The Alutiiq Museum will publish two new books for young readers with the aim of providing an accurate history of the Alutiiq people from a Native perspective.
The project is being funded by a $116,389 Tribal Library Enhancement Grant awarded to Koniag Inc. by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The grant will be used to create and publish an Alutiiq storybook for third graders and an Alutiiq history book for high school students.
“Alutiiq history is not widely understood or taught in classrooms,” the museum’s executive director, April Laktonen Counceller, said in a press release.
“It is now time to make their finds widely accessible — to add Alutiiq stories and voices to historical narratives, to help children learn our story and combat hurtful stereotypes.”
The books will be written by local experts and distributed for free, said the press release.
The project began in September and will run for two years, beginning with the creation of the third-grade storybook.
According to the press release, Alutiiq author Alisha Drabek — who is also executive vice president of Afognak Native Corp. — will write a children’s story about an Alutiiq child at a fish camp on Karluk Lake about 500 years ago. Artist Cheryl Lacy will illustrate the story with original watercolor paintings.
“The storybook was inspired by a book a couple of us saw in the Eastern Arctic,” said the museum’s chief curator, Amy Steffian.
In the second year of the project, Counceller, Drabek and museum archaeologists Steffian and Patrick Saltonstall will develop the history book.
The book will summarize 7,000 years of Alutiiq history from the colonization of Kodiak to the present day.
Steffian said the history book will also help answer frequently asked questions about when people first came to Kodiak, why many left, why Native people own tribal lands and what Native corporations are.
She said the Alutiiq Museum has a library open for public use with more than 3,000 volumes of materials on Alutiiq history, but they can be difficult to understand for the average reader.
“We have lots of materials written by scholars and translations of historic accounts but nothing that summarizes Alutiiq history for the general audience,” she said. “We are trying to tell a story that provides a backdrop for understanding the Native community of its day.”
Hard copies of both books will be given to schools, tribes, libraries and Native organizations. They will also be published as eBooks for free public distribution.
The books are part of the museum’s “Quliyanguarpet — Our Story” project, which aims to help young people access detailed and accurate information about Alutiiq history.