The Beginning of Memory Project

Three photos of similar rainy landscapes, with shore, grass, and people in the center one.
Left: The Makushin beach. Center: The newly planted cross at Biorka, 2010. Left to right: Irene McGlashan, Frederick Lekanoff, Jane Mensoff, Kathy Dirks, Brian Rankin, Eva Kudrin. Right: Arriving in Kashega.

Center photo by Greg Jones

 
"Little did Nicholai Galaktionoff know, but the watch he was holding was running out of time. In a few years Makushin Village on Unalaska Island would dissolve. The majority of the Makushin people would move twenty miles around the island’s great volcano to Unalaska Village, the economic and religious center of the eastern Aleutians. They would find themselves outsiders. Nick would discover that his language locked more doors than it opened. But at the time he was beginning to remember not even the adults in Makushin could have foreseen the end coming so rapidly."

So begins Ray Hudson's "The Beginning of Memory Project," documenting the aftermath of World War II coming to the Aleutians.

 

As Ray states in the introduction to the project:

"The following oral histories provide a host of details about life in Makushin, Kashega, and Biorka as remembered by people who were children at the time. It was naturally difficult for the consultants to pinpoint dates of events more than 50 to 70 years in the past. There are contradictions among the accounts and occasionally there are obvious errors. The value of these recollections, however, is not in the verifiability of details often provable from other sources. These oral histories give us rare portraits of three small Unangan communities, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, at the arrival of the Second World War on the American continent. The histories also bear witness to the accomplishments, courage, humor, and resiliency of four remarkable elders and of those who came before them."
 

The material has been arranged somewhat by village. The first transcription contains Eva Tcheripanoff’s recollections about Kashega. This is followed by Nicholai S. Lekanoff’s comments on Makushin. The Makushin material continues with accounts from Nicholai Galakionoff. His remarks also include information about Biorka. Irene Makarin’s memories of Biorka conclude the recollections of people who lived in the villages. The final transcription is the brief interview with Moses Gordieff and deals primarily with events at Unalaska following World War Two. Moses was raised in a family with direct ties to Biorka.

 

Download "The Beginning of Memory Project" in its entirety (accessible PDF 1.2 MB).

 

Interviews Recorded in June 2004

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    Last updated: August 3, 2021

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