In All This Darkness, Taking Back Our Stolen Children Can Offer Hope
June 22, 2021
My name is Lauren Peters. I am enrolled with the Agdaagux Tribe in the Unangax Nation in the land and waters that are now considered the Aleutian and Priblof Islands of Alaska. I am a first year PhD student in Native American Studies at UC Davis. I have a designated emphasis in Human Rights concentrating on Human Rights of the Dead. That emphasis is to reflect my work finding and documenting Alaska Native children who died and are buried in Native American boarding school cemeteries. One of which is my great Aunt Sophia from St. Paul Island who is buried at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. We are rematriating her home to St. Paul Island this summer.
The Pribilof Islands in the middle of the Bering Sea are called the seal islands because they are the largest fur seal rookery in the world. In the 1700s, the Russians took Unangax away from their Aleutian Island homes and brought them there to club seals for their pelts. In 1867, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed the Southern Blacks, the U.S. government bought these two islands full of captive workers. Forced to harvest seal fur, they were called "Slaves of the Harvest." It was set up like a company town, but the Unangax occupants were not U.S. citizens. They were wards of the state and would remain that way until 1983.