The Alutiiq Ancestors’ Memorial idea came from ongoing efforts in the Kodiak Native community to address historic and current issues surrounding ancestral remains and archaeological sites.
The Alutiiq Museum has worked on repatriations with local tribes since its inception, under the Native American Graves Protection & Repatriation Act (NAGPRA, 1990). Repatriation refers to the return of human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony to their tribes of origin. Myths of vanishing races and discrimination against Native Americans led to numerous excavations in Kodiak and around the country, some with the goal of removing as many human remains as possible for scientific study. This work was done without the consent of Alutiiq communities.
“We followed…They were digging the graves looking for jewelry from dead people. What they had on their ears and their nose and stuff like that. They were asking…what part of the graveyard is a long time ago…” – Mary Peterson, Akhiok
Such treatment is no longer acceptable, and repatriations to Kodiak tribes are ongoing. But there are still issues with preservation and protection of Kodiak Alutiiq archaeological sites and their contents, including our ancestors remains. Site vandalism, illegal artifact trade, disrespectful treatment of ancestral remains, and misunderstandings about Native culture continue in the Kodiak region, throughout Alaska, and Native America. This memorial will help visitors understand the ethical and legal imperatives surrounding ancestral resources.
There is great potential to enhance the cultural landscape of the City of Kodiak with an Alutiiq Ancestors’ Memorial, and the Alutiiq Heritage Foundation is committed to developing this park to encourage positive cultural dialog and reflection for all of Kodiak’s residents and visitors.
Through this memorial, the Museum and the City of Kodiak (along with our supporters and partners) will honor Kodiak Island’s Alutiiq heritage and ancestry, and encourage all visitors to consider the contributions of the Alutiiq people to Kodiak’s heritage and promote cultural understanding.