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Spheres of Wellbeing 




Our Homeland

For the Kodiak Alutiiq people, after over seven millennia on Kodiak, our homeland establishes our sense of identity (Crowell et al., 2001, p. 26). Several of the earliest stories collected from the region are origin stories that tell of the creation of this land and how the people came to live here. Excerpts from publications by Lisiansky (1814) and Holmberg (1985 translation) provide summaries of these origin stories, as do Pinart’s (1872a, 1872b) field notes. One story tells of how first man and woman fell from the sky in a large bladder which they shaped and formed to create the land (Lisiansky, 1814). This story describes Kodiak as a rock that the child of first man and woman played with. Each of these land creation stories are noted in the Values Catalog within the “Ties to our homeland” column as (creation).

The strong tie to home is evident throughout many Alutiiq stories. In other unigkuat where the hero journeys away from their homeland into the spirit world, there is a great sense of loss, inner conflict and longing to return home, which ultimately spurs their leaving the pleasant, new home. Journeys to the sky worlds or Bird Heaven as found in “The Girl Who Married a Star” (Golder, 1903a), “The Unnatural Uncle” and “The Sad Fate of Uchatngiak,” or animal worlds as in “Boy Who Became a Mink,” (Golder, 1903b) all cycle back to a journey home. While some of the heros find that the separation from their homeland has changed them, most return home. In “The Unnatural Uncle,” for example, the boy hero finds that his “thoughts would very often wander back to his former home, the people there, his parents; and the thought of his uncle’s cruelty to them would make his heart ache” (p. 93).

Particularly for the communities of Kaguyak and Afognak, which were destroyed during the 1964 earthquake and tsunami, Elders tell of their sorrow at the disconnection they experience from their home communities. Just as Elder Nina Olsen said during a student interview in “Growing Up in Afognak” within the second issue of the Iluani (1976) project, “As I get older I think of these times and I wish I could just live back there again” (p. 7). The same is true for those who today suffer a physical ailment that requires them to live in Kodiak or Anchorage close to medical care, rather than their home village, as well as for those who must live away because of economic, education or wellbeing reasons. With over half of the Kodiak Alutiiq nation now living off-island, this same longing is frequently a reminder that something is missing from their lives. The connection to the land, sea and their heritage often calls them home or leads them to seek resources that will remind them of this connection wherever they may be on the planet. As Alutiiq Elders say, “This is the land that we belong to, not the land that belongs to us” (Retrieved from

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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