A local museum will move ahead with plans to create a memorial park in downtown Kodiak despite an issue with zoning that derailed plans to inter human remains at the city-owned location.
The Kodiak City Council in August signaled approval for the Alutiiq Museum to move forward on plans to establish the Alutiiq Ancestors’ Memorial park on a vacant 0.34-acre city lot adjacent to the museum near the Kodiak Regional Office Building. Fundraising for the project begins today.
Plans for the park stemmed from the repatriation of human remains from about 100 individuals of a village on Chirikof Island, located approximately 80 miles southwest of Kodiak Island. The museum had hoped to inter the remains at the downtown lot and create an ancestors park with a stone memorial.
However, zoning at the location prohibited its use as a cemetery. The Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak is currently working with the city of Kodiak to inter the remains at the city cemetery.
Despite the setback, the museum is moving forward to create the memorial at the downtown location.
After successfully bringing home the Chirikof remains, “we just realized this is a broader issue,” said April Laktonen Counceller, Alutiiq Museum executive director. “There could be other tribes affected. Not a lot of people know about this.”
Counceller said the park will serve to educate the public and highlight the issue of cultural artifacts and human remains being lost over time as archaeologists and others have collected them throughout the years.
“Alutiiq ancestral remains are now scattered across the country, and we’re slowly getting them home,” she said. “I think society is slowly starting to change their understanding of showing respect for Native heritage and culture not by collecting it, but by returning it home where it belongs.”
It will also serve as a place for everyone, regardless of heritage, to reflect on their own family history and identity.
“I think that there’s a lot of cultures within Kodiak that can really get behind that idea,” she said. To help fund the project, the museum is selling personalized bricks that will be included in the final product.
According to Counceller, the project is expected to cost between $150,000 - $175,000.
“If we are able to sell enough bricks to exceed the cost of the establishment of the park, we will be establishing a memorial park maintenance fund” for park upkeep, Counceller said.
Bricks can be purchased in person at the Alutiiq Museum during the Alutiiq Culture Fest, which will be held from 4-7 p.m. today. They can be purchased online at ancestorsmemorial.org.
Those who would like to be involved but are unable to contribute financially can serve on a volunteer corps that will be responsible for park maintenance once construction is completed. There are also opportunities to serve on the steering committee that will make planning decisions as the park is developed, Counceller said.
The current goal is to have the park completed in time for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at next year’s Alutiiq Culture Fest, according to Counceller.
Snoderly can be reached at (907)512-2624. Follow her on Twitter, @KDMjoann