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NOAA Tape T019j & T020j Ray Hudson Page of

Interviewer, Ray Hudson

Ray Hudson: Alright. I’m Ray – oh, looking at you –
Interviewer: _____ –
Interviewer: and get him used to it –
Ray Hudson: Yeah, okay.
Interviewer: Go ahead.
Ray Hudson: I’m Ray Hudson, and I lived at Unalaska from 1964 to 1991. And while I was there, I had the good fortune to meet Anfesia Shapsnikoff, an Aleut Elder, who encouraged me to study Aleut history and to keep notes of things that she told me. And that sparked my early interest in the people there. And over the years I’ve studied them a bit and come to know a little bit about them.
Interviewer: Where do you now live?
Ray Hudson: Oh I now live in Middlebury, Vermont. I moved here in 1992.
Interviewer: Okay, great.
Interviewer: And you were a – did you say were a schoolteacher –
Ray Hudson: Yes, I taught school at Unalaska –
Interviewer: For?
Ray Hudson: For about 25 years, yeah. And over the years, the community changed from a small native village to a fairly bustling fishing port.
Interviewer: Okay, good. Alright. Go ahead John.
Interviewer: Okay, well. Could you just – I’ll start with my first question. Could you – Anfesia –
Ray Hudson: Anfesia, uh-huh.
Interviewer: Could you describe her a little bit –
Ray Hudson: Sure –
Interviewer: Her goal was –
Ray Hudson: Uh-huh –
Interviewer: In the beginning but –
Ray Hudson: Yeah –
Interviewer: More in terms of oral history –
Ray Hudson: Yeah. Uh-huh. Anfesia Shapsnikoff was born in Atka in 1900, and moved to Unalaska around 1905. And so she grew up knowing both some Atkan people and some Unalaska people. Her father was from Atka. Her mother was from Attu. And so she spoke three dialects of Aleut. The Attuan, the Atkan, and the Unalaskan. And it was always interesting when people from Attu would come, because she could speak in the Attu language. And it always gave her pleasure to do that.
She was a very remarkable woman. She often served as a translator when a Russian vessel would come in and they would have an injured person. She would help to translate that. She would help people in the community if they had to deal with American officials by writing in English. If they dealt with church officials, by writing in Russian. And of course she was also literate in Aleut. And she had a real passion for Aleut culture and the Aleut language.
And when I knew her, she was an older woman and was sort of the unofficial leader of the community, in a sense a matriarch of the community. She was a very diminutive woman, a very tiny woman. But could be extremely fierce at times if she found something out that she was unhappy with. And she was often unhappy with the written accounts of Aleut history. And so tried to document things as much as possible.
Interviewer: She had – I think we were trying to get some oral histories that the University of Alaska in Fairbanks has.
Ray Hudson: Yes. She went up to Fairbanks several times for native culture celebrations and did some recordings. They’re in part for the Alaska Native Language Center. She went in November of ’72. She died in January of ’73. And in November she did a number of recordings of Aleut tales, and Aleut history. And I made a few recordings with her at the school at Unalaska. She came up and talked with my third and fourth graders at that time about her own childhood.
And then Dorothy Jones, who lived in Cold Bay, did a number of recordings of Anfesia, including some songs that she remembered from her childhood. Songs and chants.
Interviewer: How important was that whole process do you think to the kids that you were teaching in Unalaska at the time?
Ray Hudson: I think hearing an Elder like that was very important to them, because they were pretty much growing up in an English-speaking community and here was someone of importance in their eyes.
Interviewer: Could I get you to just back up and say, “the kids that I worked with in the first and second grade” –
Ray Hudson: Sure –
Interviewer: “This was really important to them” –
Ray Hudson: Uh-huh.
Interviewer: Go ahead again.
Ray Hudson: Okay. The children I worked with in the third and fourth grade were – this was extremely important to them, because they were growing up in an English-speaking community. Unalaska was changing. The fishing industry had arrived. And Aleuts were gradually becoming a minority in their own community. And so here was Anfesia Shapsnikoff, a very prominent person in their community, in their church. She was also on the city council coming and talking about the importance of early traditions and early ways. And the Aleut language.
Interviewer: Since we’re on the language part, at that particular time when you first arrived, were people speaking Aleut? And did they teach Aleut in schools? And did you see a change in that, a transition to wanting to get into that?
Ray Hudson: The – let’s see. When I first arrived in 1964, Aleut was spoken I would say by about oh, half of the community. People over 35. Younger people could understand some Aleut but wouldn’t speak much of it. And children spoken virtually no Aleut. And it was not taught in the schools. It wasn’t introduced to the schools ’til we had an Indian education grant and the school administration learned they couldn’t use it for a television station and so they directed the money into an Aleut language program.
And so that began. And that continued for a number of years, and I believe it’s still going now with Moses Dirks, to some extent, as the Aleut language instructor. I think it’s very difficult though if the language isn’t your first language to master it. I think there are definitely Aleut people – I’m speaking about Unalaska primarily, not Atka or the Pribilofs – but in Unalaska I think there are Aleut people who will learn Aleut as a second language, either through the school or through linguists. But for the language to be viable, it has to be a first language. It has to be spoken in the home and become an integral part of you. And at Unalaska, I fear that that isn’t the case.
Interviewer: And how important is that to preserving the culture? The culture that they essentially lost in the Russian time period, and then lost again in the American time period, and are continuing to lose today because of modern civilization time period. How –
Ray Hudson: Yeah, yeah. I’m not sure I agree with all of that. I think – there’s a saying in Aleut that the wind is not a river. And I think the Aleut culture is more like a river. That they’ve been a lot of changes in Aleut culture, and yet I think there’s still a core identity of people as Aleut. Now I think there tends to be a legal definition of being an Aleut. They’re defined by blood quantum or by membership in a corporation. I think there are other ways of defining being Aleut.
Being Aleut by where you live. In St. Paul or St. George, Atka, Unalaska. Being Aleut by what you do. And there, I think there’s a wide variety. There are crafts people, basket weavers, bentwood hat makers, which is a recent reinnovation thanks to Andrew Gronholdt. Subsistence people who practice subsistence fishing, subsistence hunting, berry collecting. And at the same time, there’re administrators and teachers. I think Aleut culture has centered around the sea always, and it continues to center around it.
And consequently, innovation is important, and the adoption of the best technologies for that. And I think Aleut people are very versatile. And yet I think there’s a real core of identity as being Aleut that doesn’t always surface. Someone used an expression about the village beneath the cement. The village beneath the surface of the community. And that’s particularly true at Unalaska. And it may be true in other communities too.
Interviewer: Do you think there’s other people – there are other cultures in the United States, some immigrants, that have spoken about trying to maintain their core culture. And some of ’em say that it must come out of the home. It’s kinda the responsibility of the parents more than the schools or any part of the government. How do you feel about that?
Ray Hudson: Yeah, I think in the preservation of their culture, I don’t think Aleuts have ever abrogated that responsibility. I think they’ve turned to whatever sources they can for support in that, whether it’s schools, individual schoolteachers, Elders, their native corporations. I think it has to be centered in the family and that mean that individuals in the family have to get into positions of leadership, into positions where they can make the choices that will implement and reinforce what they see as important.
At Unalaska, I think it’s especially important that Aleut culture be taught in the school because in general, this community of 4,000 people is fairly transient. And that’s true of the school population. But the population that the school district is responsible for educating from kindergarten through twelfth grade is by and large Aleut. And so they have a – I think they have a responsibility to the culture of those children, even though they might be a minority in the total population, because in a sense they’re the majority of students who go all the way through the school system.
Interviewer: You think that maintaining some touch of that culture and bringing it back and reestablishing it is important to them in terms of how successful they will be going forward in today’s world?
Ray Hudson: I think the more a culture can be glorified or enhanced, the more important they both seem to individuals. And so if the Aleut culture bentwood hat building, basket weaving, whatever it might be, can be emphasized, then people are going to feel better about themselves and they’re going to be more successful in whatever they take part in, including business things, fishing events, whatever vocation they might choose to make a living in.
Interviewer: Dorothy Jones said that contemporary Aleut culture consists of history, hunting, food, religious, language and artifacts, which I think she meant bentwood hats and basket weaving. Can you comment on them? If you think that that’s what contemporary Aleut culture is, and was Aleut culture –
Ray Hudson: Yeah, I think Aleut culture is centered in the family. And centered in the extended family. Aunts and uncles, cousins, godparents, and the godfathers, godmothers. These are very important to Aleut people. And I think it’s this core that constitutes the heart of Aleut culture. And out of this, there are these other things like basket weaving, bentwood hat making, fishing, these other types of endeavors that individuals may or may not be interested in and may or may not want to preserve.
But there’s this very complex relationship among people that goes from village to village, from island to island. And so you find relationships spanning great distances and time that continue and are very important. The institution of an atcha-type of blood brother or blood sister or a relationship that’s very important increases the size of the core community.
Interviewer: Speaking to Aleut culture now and changes, there was a Russian period you said in your expertise was more like the American period.
Ray Hudson: Yeah.
Interviewer: Can you describe how the Aleut culture changed with the Americans coming in first of all in the 1860s? And then we’ll get into World War II, what that did –
Ray Hudson: Yeah –
Interviewer: Further.
Ray Hudson: At the time the Americans arrived in Alaska in 1867, Aleuts were considered the elite native people in the territory. To be an Aleut was to be something special. And that’s part of the reason why people who were not Aleuts agreed to be called Aleuts. And partly that was because Aleuts had become a very educated people. They were literate in Russian, literate in Aleut, there was widespread literacy throughout the chain by this time. When the Americans arrived, there was a sense that Aleuts were Indians, and that they were savage Indians, because the Indian wars were still going on in the Lower 48.
And although Aleuts were supposed to become citizens under the terms of the treaty of sale, this didn’t actually happen. In order for an Aleut to become a full participant in the American system, he or she had to essentially abandon their ties with the Aleut people. They had to give up their language. In many cases they had to give up their religion. They had to become Protestants instead of Russian Orthodox. The greatest loss I think that Aleuts suffered immediately after the arrival of the Americans was a loss of participation in decision-making. During the latter Russian period, Aleuts had held positions of importance.
They’d been managers. They had been storekeepers. They had been teachers, priests, deacons within their own community, but with the arrival of the Americans, they were no longer eligible for any of those positions.
Interviewer: How did – that was probably one of the major changes? What about World War II? Was that the next major –
Ray Hudson: The next – I think that after the initial American period, which went say from 1867 to 1890, 1895, that period, what happened next was the loss of sea otters. And that was a devastating event in Aleut history because all of Aleut society was centered on sea otter hunting. The training of children, folk tales, the support of the church was dependent upon a good harvest in sea otters. By 1890, and certainly by 1900, the sea otter population had begun to plummet. The Alaska Commercial Company began closing its doors in most of the villages, and widespread poverty began to enter the villages.
And with this, of course, there was malnutrition, a high death rate, high disease rate, and more importantly I think, Aleut men had to find a new definition of themselves. They had been sea otter hunters. There were no longer sea otters. It was illegal to hunt sea otters. And so they had to find something else to do. And by and large, they became fox trappers. And so the people who had been – whose lives had centered on the sea, on kayaks, on Baidarkas, on all of these various skills, now became land-bound fox trappers. Who would be taken to different islands by people who happened to own larger ships and left there to trap fox.
I think one of the things that resulted because of that was an increase in the role of women in Aleut communities. Women became far more important than they had been earlier. In a sense, they became the tradition-bearers, the core of the tie between the old ways and the newer ways. And so there was this great change, I think, after 1900 in Aleut communities. And the communities began to stabilize, began to redefine themselves in the 1920s and 1930s. And then World War II came, which produced another great change.
Interviewer: Can you describe that –
Ray Hudson: Sure. In 1937, Alexis Yatchmeneff died. Alexis Yatchmeneff was a great chief, one of the Aleut people. He may have been a paramount chief, which means he was chief over several islands. There’s some dispute as to whether his influence extended as far as Attu or not. But it definitely encompassed the villages on Unalaska Island and Akutan and those areas. And he was chief from about 1902 until as I say, he died in 1937. And other chiefs would come into Unalaska and meet with him and consult with him. And from what Anfesia Shapsnikoff said, even the Coast Guard had to consult with him when they came into Unalaska.
But he died in 1937, and there was no strong replacement for that position. William Zaharov became the chief, but he was not a person with the talents and the capacity that Alexis Yatchmeneff had. Yatchmeneff had a son, John Yatchmeneff, who was being trained as a leader. And Anfesia Shapsnikoff’s eldest son, Vincent Tudiakov, was also being trained as a leader. Unfortunately, both of these men drowned. John Yatchmeneff drowned at the beginning of World War II, and Vincent Tudiakov drowned at the end of World War II.
Now, the war itself produced great changes in Aleut society. Large numbers of people moved into the chain. The landscape was irrevocably altered with roads and buildings and new water systems. Following the attack of the Japanese in the Aleutians in June of 1942, the Aleuts were of course evacuated and taken to Southeastern Alaska. And there, they encountered other conditions. Some of them worked outside in other jobs and they became more acquainted with western ways. That’s a very generalized statement, because in Unalaska, people were already very westernized by the time of the war.
But I think that’s particularly true of smaller villages, like Nikolski and Akutan. And definitely the Pribilofs.
Interviewer: So the – just to help out here –
Ray Hudson: Yeah –
Interviewer: Am I understanding that one of the impacts of World War II was that people weren’t allowed to return to some of the villages. The government could not guarantee – they said they could not guarantee services to –
Ray Hudson: Yeah –
Interviewer: And how do you – and so people had to relocate, villages were abandoned. Can you –
Ray Hudson: Sure, I can talk about that. After World War II, there were a number of villages that were not resettled. On Unalaska Island at the beginning of the war, there were four villages. And after the war there was really only one, Unalaska. The villages of Makushin, Kashega and Biorka were not resettled. The people were brought either to Unalaska or to Akutan. There was an attempt to resettle both Kashega and Biorka, but they were not successful. The numbers of people were just not there to create a viable population.
And this was true also of Attu. The Attuans who were captured by the Japanese, after the war they were brought and resettled at Atka. And the Atkans were their traditional rivals. I think of all the losses that the Aleut people sustained during World War II, I really think the most serious was the extinction of the Attuan dialect. It was I think just a great loss to the Aleut culture. Because there were three dialects of Aleut, now they’re only two.
Interviewer: Now are they fighting some of those losses still today in their efforts to reclaim their cultural identity?
Ray Hudson: Let’s see. After World War II, there was a – let’s see. After World War II, there was a depression in the Aleutians. A severe economic depression. And for young people to find jobs, they had to move elsewhere. And so the population in the chain diminished. And to be an Aleut was not highly regarded. And it was not until the Alaska Native Land Claim Settlement Act that pride in being an Aleut generally began to return to the community. There were, of course, exceptions like Anfesia Shapsnikoff and others.
But it wasn’t until economic development began to be stimulated that people – I’m not being very articulate here.
Interviewer: That’s okay. No, that’s – you’re actually on good – a very important thing.
Ray Hudson: Yeah. It wasn’t until the Alaska Native Claim Settlement Act began to develop and the repercussions from corporations began to infiltrate the everyday lives of people that people began to really take pride in being Aleut again. And the uniqueness and importance of the culture became apparent to people. And they began to do things, like bentwood hat making, the Aleut dancing. These crafts that were virtually extinct began to be in a sense reinvented and reinterpreted.
Interviewer: And so if you fast forward that to today, it seems like they lost – at the end of World War II they suffered another cultural setback and then they reinvented it somewhat, they brought it back and the depression caused them to have to leave and it – whenever you dilute something like that, it’s really tough to keep it together. The same thing is happening today. We’re out in these little communities and people, they’re struggling. They want some – a lot of ’em wanna stay there, but what –
Ray Hudson: Right, what can they do?
Interviewer: Can they do?
Ray Hudson: Yes.
Interviewer: And so I guess my question is they’ve survived it at least twice, that kind of cultural setback.
Ray Hudson: Uh-huh.
Interviewer: In your personal opinion, having lived with these people for 25 years, and as an outsider teaching school there, do you think they’ll do it again? Do you think they’ll pull it off again?
Ray Hudson: Yeah. Yeah, I think the Aleut culture is very resilient. And I think people will survive whatever impacts they might be confronted with, in part because of their adaption of other technologies. And in part just because there’s a very deep core of closeness to the land and to the place. In 1910, 1911, in that period, there was widespread poverty, and the Coast Guard and the Revenue Cutter Service at that time, wanted to relocate villages to consolidated areas where they could be more easily serviced. There was great resistance to do that.
And the reason was was because people were attached to their local places. Because they knew those areas. They had place names for those locations. And so I think Aleut people will continue and will be a vibrant addition to the whole map of Alaska.
Interviewer: Okay. Can you speak about the ______ of Belkofski, what happened to Belkofski? Do you know any –
Ray Hudson: Hmm. What I say might not be very accurate.
Interviewer: Okay.
Ray Hudson: But I can try it. I only know about Belkofski was a community that developed during the Russian period on the Alaska Peninsula, developed because of the sea otter hunting. And it became very important for sea otter hunting and during the early American period, it became a very wealthy community. They built a lovely church. Father Salamatoff was the priest there. And he was an early translator of materials into the Aleut language. As the sea otter hunting declined, it became harder and harder to make a living in Belkofski.
And people gradually moved to outlying communities, to False Pass or King Cove, those areas. And gradually the community disappeared. I think there was a time in the 1920s or 1930s when there was some cod fishing industry in the area, and that drew people away. But as a vibrant community, it died essentially because of the extinction of sea otter hunting.
Interviewer: In Akutan, or I think a Norwegian –
Ray Hudson: Yeah –
Interviewer: An American base but Norwegians from America –
Ray Hudson: Yes –
Interviewer: That were willingly stationed –
Ray Hudson: Yeah –
Interviewer: There. The Aleuts – from what I’ve read anyway, at least I thought I understood it – didn’t really participate too much in that.
Ray Hudson: I think that, yeah. I think the whaling industry in Akutan is another example of a small business that benefited a few people. I think at Akutan, there were some people who worked at the whaling station and there may have been a few people from other communities that went there occasionally. But it didn’t replace sea otter hunting. There was a sulfur mine on Akun that was important. There was a herring industry at Unalaska in the 1920s, early 1930s that was important. And then the whaling industry at Akutan was important for a period of time. But not of great importance.
Similar to the sheep ranching at Chernofski and on Umnak Island near Nikolski, that benefited a few people but never replaced the culture that they had lost.
Interviewer: I’m trying to figure out what – so the Aleuts have really benefited from western culture except maybe until _______. Is that kind of correct? I mean there was a lot of entrepreneurs from the United States trying to take advantage of the resource wealth of the Aleutians in the Bering Sea. But –
Ray Hudson: Yeah, I –
Interviewer: Just didn’t really –
Ray Hudson: I think the Aleutians have been a history of boom and bust. And the Aleuts have always benefited just marginally from that. During the sea otter years, they had a fairly good income, although the Alaska Commercial Company dominated that and kept the prices where they wanted them to be. During the subsequent period during fox – the fox trapping years, Aleut communities were fairly wealthy. I believe Henry Swanson was an older storyteller at Unalaska remarked that Atka was once the wealthiest community in the United States. Because they had a very large harvest of blue fox and the fox – and the income was divided up among all the people in the community.
Interviewer: Based on your shoulder rubbing with people in Unalaska and that, were there stories about the Pribilofs? Especially during – can you relate that to when the government really was in charge, and the people could view that as a wealthy community. Did people go there because there was a cash economy there that they could bring back to their communities, or what were their feelings on that?
Ray Hudson: I think people at Unalaska and other villages on Unalaska Island view the Pribilofs with envy. The Pribilofs were looked upon as a wealthy community. They were a good community to marry into if you were a woman. They were a community that had a safety net, even though obviously their liberties were severely curtailed in many ways. Still there was an economic assurance to some extent in the Pribilofs that didn’t exist in the chain itself. I think the relationship between the Pribilofs and the rest of the chain is a complex one.
In the nineteenth century, I think the Pribilofs were important to the chain, especially because of a couple of families, the Melovidov family and the Shaisnikoff family. There was a chief at Unalaska who was salaried by the AC Company, very much the way that the Russians had salaried and affirmed chiefs who may or may not have been elected by the people. And the chief at Unalaska, Ruf Bourdukofsky, was a salaried employee of the AC Company. In 1887 in the Pribilof Islands, there was a shuffle-up of the chiefs there. And Anton – no, not Anton.
Interviewer: We’re out of tape so –
Ray Hudson: In 1887, the – in 1887, the chief situation – no, let’s see. In 1887, the leadership in the Pribilof Islands changed and Anton Melovidov became the chief. And while this – it was an interesting process that involved the firing and hiring of different people by the agent. These chiefs were not elected. And Anton quickly went from being third chief up to first chief. And while he was – while this process was going on, the widow of Innokenty Shaisnikoff was visiting St. Paul and she returned to Unalaska in the late summer of 1887, and shortly after that, Anton Melovidov also visited Unalaska.
And while he was there, the daughter of Mrs. Shaisnikoff, Vasili Shaisnikoff, was elected by the Unalaska people as chief. And he was the first person who was not a salaried chief in the eastern Aleutians for probably a century or more. Eventually, the AC Company retired Ruf Bourdukofsky, their salaried chief, with an older man and hired Vasili Shaisnikoff. He was chief then until 1901, after which Alexis Yatchmeneff became chief. But there was this tie between the Melovidov and the Shaisnikoff families at Unalaska and the Pribilofs that I think was very important, administratively, within Aleut communities.
The Jesse Lee Home arrived in Unalaska in 1889 as a Protestant mission. Initially they established a school and were in fact the government school. And they got a number of Aleut girls, primarily girls, to board with the teacher and there was a period during which Aleut people were very welcoming of the Home and sent their children to live in the Jesse Lee Home and to attend the school there. By 1895, it became apparent that the Jesse Lee Home was definitely a Protestant mission that wanted to convert children in – and essentially make them Methodists instead of Russian Orthodox. And so the Aleut community rose up at this time, and they had the support of the Alaska Commercial Company in doing this.
And they removed their children from the home. But there were a number of children, Aleut children, who attended the Jesse Lee Home, both as public school and as a sort of boarding school orphanage mission who became important leaders within the community. Catherine Diekanov Sellers was a woman who went through the Jesse Lee Home and they sent her to the Carlisle Indian Institute in Pennsylvania, and she later became a public schoolteacher and returned to Alaska and taught at Unalaska and at Atka and other places in this state and was an important leader.
Henry Swanson, a very well known storyteller and important person in Aleut history lived in the Jesse Lee Home for a number of years. And then there were other graduates who were important. Sydney Oliver was a famous storyteller and musician. Benny Benson, who designed the Alaskan flag, was a resident of the Jesse Lee Home at Unalaska. Until it moved to Seward in 1925.
Interviewer: Speaking of an orphanage, could you relate to us the Aleut culture of taking on other people’s children within the family outside the family? And it has been described in certain writings that some of these people took – some of the Aleuts took other families, whatever, primarily as slaves. Can you comment on any of that or?
Ray Hudson: No.
Interviewer: Maybe not, okay.
Ray Hudson: Let’s see. I’ll –
Interviewer: Even today, people –
Ray Hudson: Right.
Interviewer: They’re sisters, because they’re alcoholics, they take the children off –
Ray Hudson: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
Interviewer: To protect them, to rear them ______ but –
Ray Hudson: Yeah –
Interviewer: Seems to be an integral part of the –
Ray Hudson: Yeah –
Interviewer: Culture.
Ray Hudson: The system of child rearing in the Aleutian Islands quite often – in very early times, there was a nuclear family but for example, uncles were very important in the raising of a son. The mother’s brother would be the primary instructor of the son. So there was a caring for children in other families in a sense. And that continued I think into the twentieth century in which Aleuts would very often – a stable family would often take in children either from families that were having difficulties or where the parents had died or one of the parents had died. And so children were raised – I know Anfesia Shapsnikoff had a number of children that she and her husband raised, both informally and with formal adoptions.
And then later working often through the State of Alaska as a licensed foster parent case, but there is often this willingness of Aleuts to look after their own. In part I think that’s because the Aleutians are very isolated and social services are not available from the government. And so there’s this local means of caring for children.
Interviewer: One last question I think. The North American Commercial Company, Alaska Commercial Company. You talked about ACC quite a bit. I have a mention of North American –
Ray Hudson: Ah –
Interviewer: Is there – what was the impact and influences of these kind of monopolies on the chain and maybe on the relationships in the Pribilofs.
Ray Hudson: Yeah. The North American Commercial Company came after the Alaska Commercial Company and by the time they arrived, the sea otter populations were declining. And so they had a different situation to deal with. There’s correspondence that the company in many ways tried to support the infrastructure of Aleut communities. They had a community house in Unalaska that Aleuts often used. The company didn’t charge for that, but they allowed collections to be made that would go to say, benefit the orthodox sisterhood.
I think the NC Company – see at Unalaska, it continued to be called AC for a long time. But the NC Company extended credit to Aleut families and I remember when I first went there in 1964, there was still just a little file box of cards in it that people would write their purchases down on and would try to pay whenever they were able to. Definitely the fact that monopolies existed is often difficult – makes a situation difficult for people, and that was probably true for the NC Company.
Although certainly by the end of the war, the period after the war, there were few other people at Unalaska who had stores. Paul Portman and then later Vern Robinson that offered some competition to the larger established stores.
Interviewer: You mentioned brotherhood, unfortunately that brought up – do you know anything about the Aleut brotherhood _____ brotherhood? Secret society of Aleuts ____ 1900s in which there was some –
Ray Hudson: There was a – in the 1890s, Unalaska had a remarkable priest, Alexander Kedrovsky. He came in 1894 and stayed until 1908. And during the years he was at Unalaska, they rebuilt the church of the Holy Ascension into the magnificent building that it is now. Also while he was there, the Saint _____ Brotherhood began, which was a church brotherhood that dealt with local problems. They would have regular meetings, and they would discuss things such as leasing of Fox Island. They would care for widows and orphans. They were an important element of the community.
There was also an _____ club at Unalaska, which was more of a recreation club that was formed by Aleut men. And they had a clubhouse, but the important one was the Saint _____ Brotherhood that operated at Unalaska.
Interviewer: Okay. _______ secrets _______ –
Ray Hudson: Yeah, right. Not aware of a secret society –
Interviewer: Several people even on the Aleutian – out on the Pribilofs spoke of it.
Ray Hudson: Yeah, well I mean there was –
Interviewer: A text. There was some notes that the church supposedly has, a text written.
Ray Hudson: Well, there are minutes from the Saint ______ Society. They’re in the Library of Congress in the church collection, and I’ve had some of them translated and Anfesia’s husband, Michael Tudiakov, was the secretary for a number of years for the brotherhood. In fact, an interesting thing is that the brotherhood elected John Yatchmeneff, the son of the great chief, as their secretary, precisely because he could speak English. Because they wanted to be able to communicate with people. And Michael Tudiakov was also one of the important people in the Iliuk – Iliuk Club. Iliuk is the old name for Unalaska.
And that was more of just a group of men who would get together and have a good time. They had a pool table and things of that sort. And they did have a list of rules which were sort of tongue in cheek. Yeah.
Interviewer: Was there much written in Aleut? Are there many texts written in Aleut?
Ray Hudson: There’s quite a bit written in Aleut. There were early church publications that survived. There’s some indications that there were other materials written by Aleuts which have not survived. There are some letters that were written by Aleuts that have survived, to each other. And just recently manuscripts in Aleut written in the 1940s, 1950s, even into the 1970s, have come to light. So there was quite a bit of literacy in Aleut. And people would write from island to island in Aleut to each other.
Interviewer: You mentioned the thing that existed I guess before and at the turn of the century of kind of an extension of what we popularly know as big brothers in North American Indian –
Ray Hudson: Okay, yeah –
Interviewer: And that actually did exist in the Aleut population and how far did that go and what exactly did that – what kind of –
Ray Hudson: Yeah –
Interviewer: What kind of effect did it have on the society and with kids growing up?
Ray Hudson: The informal relationship of atcha in Aleut society began – I’m not sure when it actually began. But certainly in the twentieth century, atchas were important. Phil Tutiakov wrote an article about it in which she said you could become an atcha with someone for various reasons. Often, shortly after the birth of a child, someone would become that child’s atcha. Perhaps they had the same birth date. There was something similar about them. They may have had a similar name. They’re a host of reasons why someone could become an atcha.
Phil himself had only one atcha. But William Diekanov, the last chief at Unalaska, had enumerable atchas, including a radio broadcaster on the east coast. I mean there are just a host of things. I think the origin of this came about through the partnerships that were very important in sea otter hunting times. A man had to have a good partner with whom he could go sea otter hunting. And they were trained as partners from childhood. And I think this is the origin of the closeness of this.
But with atchas, as I say it extended the community because you couldn’t – you had to be careful about whom you talked, because you might be talking about someone’s atcha. My atcha - Anfesia Shapsnikoff arranged for my atcha to become the priest at Unalaska. Father Gromov. And so at times when she was angry at the priest, I would find that she was scolding me. And it would take me a while to figure out why I was being scolded. And then I realized that she was actually scolding my atcha. And in theory, I was supposed to then defend my atcha.
Interviewer: How do you spell atcha?
Ray Hudson: A T C H A.
Interviewer: You know you gave credit to someone for reviving the bentwood hats –
Ray Hudson: Andrew Gronholdt.
Interviewer: Who was he and what – why –
Ray Hudson: Andrew Gronholdt is responsible for the bentwood hat revival among Aleut people. Andrew was a remarkable Aleut from Sand Point I believe who was a master fisherman, a master boat builder. And after his retirement he decided to turn to bentwood hat making, and reinvented the whole process. And Andrew made wonderful, wonderful hats that are in many museums. He was fastidious in his attention to detail – to authentic details. And people such as Gutz Varney and, well almost all of the bentwood hat makers today descend in a sense from Andrew Gronholdt. Yeah.
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