Alutiiq Memorial Park Takes Shape
A lot on the corner of Upper Mill Bay Road and Kashevaroff Drive is empty today, but plans are underway to transform this small, brush-covered piece of downtown Kodiak into a new city park. The City of Kodiak is currently considering a proposal from the Alutiiq Museum to dedicate the .34-acre plot to a memorial park honoring the ancestors of the Kodiak Alutiiq people. The idea for the park came from the museum’s Executive Director, April Laktonen Counceller.
“We want to have a place where our Alutiiq ancestors can be publically honored and remembered in a culturally meaningful way”, said Counceller.
The City of Kodiak owns the land for the proposed park. The parcel lies behind the Alutiiq Museum, under a patch of alder and salmonberry bushes. With the assistance of Kodiak Mayor Pat Branson, and a community steering committee, the museum is developing plans for park facilities. The group envisions easy maintained landscaping and features inspired Alutiiq traditions. Counceller explains.
“Our working plan is to have a pathway across the lot that intersects a memorial area. The memorial would be a large concrete circle planted in the center with Forget-Me-Nots, and encircled by concrete benches. The circle is an important symbol in Alutiiq culture. Circles represents the universe in Alutiiq art, and circular holes can act as passageways between the human and the spirit world. They are also symbolic of vision and awareness. In addition, we would like to install signs that tell people about the memorial project and introduce Kodiak’s Native history.”
Funding for the project would come from donations and sales. Community organizations have already offered to provide labor and supplies, and the Alutiiq Museum proposes to lead the project and raise the remaining funds through grants and brick sales.
“People would be able to buy a paving stone for the park walkway, and to have a name engraved on it,” said Counceller. “We would welcome anyone to put their name on a brick, to share a message, or to remember a loved one. We see the park as a place for people of all heritages to learn about Kodiak’s past and to memorialize those who came before us. All of us have ancestors and a history that deserves understanding.”
Digital Stories Teach Language
A series of eight digital storybooks are connecting students of all ages with Alutiiq culture and language. The books are the creation of Kodiak authors and artists in partnership with the Native Village of Afognak (NVA) and the Alutiiq Museum. Each story focuses on Alutiiq traditions. Newly written stories and classic tales weave together cultural themes, colorful illustrations, and Alutiiq vocabulary to promote learning. Modern technology helps to bring the books to life. The books are apps, free smartphone programs that make Alutiiq language available to a global audience.
At the heart of each book is a recording by an Alutiiq speaker. Readers can simply listen to the recording or they can interact with the words. They can touch any word or letter in the story to hear a spoken version, and they can make their own recording of each book. This allows readers to see, hear, and practice speaking Alutiiq words.
In August, NVA published the seventh book in the series. Kaugya’angcum–Qawanurtuwa, Small Fox’s Dream, tells the story of a young fox who imagines getting ready for school. In addition to an app version of this book, print copies are available through the Alutiiq Museum store. The eighth and final book in the series will be released this fall. It features The Ptarmigan Girl, a legend shared by Candace Branson.
The app books are compatible with iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch devices using iOS 8.0 or higher. They can be downloaded for free from the iTunes store. Search by story name to find them. These books were produced with generous support from the Afognak Native Corporation, Administration for Native Americans, and Institute of Museum and Library Services.