Beyond the Moon Crater Myth
A New History of the Aniakchak Landscape
A Historic Resource Study for Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve
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"Aniakchiak has so much history, but no story has yet to tie it all together."
Peter Bumpus, Chignik Lagoon resident

This study would not have happened had it not been for the encouragement, support, and assistance of many people. It was during my second year of graduate school at Washington State University (WSU) when I was hired by National Park Service (NPS) to write a historic resource study (HRS) of the Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve (ANIA). The study not only supported me financially during the school year, but the HRS launched my academic study of this region. Much of the research conducted for the HRS also formed the foundation of my doctorial work. Therefore, I thank both the NPS and the history department at WSU, especially my doctorial committee, including Orlan Svingen, Leroy Ashby, and Paul Hirt, for supporting my multi-layered, multi-purpose research and helping me achieve my goal of blending academic accomplishment and public service.

A Chignik Lagoon resident shows off his clam bounty, 2004. Katherine Johnson Ringsmuth, Anchorage, Alaska.

In Anchorage, my circle of supporters consisted of dedicated NPS cultural resource staffers, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists, and university academics. Frank Norris, the senior historian at the NPS regional office in Anchorage, pioneered historical study in the Aniakchak region and provided me guidance, not to mention many sources, throughout the entire project. Frank's careful read of the first draft questioned a few misguided facts and kept my prose clean. Katie Myers, who manages the park collections now held at the Alaska Regional Curatorial Center, helped me locate a number of hard to find sources, including many Hubbard photographs. Barbara Bundy, with her expert knowledge of Adobe Illustrator, not only made some of the maps based on the historical information I provided to her, but was a constant source of support. My officemates, Karen Gaul and Dale Vinson, were always there, acting as sounding boards as I wrote.

Besides my colleagues at NPS, many other professionals and academics contributed to the HRS. Tina Neal, a USGS geologist, gave numerous interviews and read early versions of chapter one. Tina, and her colleague, Game McGimsey, probably know Aniakchak better than anyone, and both were open with their research, their photograph collections, and shared many stories with me about their fieldwork in the Caldera. Roger Bloggett took time to discuss the history of Kanatak with me, and provided numerous photos of his fieldwork there. Jenn Adleman, another USGS specialist, also read an early draft, and together these geologists helped me to better understand the geological processes at work in our earth. If mistakes exist in this text, they are mine alone.

Emeritus professor of Anthropology at the University of Oregon, Dr. Don Dumond, read an early draft of chapter two. Not only did he spare time to discuss with me archeological interpretations on his way through town to lead an elder hostel group into Katmai National Park and Preserve, but Dr. Dumond made sure my discussion of the ancient cultures of the central Alaska Peninsula was correct, at least as much as current archeological scholarship can tell us. Richard VanderHoek spent numerous hours talking to me about his current theory as to how the catastrophic eruption of the Aniakchak Volcano 3,500 years ago affected both the ecological and the human landscape. Archeologists Brian Hoffman and Ross Smith, who are currently working on site at Aniakchak with a field crew of archeological students from Hamlin University, helped me formulate a current historical interpretation of the region's ancient past. Barbara Sweetland Smith, an expert in Russian-America history, read drafts of chapter three and four. Ever since our first coffee meeting, in which we discussed for hours the "Russian factor," I have become very involved in the history of this era in Alaska history and hope to pursue it in future projects. U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Steve Ebbert read and commented on my discussion of fox farms and Elmendorf's historians John Haile Cloe, James Frank and Karlene Leeper provided me with important military documents, photos, and expert advice on Fort Morrow and other military resources in the surrounding area. Likewise, the U.S. Department of the Navy generously provided reproductions of William F. Draper's oil paintings which depict life at war in southwestern Alaska. I also must thank the archivists who assisted in retrieving the numerous photographs in the HRS. They include: Arlene Schmuland, archivist at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Sandra Johnston at the Alaska State Library, and Shelia Conway and Ann McMahon, archivists at Santa Clara University. Molly Logan, who edited the final manuscript, also played a major role in the completion of this five year project.

I especially need to thank historian Kathy Price, who provided key insights into Father Bernard Hubbard and his ultimate aims in Aniakchak. In her graduate work at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Price argues that the Glacier Priest developed his "Hubbard Mystic" while exploring the Aniakchak Crater. Much of Price's research has contributed greatly to this study. I also must thank Orin Seybert, Greg Kingsley, Ace Grietchen, Patricia Partnow, Brian Hoffman, Tina Neal, Brian Hoffman, and Tony Fiorillo, all of whom gave interviews or contributed photos and personal essays about Aniakchak that are dispersed throughout the study in sections entitled: Anecdotes from Aniakchak.

Although numerous professionals helped to polish the final product, those who provided the HRS with its voice are the people who actually call the Aniakchak region their home. A few of those people include: Suzanne Deater, Michael Grunert, Angela Gregorio, Laura Stepanoff, Shanna Stepanoff, Diana Moore, Alec (Teetum) Pederson, Peter Bumpus, Aaron and Michelle Anderson, David, Ian, and Sasha Anderson, Clarence (Bobby) Erickson, Julius Anderson, and the many teachers, administrators and students at the Lake and Peninsula School District. Residents of the villages of Pilot Point, Ugashik, Port Heiden, Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Lake, and Chignik Bay maintain strong ties to the Aniakchak landscape. They continue to hunt, fish, pick berries, dig clams, and raise families in this region.

Thus, what I find most significant about writing a new history of this little known part of the world is that it challenges previous ideas about, and interpretations of, the landscape, and most notably, the people who dwell within it. The new history discussed in Beyond the Moon Crater Myth will be applied by land managers, resident leaders, and local communities to help explain what happened on the central Alaska Peninsula. In other words, this work will directly impact the future of this region and hopefully, add meaning for the people who interact with the land and resources, and literally make this region's history. As the grandson of an Aniakchak trapper, Peter Bumpus expressed to me, "Aniakchak has so much history, but no story has yet to tie it all together." For the opportunity to tie the story together, I must thank Jeanne Schaaf, chief of Cultural Resources for Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, whose program funded this project and gave it creative direction. Jeanne has been my boss and mentor for the last eight years, and I applaud her tireless energy, her dedication to cultural resource preservation and discovery, and her top-notch staff at the Lake Clark Katmai Studies Center in Anchorage, Alaska.

Finally, I must acknowledge my husband, Eric Ringsmuth, who still asked me to marry him while I wrote.

Katherine Johnson Ringsmuth
July 17, 2007

A full moon as seen from earth. Photograph courtesy Luc Viatour.

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Last Updated: 03-Aug-2009