Our Storied Places
Story 4 - Kodiak: Alaska's Newest Certified Local Government and Valuable Past
By Falon Methonen
July 17, 2023
On March 23, 2023, the City of Kodiak officially became the fifteenth Certified Local Government (CLG) in the State of Alaska, boosting historic preservation efforts for the southwest part of the State. Belonging to the CLG Program provides a link between local, State, and Federal governments that prioritizes cooperation and solidifies a commitment to protecting local historic resources for future generations.
The CLG Program is an extension of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which began including local administrations in 1980. These governments are found in every State, and by providing communities with a firsthand avenue for sustained historic preservation, they create mutual opportunities between all levels of government, the National Park Service, and their communities. For a local government to become certified, they must meet four criteria: follow state and local preservation laws, establish a qualified historical commission, maintain an adequate historical inventory, and represent preservation efforts locally.
Through participation in this program, communities actively commit to preserving, safeguarding, and strengthening the distinct past closest to them. At the State level, CLGs work with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to help coordinate preservation, technical assistance, financial support, and the overall betterment of historic resources locally. Community involvement can translate into various projects, including National Register of Historic Places nominations, educational programs, rehabilitation work, surveys, and many others.
This certification means that Kodiak can enhance its preservation efforts and progress toward new conservation projects. As a CLG, Kodiak is eligible to receive backing from the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), a federal fund allocated by the SHPO, through which 10% of grant funds go to Local Governments. Alaskan CLGs have received over $2 million in HPF grant funds between 1986-2018. Examples of projects that have obtained CLG funding include the restoration of the Government Cable House in Seward and the Rebarchek Agricultural Park Project in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. This additional funding will allow for investments in Kodiak's past and future by making the City's cultural resources more identifiable, accessible, and intact.
A rich and tangible history exists in Kodiak, and becoming a CLG will open the community to new access points for education, funding, and historic preservation. Through these preservation endeavors, interest and connection to beneficial aspects of Kodiak's historic and cultural heritage can expand tourism, increase local enthusiasm, and sustain attention to historic assets.
Kodiak has contributed to the development of Alaska and the world in multiple contexts throughout history. Kodiak's thriving Alutiiq cultural heritage, role in North American colonialism, central position on the Pacific Front, and impact on the world economic stage in every period of its history contribute to its unique value. Kodiak has influenced the broader patterns of our collective past by providing provisions or subsistence to millions across time and history. The nineteen National Register of Historic Places sites and four National Historic Landmarks located near Kodiak are evidence of the ample history that has taken place, and becoming a Certified Local Government will ensure the protection of that past.
Kodiak Natural History
Kodiak has a vast history spanning centuries, technologies, and cultures. From the ancient Alutiiq settlements to the prominent fishing industry and beyond, Kodiak has seen a variety of landscapes, people, and events that have shaped it into a historic crossroads. Kodiak's history begins with the diverse natural landscape that continues to impact everyday life. Positioned about 90 miles southwest of the Kenai Peninsula and 40 miles from the Alaska Peninsula, the Kodiak Archipelago and Island were shaped by advancing glaciers during the Pleistocene Ice Age. Kodiak's terrain consists of rocky mountains, glacial valleys, nearby volcanoes, and diverse flora and fauna. A plethora of marine mammals, fish, crabs, and Kodiak brown bears are sustained by the incredible amount of biomass living under the ocean's surface.
After the glacial melt over 7500 years ago, the ancient Alutiiq people migrated via kayak to warmer and drier Kodiak than the current one. Accustomed to living on the coast, hunters of the Ocean Bay Tradition (7500 to 4000 BP) used bone hooks, barbed harpoons, or chipped stone points to hunt for sea mammals and fish for survival. Their descendants, members of the Kachemak Tradition (4000 to 900 BP), refined the use of nets for fishing salmon and cod while developing trade partnerships with their mainland neighbors. Those of the Koniag Tradition (900 BP to 1784) were part of groups whose hereditary leaders ruled through warfare, ceremony, and trade. The Alutiiq often traded with other Alaska Native communities on the mainland for necessary raw materials, animal pelts, ivory, or glassy stones in exchange for fish, seal pelts, or weaponry.
Archaeological sites hold evidence of groups across the Island, but certain concentrations on both the east and west coasts, as these spots were advantageous for fishing and trapping, and whaling. Bands of families would travel to their fishing camps placed at optimal harvesting areas for summer and fall. There was a central village with housing to reside in during the cold winter months, typically at the mouth of the bay. The warmer seasons were better for harvesting and storing each year's yield, while the focus of the winter months was forging equipment and group ceremony. The rich cultural heritage of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq people can be more deeply explored at the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository in Kodiak, a potential beneficiary of the CLG Program.
Russian Presence/Alaska Commercial Co.
After the discovery of Alaska by Vitus Bering in 1743, Kodiak Island became the first permanent Russian settlement for fur traders due to its central location between the Aleutian Islands and the Alexander Archipelago. Positioned near modern-day Old Harbor, a base for the Shelikhov-Golikov Company (1784-1799) was founded in 1784, lasting a decade- until Alexander Baranov took over Company management.
Relocating the base to present-day Kodiak proved profitable as this location became the hub for fur receiving and transport. After renaming the Russian-American Company (RAC) business and receiving monopoly rights, the RAC began taking on additional colonial roles in governance and administration, including collecting taxes and enforcing Russian law. Even after RAC headquarters relocated to Sitka in 1804, Kodiak was still considered the most populated Russian settlement, and the construction of a magazin-- a storehouse for furs-- proves Kodiak's continued importance during this time. This magazin, built circa 1808, still stands today, is the oldest log structure on the West Coast of North America, the earliest Russian-built structure, and the oldest building in Alaska. It is currently being used as the Kodiak History Museum, and is pictured below in 1893, directly behind the smaller of the two ships, and a more current image from 2019.
The Alaska Commercial Company (ACC) took over all RAC assets following the Alaska Purchase in 1867 and effectively had the same corporate monopoly as its predecessor. The ACC had business throughout the territory but continued to serve as the institution that maintained order until Congress established the Alaska District Court in 1884.
On June 6, 1912, the largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century occurred across the Shelikof Strait on the Alaska Peninsula, creating what we know now as the Valley of the Ten Thousand Smokes. Located only 100 km from Kodiak, prevailing winds blew three days of erupting material over the Island, darkening skies and covering the green summer landscape with several feet of ash—even collapsing buildings. Ash from this eruption traveled from Novarupta—Latin for new eruption—to as far as Greenland, Europe, and North Africa.
WWII on Kodiak
World War II had an immense impact on Alaska, which can be seen and felt through its unique history on Kodiak. Military operations in Kodiak were essential for monitoring possible enemy attacks as tension grew in the Pacific. Construction of the Kodiak Naval Operating Base began in 1939, with Fort Greely's and Miller Point's (eventually Ft. Abercrombie) development beginning two years later. In November of 1941, just a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Miller Point began functioning as an observation post and as the headquarters battery, responsible for maintenance, administration, and support, and quickly became the principal Naval base of the North Pacific sphere.
Located strategically, the Kodiak coordinated the war effort between Fort Mears in Dutch Harbor to the west, and the Sitka Naval Operating Base to the east. The Kodiak Base also served as a joint operating center for the Navy, Army, and Airforce, complete with a submarine base, air station, and supervision of the North Pacific Force. At its peak, Fort Abercrombie had around 200 soldiers stationed, ready to defend the Alaskan territory against the Japanese and support the United States on the Pacific Front.
Following WWII, most of Kodiak's military fortifications were placed into caretaker status, meaning they were ungarrisoned but ready for future use. Fort Abercrombie was abandoned but became a National Historic Landmark in 1985 for its significant contributions to the war effort in Alaska. You can visit the Kodiak Military History Museum at Miller Point, Fort Abercrombie, and see their expansive collection of WWII in Alaska artifacts.
The Alaska 1964 Earthquake also impacted the landscape and community of Kodiak. On March 27, at 5:36 pm, this earthquake, with a magnitude of 9.2, was the largest U.S. earthquake ever recorded. With its epicenter in Prince William Sound, around 500 miles away, the people of Kodiak felt the shock of the earthquake immensely. Still, the real concern was the incoming tsunami waves and the need to move to higher ground. The water rose quickly, as many boats were drifting untethered, debris accumulated, and citizens feared for their future. Aftershocks were felt for months following, keeping the residents of Kodiak on edge. Many cultural resources are associated with the earthquake, as the necessary rebuilding of the City serves as a benchmark of Kodiak's history. This historic earthquake is still remembered vividly, impacting all of Alaska.
Bustling Fishing Industry
Kodiak is known for the assorted fishing industry that has sustained its economy for centuries. Subsistence fishing has supported families from across the globe for generations, but modern profit-fishing in Alaska escalated significantly between the 1880s and the overfishing decline of the 1950s. The fishing industry is still incredibly prominent in Kodiak, as commercial fishing and processing make up most jobs in the City. Kodiak also has a rare advantage when it comes to fishing in Alaska, as businesses on the Island can operate year-round, unlike their seasonal Bering Sea counterparts.
Commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishermen harvest multiple salmon species around Kodiak and King crab, halibut, pollock, cod, and sea cucumbers. Hundreds of fishing fleets conduct business out of Kodiak Harbor, the second-largest fishing port in the United States, with only Dutch Harbor preceding it. Kodiak's seafood processing output is over $150 million, with its labor force collectively generating around $50 million in income. Fishing has continuously supported those who inhabit Kodiak for centuries, and the importance of maritime ways of life will continue for generations. You can learn more by visiting the Kodiak Maritime Museum website, or viewing their walkable exhibits in Kodiak Harbor.
Kodiak's Historical Value and How the CLG Program Benefits the Community
"A priority for gaining CLG status for the City is identifying and preserving priority historic sites for both enriching our community and providing an educational experience for visitors".
Chief Curator at the Kodiak History Museum and
Staff to Kodiak's Historic Preservation Commission
Margaret Greutert, Kodiak History Museum's Chief Curator and Staff to the Kodiak Historical Commission, expressed excitement about the multifaceted benefits that becoming a CLG brings to Kodiak. "The first projects underway are creating a Preservation Plan for the City that will outline priority historic sites and provide guidance on their use and interpretation for the future," explained Greutert. According to Greutert, the first step is to rehabilitate the Russian-American Magazin building based on Kodiak's newly created Historic Structure Report. "We are currently developing plans to re-roof the structure using materials and style aligned with the period of significance."
Importantly, Greutert emphasized the value of community involvement:
"CLG status will amplify awareness of cultural heritage in our community and provide additional opportunities for visitors and tourists to learn about our history. The upcoming Preservation Plan will reflect these goals as well as integrate community knowledge and input about historic sites into their future interpretation and use in the evaluation process."
Kodiak's wide-ranging relevance in local and statewide historic contexts strengthens the need and development of preservation efforts. This maintained relevance is grounded in the tangible history of Kodiak via historic and archaeological sites, through their contributions to Alutiiq cultural history, Russian American colonization, the Pacific Front, and maritime history. It is paramount to protect Kodiak's past, and its new designation as a Certified Local Government will ensure that preservation is a priority for future generations. There are various advantages for a locality to become a CLG, as recognition at the federal level can open many doors for historic preservation.
Being able to protect the surviving resources that represent Kodiak's collective past can be beneficial for more reasons than the inherent value, as adding enhanced communication between all levels of government provides more opportunities for direct participation in National Register of Historic Place nominations, CLG-specific funding, and specialized programs that strengthen the quality of historic preservation practices. This greater involvement can lead to broader economic opportunities via tourism and increased community involvement in Kodiak's history.
For more information about how to become a CLG and the value they add to Alaskan communities, you can visit this page, or contact CLG Coordinator Maria Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story 3: A Remote Cannery with Global Consequences
In August 2021, the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places listed the Diamond NN Cannery Maritime Historic District, recognizing the historic salmon cannery's contribution to Alaska, national, and Pacific World history. The San Francisco-based Arctic Packing Company built the Diamond NN on the south shore of the Naknek River, on the east side of Bristol Bay, in rural Southwest Alaska. Each year, salmon return to the Bay's pristine spawning streams, representing the world's largest red salmon (sockeye) run. Canneries began to take advantage of the massive harvest in 1883 when the Arctic Packing Company established the first cannery on the Nushagak River.
The Arctic Packing Company later started the Diamond NN Cannery as a saltery in 1890, marking the first commercial fishing enterprise on the Naknek River. The company merged with over thirty rival Alaskan canneries three years later to form the new Alaska Packers Association (APA). The following year, in 1894, APA converted the Diamond NN into a salmon cannery. But until the 1920s, the company continued using the saltery for supplemental income. Except for two years during World War II, the cannery operated every summer, even outlasting APA, which dissolved in 1982.
By the end of the 20th century, the Diamond NN had processed millions of salmon and remained one of Alaska's oldest running canneries. In 1995, the American seafood giant, Trident Seafoods, bought the cannery and, after pulling canning lines in 2001, used the property as a support base for its other facilities nearby. In 2015, Trident officially closed the Diamond NN to fishermen. The company now uses the cannery solely for limited support services.
During its years of operation in remote South Naknek, the Diamond NN Cannery housed an international community to process a product sent to global markets. Over 130 years later, the buildings they used still stand, are in good condition, and hold the multifaceted and oft' forgotten history of a storied workscape.
While fish has fed humans since time immemorial, APA's canned salmon was not commonly consumed in early 20th century diets. In fact, APA had to 'teach' Americans how to eat canned salmon. The company participated in the 1900 World's Fair in Paris, and the 1904 fair in St. Louis. They created elaborate exhibits with interactive fishing and canning gear that engaged visitors. Canners capitalized on the rise of nation-wide advertising – even publishing salmon cookbooks – to entice potential canned salmon consumers. But the earliest form of canned salmon promotion was the label itself, which evoked the idea of easy, delicious meals made with fresh, exotic, wild Alaskan fish.
APA's efforts paid off. Canned salmon advertisements increasingly appeared in popular magazines, cookbooks, and public health advice, with tinned fish even feeding the frontline soldiers of World War I and II. Meanwhile, APA controlled 90% of Alaskan canneries, which were responsible for 70% of the territory's product. After statehood, the once bountiful salmon runs crashed, bottoming out in the early 1970s. However, after U.S. and Japanese import-export relations improved by the mid-1960s, canners added egg houses to process and sell salmon roe to Japan. Roe exportation became the industry's most lucrative product, saving Alaska's canned salmon trade.
To produce the salmon pack, APA recruited an international workforce. Technology, laws, wars, racism, and rights all contributed to who worked there and when.
In the cannery's earlier years, fishermen working for the Diamond NN often came from Scandinavia, Italy, and Greece. Initially, company officials viewed the Scandinavians as the "superior" white fishermen. But former Diamond NN employees fondly remembered the garlic, olive oil, bread, and seafood feasts the Italians hosted, bringing a taste for Mediterranean foods to remote Alaska.
Alaska Native residents partnered with the Diamond NN cannery from its beginning until its closure. After the Spanish Influenza of 1919 decimated traditional communities, many indigenous people turned to cannery jobs. They acted as fishermen, the winter watchman, and the spring and fall crew. These crews worked the quiet months opening the cannery and winterizing the buildings after the busy season. The Cannery Caretakers (short documentary)
At the cannery's start, the processing crew members were overwhelmingly Chinese. They lived in a separate section of the cannery grounds called "Chinatown." They were very skilled and earned a good reputation for their butchering abilities. But a butchering machine, at the time unapologetically patented as the "Iron Chink," eventually replaced them, while the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 further reduced their presence in the cannery.
The dominant culture of the processors changed with time. What had once been called the China Bunkhouse became the Mexican Bunkhouse by 1920, as Mexican workers originating in California joined the cannery crew in greater numbers after World War I.
African Americans also worked in the cannery, mostly from 1910-1920. But their contribution during production was eventually replaced and ignored as cannery labor began to unionize. The Southern market was not forgotten, however, where canners used racialized images on their labels to sell canned fish to African American and white consumers.
After WWI, Filipinos dominated the cannery workforce and, through unionization, ended the corrupt labor contract system. Young Filipinos, aptly called the Alaskeros, worked to make money for college and took advantage of American social and economic opportunities. But despite their education, they still experienced segregated mess halls and living quarters. Using the American legal system, Filipinos fought for equal rights and cannery desegregation and won.
While Japanese processors worked at the Diamond NN from the start, they gained new status after WWII. As the U.S. lifted import-export bans from the former enemy-turned-ally, APA sold the previously discarded salmon roe to Japanese buyers. These companies employed skilled Japanese technicians who ensured quality control for the roe shipped abroad. Operating in the cannery Egg House, the Japanese often preferred female workers to handle to delicate roe. This, combined with the passage of the Equal Opportunity Act of 1972, allowed more women to join the Diamond NN's ranks.
The cannery depended on an international mix of cultures to catch and can millions of salmon. The cannery's bunkhouses, mess halls, laundry, bakery, and other buildings housed a diverse workerforce, who fed, cleaned, and cooked for the cannery. Unlike other cannery buildings which have collapsed with age, many of the NN Cannery structures are still standing, some a century old. They contain the rich stories of these historically underrepresented yet economically vital laborers.
The Tangible Evidence
Over the past 130 years, the cannery buildings remained in place, withstood the weather, and avoided vandalism, including fire. Today, the 50 historic buildings, seven sites, two structures, and two objects constituting the Diamond NN Cannery Maritime Historic District convey the original layout. Former workers and local residents can still follow the boardwalks connecting the bunkhouses to the mess hall, the docks, and back.
The Diamond NN Cannery represented the Industrial Revolution as it transformed Alaska. The industrial property retained an international crew, employed steam-driven machinery, and mass-produced canned salmon for over a century. When the cannery closed, the workscape no longer functioned in its historical role. But the original buildings' historical design and materials are still visible: the wooden floors, tin roofs, and siding, even the graffiti scribbled by anonymous authors. Today, the same smells remain: the odors of fish, oil, grease, saltwater, and the bakery remind visitors (new and returning) of the busy operation that once existed there. Despite deterioration, the buildings and surrounding landscape remain largely unchanged since the cannery's construction, presenting the same view seen by a century of workers. Importantly, they reveal 100 years of the canned salmon industry's history and its underrepresented participants.
The structures contain evidence of the superintendent, the Chinese and Mexican processors, the Filipino Union leaders, the Sugpiat set netters, the Italian fishermen, and the laundry ladies from the local village, who lived and worked there – for a few months, or even decades. Once-busy rooms preserve long-forgotten personal gear, lockers, fish bins, and boilers. Carved names on tabletops, flags on windows, and images of girlfriends back home offer a glimpse into the lives of the diverse workforce, who often left few other records about daily life at the cannery. Mug Up - Historic Cannery Footage
In 2015, historians, preservationists, filmmakers, and local residents recognized the value of the stories represented by the historic buildings. The group launched the NN Cannery History Project to gather, share, and preserve the stories of the Diamond NN Cannery Maritime Historic District. The Project identified several goals, including oral histories, student films, a museum exhibit at the Alaska State Museum entitled Mug Up: The Language of Work, and a nomination for the National Register of Historic Places. Mug-Up Exhibit Plan (PDF)
After seven years of hard work, combining community enthusiasm and professional expertise, the NN Cannery was listed on the National Register in August 2021. The listing marked the first cannery in Bristol Bay to receive national recognition. Hopefully, it will not be the last.
For an in-depth history of the Diamond NN Cannery, visit The NN Cannery History Project's website. You can watch student and professional films and access articles, oral histories, and other media from there. APA and the Diamond NN also dealt with the deadly 1919 Spanish Influenza, sending medical aid to villages and caring for Alaska Native orphans. The NN Cannery History Project researched those events and their ripple effects in Bristol Bay. Resources are highlighted below:
- University of Alaska Fairbanks' Project Jukebox on the Diamond NN (oral histories)
- "The Role of the Diamond NN Cannery in Interpreting the History of the Naknek River Fishery" (National Park Service article by Katie Ringsmuth)
- "What Alaskans learned from 'the mother of all pandemics'" (KTOO article by Pablo Arauz Peña)
- Bristol Bay Remembers: The Great Flu of 1919 (short film, Jensen Hall Creative)
- Pieces Of The (Midnight) Sun: Sketches Of An Alaskero (article by Oscar Peñaranda)
- "The Language of Work" (Public Humanities Forum)
- "Mug-Up Sheds Light on Life Inside Canneries" (Petersburg Pilot article by Chris Basinger)
- Part of the "soundscape" of the Mug-Up Exhibition: Song of the Salmon Gang
About the Author:
Ava Martin is an intern at the Office of History and Archaeology. She enjoys sharing history's relevance and is finishing her senior year at the University of Alaska Anchorage, where she studies history and anthropology.
Story 2: Preserving Alaska's World War II Coastal Defenses Sites
December 30, 2021
From September 8 to 14, a team of archeologists and architectural historians from the Office of History and Archeology surveyed Fort McGilvray, a coastal defense post from World War II, located approximately seven miles from Seward, Alaska. With assistance from State Park rangers, the investigation culminated in the nomination of Fort McGilvray Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places.
Built from 1941 to 1944 atop towing cliffs rising from the west side of Resurrection Bay, Fort McGilvray was part of the extensive Seward Fixed Harbor Defense System constructed to protect the port of Seward, the terminus of the Alaska Railroad, and central access point into the Interior of Alaska.
Encompassing roughly 700 acres, Fort McGilvray Historic District consists of four distinct geographical areas used for defense, command, and supply.
Construction at Caines Head and South Beach started on July 31, 1941. In March 1943, the military named the installation Fort McGilvray after an Army Officer who commanded "Fort Kenay" in 1869. By March 1944, the military ordered the Fort dismantled after U.S. forces had driven enemy forces from the Aleutians and sent the guns to San Diego and South Dakota locations.
Established in 1971, the Caines Head State Recreational Area ( CHSRA) included 1800 acres. In 1974, the Park expanded by an additional 4000 acres. Until the 1964 earthquake, a road system originating at North Beach linked the four locales. State Parks began clearing the old military roads in 1984 to serve as the trail system for the Park. The historic North Beach Road, established by the U.S. military in 1941-1942, is similar to the historic Alcan Highway, for its role in the military supply chain and contribution to the War effort.
Today, the Fort's wood buildings and structures, including the Quonset and Pacific huts, are ruins. But extant features with distinguishing military characteristics still convey the historic function and engineering of the post.
At North Beach are the remains of a wood dock. At South Beach, evidence exists of the main cantonment.
Panama mounts for 155mm guns remain at Rocky Point.
And, atop Caines Head Battery 293/Fort McGilvray, approximately 580 feet above the ocean, are several WWII-era remnants, including a fire control bunker, cement magazines, and Barbette mounts for two 6-inch guns.
After 80 years, the concrete buildings and structures, including those at the main Battery, the ammunition magazines, gun mounts, and the hydroelectric dam, retain both architectural and historic integrity, and together, communicate to visitors an episode that profoundly changed Seward, the Territory of Alaska, and the nation—World War II.
Although most buildings are dilapidated or in ruins and much of the area is overgrown, the gun mounts, bunkers, and lookouts are intact and retain excellent integrity. Collectively, enough structures survive to communicate the immediacy and importance of the U.S. military's defense efforts in Alaska.
Because Fort McGilvray is now part of Caines Head State Recreation Area, it stands out for its exceptional interpretive value and ability to tell the history of the Coastal Defense System in Resurrection Bay and the lesser-known story of Seward's strategic role in the supply line from the Lower 48 to Interior Alaska. The collective features, reinforced by the environmental setting, convey the military's extraordinary engineering effort and defense activities at Fort McGilvray and allow visitors to experience World War II from the soldiers' perspective.
Today, Fort McGilvray Historic District resembles its historic appearance and retains significant design features and aspects of construction dating to WWII. Importantly, it still holds the historical memory of the soldiers stationed there nearly eight decades ago, even if they can no longer share that history themselves.
As one of the best-documented and most visited coastal defense installations in Alaska, Fort McGilvray can educate—even inspire—the public about the history of WWII in Alaska and has the power to immerse future generations in a wartime landscape.
On Wednesday, December 8, the Alaska Historical Commission, a nine-member citizen review board chaired by Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer, determined that Fort McGilvray Historic District qualifies for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The commission considered Fort McGilvray historically significant under Criterion A for its association with the defense of Alaska during World War II on national, state, and local levels. Under Criterion C for its extraordinary engineering, as the area's extreme coastal environment presented the military with one of its most challenging construction tasks of the entire War. And finally, Fort McGilvray Historic District is significant under Criterion D for its potential to yield additional information about military life at Caines Head during World War II.
For a fascinating look at Fort McGilvrary's construction history, check out this 26-minute historic film, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wold War II Army Moving Image Collection: Resurrection Bay & Whittier, from the Alaska State Library Historical Collections (ASL-AV014-09).
-Katherine Ringsmuth, PhD
State Historian/Deputy SHPO
About the Author:
Dr. Katherine Ringsmuth is the Alaska State Historian and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer. In her spare time, she is running, skiing, or on a soccer or baseball field with her husband Eric, cheering on their two boys, Ben and Tom.
Story 1: History and Healing: The Ancestral Village of Qinuyang
August 27, 2021
On Tuesday, May 25, 2021, the Alaska Historical Commission, a nine-member citizen review board chaired by Lieutenant Governor Kevin Myers, determined that Qinuyung, an ancestral Yup'ik village site located in southwest Alaska, qualified for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Three months later, Qinuyang joined more than eighty-eight thousand other important historic properties in the nation's catalog of its significant cultural and historic history resources when the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places added the site to the list on August 27, 2021.
Situated on a wooded terrace overlooking the Kvichak River are the ruins of a once vibrant village, which consisted of single and multi-roomed winter houses, a qashgiq or men's house, small storage pits, a Russian Orthodox chapel with cemetery and fence, and a fish drying area. These historic remnants will inform archeologists about local subsistence patterns, resource use, food preservation, social relations, seasonality, and how residents dealt with aspects of colonialism. The ancient village is a regional time capsule, with buried evidence of human occupation going back 3600 years. "The site reflects a Kvichak River pattern of Yupiit people living in the same location as their ancestors of Norton and Arctic Small Tool traditions," wrote the nomination author, Monty Rogers. It is significant for its potential to provide important information about the Yupiit, including the Norton and Arctic Small Tool people's use of the Kvichak River."
"Qinuyung is a historical treasure, deserving of the National Register," said Igiugig resident AlexAnna Salmon, who testified at the meeting on behalf of the Igiugig Native Corporation and the Igiugig Village Council—both of which played central roles in the nomination process.
According to Salmon, the Qinuyung National Register nomination is part of a broader effort to 1) reclaim Igiugig's ancient history, 2) revive cultural heritage, 3) document archeological sites of the upper Kvichak River, and 4) engage youth and multi-generational residents in the processes to strengthen the community by creating continuity with the past.
Besides yielding archeological information, Qinuyang is significant for its association with the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1919, a seminal event in Bristol Bay that triggered its rapid demise. Equally important is Qinuyang's association with Anuska "Blind Grandma" Kasylie, a village resident who courageously led the few surviving children of the pandemic to safety. Because of her undaunted bravery and many other acts of kindness, today's residents of Igiugig, the Kvichak River, and Bristol Bay consider her a local hero.
Traumatic memories of the horrific events of 1919 caused residents to avoid Qinuyung for decades after the pandemic. Throughout the years, trees inhabited the area, replacing the grassy village site. The elders of Iguigig view the environmental shift as a sign the village is free of the pain inflicted by the pandemic. They believe the ancestors buried there are finally able to rest, and the old village site has found peace. "This [historical] work has helped to provide healing from our traumatic past, offers us strength to face the Covid-19 pandemic, and brings bright hope for the future," said Salmon.
The Alaska Historical Commission members unanimously voted that Quinuyang is historically significant on a local level and qualifies for listing in the National Register under Criterion A, for its association with the 1919 Spanish flu pandemic; Criterion B, for its association with Anuska "Blind Grandma" Kasylie; and Criterion D, for its potential to yield information about how, for at least 3,600 years, people of the Kvichak River employed strategies to survive, face adversity, and culturally endure.
-Katherine Ringsmuth, PhD
About the Author:
Dr. Katherine Ringsmuth is the Alaska State Historian and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer. In her spare time, she is running, skiing, or on a soccer or baseball field with her husband Eric, cheering on their two boys, Ben and Tom.