an artifact. Don't disturb it, but try to record and interpret it. What do you see? What do you think it means? "

The films will be copied to DVD for public distribution. The Alutiiq Museum plans to show them in its gallery and on its website, and to give DVDs to local schools, libraries, tribal organizations, and the public. The USF&WS will share the films with a broader, statewide audience, Saltonstall explains.

"The films are centered on Kodiak," he says. "But because the issues we face in caring for Alaska's past are shared across the state, we want to create an educational tool that other regions can use, too. The Service and the Alaska Office of History and Archaeology will be reviewing the footage to help us meet this goal."
KodiakAlutiiqWeekStudents of all ages in villages around Kodiak Island have enjoyed Alutiiq Week activities for more than a decade. The opportunity to explore Alutiiq heritage with hands-on educational projects is enormously popular, especially during school hours. However, only one Alutiiq Week session has been held in the City of Kodiak, until now. During spring break 2015, the Alutiiq Museum and Sun'aq Tribe worked together to host a Kodiak-based Alutiiq Week, with generous support from the CIRI Foundation, KIBSD, Native Village of Afognak, KANA, Sun'aq WildSource, Subway, and a team of adult volunteers and Elders.

During the five-day event, students of all ages enjoyed a wide variety of cultural activities. Younger students, Kindergarten through third grade, spent their mornings playing Alutiiq language games, listening to traditional stories, and working on art projects. Older students, from fourth grade to high school, participated in harvest cooking, beach glass jewelry making, and salve making in the morning. After lunch, the youngest participants went home, while older students stayed to work on more detailed craft activities.

In the afternoons, older students choose between Alutiiq dancing, carving, sewing, or collaborating on a glass mosaic mural project. Those who chose Alutiiq dance learned to perform seven songs and developed original choreography for the traditional song "Ukut Skuunat - These Schooners". The glass mosaic mural, an image of a salmon swimming upstream, is now on display on the second floor entrance of the Sun'aq Tribal Hall.

A total of 86 students participated in the well-attended event, held at Kodiak College. Everyone had fun learning together. On Monday, the entire group played Alutiiq games. On Friday, the older students learned about edible seaweed identification at Abercrombie Beach, while younger students learned two Alutiiq dances and performed them for students and families after lunch. Artists, culture bearers, and museum staff members led the activities. Many had recently completed a three-day workshop on best practices for cultural arts education, and were eager to try new skills.

Parents were appreciative, too. Katie Joca wrote, "I am so glad I signed my daughter up for this camp. It's well run, she is learning a ton, and coming home with fun stories, new words in the Alutiiq language. Thank you!"
CarverSmHow do we nurture Alutiiq artists and grown the next generation of beaders, boat builders, and dancers? This is a question that Alutiiq Museum has been asking in the past year. While Kodiak has a growing network of Native artists, not every one is comfortable teaching. A room filled with active students can be intimidating, even without sewing needles or carving knives. However, for the renaissance of Alutiiq arts to continue, there must be collaboration between culture-bearers and educators to create opportunities for arts instruction, inspiration, and practice.

To help artists grow in their abilities and comfort as teachers, the museum is hosting a series of workshops specifically designed to bolster instruction skills. A generous grant from The CIRI Foundation, and support from the Kodiak Island Borough School District and Kodiak College, is making the event possible. From February 25 to 27, artists, culture-bearers and educators from around the Island will meet in Kodiak. Participants will explore cultural arts education best practices, plan for the upcoming 2015 Alutiiq Week celebrations, and discuss the broader needs for cultural arts education.

The first day of the workshop will be held at the Koniag, Inc. building on Near Island. Here the group will explore best practices and philosophies of cultural arts education. The second day participants will visit the Alutiiq Museum. Here they will prepare for Alutiiq Week workshop, develop lesson plans for arts education projects, and review the wide variety of resources available at the museum, including its collections.

Read more: Alutiiq Arts Education Workshops
PatrickStateTrooperSmAlutiiq Museum archaeologist Patrick Saltonstall found himself in front of the cameras last year, an unusual place for the guy who is usually taking the pictures. The reality TV craze, and its focus on Alaska, brought producers to Kodiak. An interest in Alutiiq heritage and Kodiak archaeology steered them to the Alutiiq Museum.

Participating in such shows is both an opportunity and a challenge. On one hand reality TV shows have huge audiences that can share the Alutiiq world and the museum's work widely, promoting knowledge of Kodiak's people and history. On the other hand, the museum has little control over content. What producers choose to highlight, isn't necessarily what the museum might share. As such, we consider each request very carefully.

You may have seen Saltonstall in an episode of Alaska State Troopers, the National Geographic's popular show on northern law enforcement. Sergeant Eric Olsen contacted Saltonstall about some bones found on a nearby beach and asked him for a professional opinion. Were they human remains? The footage shows Olsen brining the bones to the museum and Patrick identifying them as the leg of a bear. Bear and human remains look similar, except for their size. Alutiiq Elders will tell you that this is because bears were once people.
Read more: TV Show Reveals Collaboration
KodiakMapSmNatmen agkutarcit? – Where are you going to go? With a new place names poster, islanders are learning to answer this question in Alutiiq. Perhaps you've shared tea and smoke salmon with friends in Masiqsiraq (Port Lions), and are planning a hunting trip to Unugtuaraa (Karluk Lake). Or maybe you've fished around the mouth of the Ayaquuliq, but never dropped a seine in the waters of Sun'alleq (Three Saints Bay).

Whatever your geographic affiliations, the poster features place names of interest, from those of communities and landforms to bodies of water. Each term appears in bold as an Alutiiq word, with a smaller English translation below. The names are displayed over a colorful painted map of Kodiak that stretches from Suyaraq (Shuyak Island) to Tuiyaq (Tugidak Island). The painting is the work of local artist Bruce Nelson. A visual artist, Nelson is known for his illustrations of plants, animals, and even Alutiiq artifacts, and his Kodiak map illustration was part of the inspiration. Alutiiq Museum Executive Director, Dr. Alisha Drabek explains:

"A few years ago, the Kodiak visitors bureau used Nelson's painting to create a Kodiak map with English place names. It is such a lovely illustration that I wanted to develop an Alutiiq language version, using the place names Dr. Jeff Leer, Dr. April Counceller, and I have been collecting with our Elders for years. While teaching Alutiiq language at Kodiak High School, before I began work at the museum, I developed this map as a classroom resource with support from the Kodiak Island Borough School District (KIBSD)."
Read more: Place Names for Qik’rtaq – Kodiak Island