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Refuge Rock - Awa'uq Massacre

A well-known story of betrayal from historic times is told by Arsenti Aminak to Holmberg in 1805 (1985 translation) about how Kashpak betrayed the Alutiiq people at Refuge Rock when telling of the “unknown portage across the island to the Russians” (p. 59). His betrayal cost the lives of hundreds that day in 1784 and resulted in the conquest of the Kodiak Alutiiq. Perhaps Kashpak saw no other option after witnessing other atrocities during his own captivity and hoped that the people would surrender. Regardless, his name has gone down in history as a traitor.

While the Russian explorers or promyshlennki (Russian fur hunters) began to map Kodiak in 1769, it wasn’t until 1784 that Shelikhov established their first outpost in Alaska at Three Saints Bay (Afonsky, 1977), near the present village of Old Harbor. Alutiiq stories and Russian acc´┐╝ounts tell of occasional trading and frequent battles, leading up to the massacre and conquest of the Alutiiq people on August 14, 1784, by Shelikhov at Awa’uq (literally translated as Numb) or Refuge Rock as it is commonly known today (Martin, 2007; R. Knecht, Haakanson, & Dickenson, 2002; Pamintuan, 2001). This slaughter and subsequent hostage-taking began a dark period for the Alutiiq as Russian invaders enslaved men and boys to hunt sea otters year-round, while women and children were held captive (Afonsky, 1977).