Guide: Part Two

Guide to Various Subjects Mentioned in Ivory and Paper




Page 54: It looks like something from church.

Orthodox Christianity introduced literacy in Unangam tunuu using a modified Cyrillic alphabet. The Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and church instructional materials were printed in Unangam tunuu. In addition, there was wide spread literacy in the Russian language in the 19th and early 20th centuries.


Page 55+: Captain Hennig

The 19th century Captain Ernest Hennig is roughly based on a captain with the same name who worked for the Alaska Commercial Company. The captain’s acerbic personality made him a convenient focus for attacks against the company. Even those loyal to the firm found him difficult. He removed the mummies from Kagamil in 1874 and brought them to San Francisco in January 1875. In November 1875, his vessel Wm. Sutton, sank just out of San Francisco and all aboard were drowned.


Page 56: A half-dozen cannons brooded around a tall flagpole.

There are numerous photographs from the 1910 era showing these cannons in front of the Alaska Commercial Company. Either during World War II or shortly afterwards (or both) the cannons were shipped away. Two of the smaller ones were returned to Unalaska thanks to the efforts of Marti Murray. They were placed in the school, but they are now in the Museum of the Aleutians.


Page 56: A woman lifted a samovar from a shelf….

Photographs of and information about samovars can be found in abundance on the internet. Family samovars were among the items left behind during the WW2 evacuation and that were missing when people returned.


Page 58+: A man had just stepped out….

The description of William Healey Dall is based on contemporary accounts. See Turner, An Aleutian Ethnography, 2008:33.


Page 58: He turned to an older man dressed in simple black clerical robes….

Innokentii Shaiashnikov, born in 1824, was the priest at Unalaska from 1848 to his death in 1883. Today members of this family spell their name Shaishnikoff. He was highly regarded by all. His library was consulted by visiting scientists.


Page 58: We had the beautiful room to ourselves.

The description of the Shaiashnikov home is based on John Muir’s account from 1881. Muir, The Cruise of the Corwin, 1917:16.


Page 59: “It’s the czar,” said a voice behind us.

Vasilii Shaiashnikov was the second son of Innokentii and Mariia. In 1887 he became chief of Unalaska and served until 1902. I have made him younger than he actually was since church records place his birth in 1860 while his death record in the District Court records has his birth in 1858. He died in 1931.

The portrait of Czar Alexander II was given to Father Shaiashnikov by Veniaminov. The portrait was seen by Ivan Petroff (Hinckley, “Ivan Petroff’s Journal of a Trip to Alaska in 1878,” 1966:27) and John Muir. Peter Gorman of the Alaska State Museums gave an illustrated presentation about it at the 2010 International Conference on Russia America. He noted that it was sent to Shaiashnikov in 1858. It now hangs in the reception room of the Russian Bishops House, part of Sitka National Historical Park. [Script for Presentation, Revised 8-19-2010] His presentation, primarily visual, was not included in the proceedings, published in 2013 as Over the Near Horizon.


Page 59: King Cove “where all those white folks are moving to.”

Actually, King Cove was not settled until 1911. It is located at the tip of the Alaska Peninsula. There were several communities that began a few years earlier when men from the Northwest and Scandinavia arrived. They have now disappeared as people moved to King Cove, Sand Pont, and False Pass. These included Pirate Cove, Thin Point, Pauloff Harbor, and Company Harbor.  I chose to use a community familiar to local readers. Jones, Patterns of Village Growth and Delcine in the Aleutians 1973:6, 9.


Page 63: The Alaska Commercial Company Hotel is based on the actual hotel and company headquarters. Around 1978 I had a high school student, Dean DeCuir, draw a blueprint of each of the 2 ½ floors before the building was razed. These drawings were published in Hudson, ed., People of the Aleutian Islands, 1986:93-94.


Page 63: Huang Zhen.

The AC Company did have Chinese employees at Unalaska. There is indication that one or two converted to orthodoxy.


Page 68+: Mrs. Otis

She is based on Eliza A. Otis. She was the wife of Harrison Gray Otis, a government official on St. Paul Island. She and her daughter (whose name I do not know) visited Unalaska on their way to St. Paul. From 1884 to 1892 she wrote a column for her husband’s newspaper, L.A. Daily Times, based on her visit to Alaska. In the article on September 5, 1885, she wrote, “Somehow these Northern birds do not seem as happy as those of our sunny Southland.”


Page 68+: Mr. Gray

He is based on the real Nicholas Gray (1861- 1910+) , a long-time employee of the A.C. Company. He worked as a school teacher for the company at St. Paul. He was also a clerk, treasurer, and eventually a manager both at Unalaska.


Page 62: The Aleuts’ willingness to dig up their ancestors who were not Christians, see Jochelson, Archaeological Investigations in the Aleutian Islands, 1925:41.


Page 65:  When she got closer, I said, “Aang, aang.” Good morning, good morning. This was a very handy word. It meant everything from hello to yes to absolutely! But it also meant, How are you doing? I hope things are good with you.

            Aang is usually translated just as “hello.” But it can be said in such ways as to imply all of what is included here.


Page 65: “The straight open weave allowed any water to drop away.”

Utilitarian baskets were made with two main weaving styles. Diverted warp created a VVVV pattern between the rows of weaving while regular vertical warp created a IIIII pattern.


Page 67: “The most the native corporation did was to decorate a column or two in their annual reports with Unangam tunuu. Nothing substantial. Nothing that made learning the language a real benefit over those who didn’t bother.”

This is an exaggeration although Unangam tunuu is clearly not high on the list of funded priorities for either the regional or local corporations. “Word of the Week” is a feature of the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association’s website, and the Aleut Corporation includes a word or two in their periodic newsletters. APIA supports Unangam Tanangin Unangam Tunuu, a language revitalization project of the Administration for Native Americans. (


Page 75: “How you treat it is how you will be” regarding amulets.

This was a statement Anfesia Shapsnikoff heard from John Gordieff after he saw a bone figure that had been dug up at Unalaska. (The author’s conversation with Anfesia Shapsnikoff, Nov. 9, 1972.)


Page 75: The story Peter Rostokovich tells about the Unalaska people is based on Nick Galaktionoff’s “lucky charm” story.


Page 76: “All the Aleuts became Christians except a few Outside men.”

There are several accounts available about “outside men.” See Turner, An Aleutian Ethnography, 2008:196. Veniaminov, Notes on the Islands of the Unalashka District, 1984:173.


Page 79: For burns from putschkie, wild celery, see Golodoff, Wildflowers of Unalaska Island: A Guide to the Flowering Plants of an Aleutian Island. 2003:134.


Page 79: Maria Shaiashnikov and the poems of Pushkin.

Both Maria and her husband, Father Innokentii Shaiashnikov, were Unangax̂. Whether or not she had this particular book is unknown. It is known that her eldest son Alexander had a copy of Tolstoy’s War and Peace in Russian. The real Maria Alekseev Shaiashnikov attended school in Sitka and lived with a high-ranking officer in the Russian-American company, Johann vonBartram and his wife Margaretha. (The author’s communication from Maria Jarlsdotter Enckell.) Maria taught language arts at Unalaska from 1848 to 1861. (Shaiashnikov Journal 1861-1863.) Her uncle was Illarion Arkhimandritov who was a navigator for the Russian-American Company and later a captain for the AC Company. Vasilii Shaiashnikov’s grandfather, Kas’ian Shaiashnikov, was the manager of the sealing operations on St. Paul Island for the Russian-American Company.


Pages 81-82: This was the church built by Innokentii Shaiashnikov between 1854 and 1858. It was replaced in 1896 by the current building. This description is based on Volkof, “In Alaska. Some Peculiarities of the Aleuts.” San Francisco Post. July 9, 1881. (Smithsonian Institution Archives, RU 7073. Box 47, Folder 4. William Healy Dall scrapbooks.) The blue cupola was mentioned in Shepard, The Cruise of the U. S. Steamer “Rush” in Behring Sea, Summer of 1889, 1889:58.