Our History - Culiracirpet
Since the mid-1700s Alaska Native peoples have experienced the internationally familiar process of Indigenous conquest and assimilation, resulting in tumultuous consequences still felt today. The history of western influence has overwhelmed Alaskan communities, causing embitterment and a fractured state of wellbeing on many levels. The rapid cultural changes Alaska Native peoples have survived during the past 200 years is but a blink of an eye compared to the millennia our ancestors successfully adapted to their changing environment and in trade or conflict with other tribes, all the while maintaining autonomy. The difference during the past 200 years is the devastating loss of self-determination, only now being regained.
Knowing the history behind the modern Alaska Native experience and understanding the chain of effects still influencing us today can allow a healing process to grow and solutions to surface. This exploration could ultimately serve as a means to a healthier and a more community-empowering education process. With a deeper understanding of the historical trauma that has radically changed Alaska Native families and communities over the past two centuries, there is hope to reverse the cycle of loss without succumbing further to assimilation or leaving behind traditional knowledge and lifeways that sustained the Alutiiq well.
Reflecting on the experiences of nearly 2,500 Alutiiq people in the Kodiak Archipelago, or 17.6% of the 13,900 population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010), there is now a growing sense of cultural empowerment within families, due to efforts by Elders and leaders to regain autonomy during the past forty years since the passage of ANCSA. Our history as Kodiak Alutiiq people is similar to the experiences of other Indigenous communities worldwide who have survived conquest and assimilation, struggling to hold on to a worldview and traditional knowledge that is misunderstood or threatening to the mainstream society within our various countries. As we look at next steps to ensure more empowering educational processes for future generations, we must maintain a balanced local and global perspective, considering past events and how history influences educational content and practices today.
Excerpt from Alisha Drabek, Ph.D. (2012) dissertation:
Liitukut Sugpiat'stun (We are Learning How to be Real People):
Exploring Kodiak Alutiiq Literature through Core Values