Diaries of Archaeological Expeditions to Alaska with the Smithsonian's Aleš Hrdlička in 1936, 1937, and 1938
|Veltre, Douglas W.
|May, Alan G.
|FOREWORDS: -- In 1834, Russian Orthodox Priest (now Saint Innocent) Ivan Veniaminov wrote that there is “no reason to conceal… cruel acts against the Aleuts.” At the time, Veniaminov was talking about the promyshlenniki – the cruel sailors who forced Aleuts/Unangax̂ to hunt sea otter. About 100 years later, more cruel acts were committed against the Aleut/Unangax̂ people, this time by American archaeologists who sailed to the Aleutian Islands to dig up skulls of our ancestors to display in museums. When I read Alan G. May’s diaries, I found their level of disrespect unconscionable. When Dr. Aleš Hrdlička’s wife passed away, he treated her burial with the utmost respect with soft music, rose petals, green velvet, and kisses. When you compare that with how he and his “boys” treated Aleut/Unangax̂ ancestors, you have to wonder, “Why the difference?” I encourage you to read Alan G. May’s diary. If this painful part of our history is concealed, it may be repeated. Dr. Dimitri Philemonof -- President/CEO – Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association Part of APIA’s mission is to “strengthen and preserve the Unangax̂ cultural heritage.” As director of APIA’s Cultural Heritage Department and Unangax̂ Heritage Library and Archives, part of my responsibilities are to encourage and support the publication of literature about Unangax̂ history – even if that history is sometimes less-than-perfect and sometimes even uncomfortable. What Dr. Aleš Hrdlička and his boys did in the 1930s, sailing up and down the Aleutian Islands, digging up graves – even recent graves in other parts of Alaska – is today uncomfortable. Yet people need to know this history. By sponsoring the publication of Alan G. May’s diaries, APIA and the Cultural Heritage Department are decreasing the chances of this history being buried and forgotten. Millie McKeown – Director – APIA Cultural Heritage Department I read every word of Alan G. May’s diaries. The cavalier and disrespectful attitude Dr. Aleš Hrdlička and his boys displayed was sometimes challenging to read. Yet Alan G. May’s diaries are invaluable because they clearly record how Dr. Aleš Hrdlička and his boys conducted their activities in the 1930s, what their mental thought processes were, and how they felt justified in what they were doing. As Dr. Gordon Pullar noted writing specifically about Hrdlička, to take bones of Alaska Native people and to put them in “drawers located thousands of miles from their burial place was the height of disrespect.” If you want a deeper understanding of Aleut/Unangax̂ history, read Alan G. May’s diaries. Dr. Michael Livingston – Cultural Heritage Specialist – APIA Cultural Heritage Department
|For three summers in the late 1930s, Dr. Aleš Hrdlička, the preeminent physical anthropologist in the United States in the first half of the 20th century, led expeditions to southwestern Alaska to investigate the earliest peopling of that region. Curator of Physical Anthropology at the U.S. National Museum at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the acknowledged “founding father” of physical anthropology in the United States sailed north with small crews of young men—whom he called his “boys”—in the summers of 1936, 1937, and 1938 to probe ancient villages, camps, and burial places on Kodiak Island and throughout the Aleutian Islands. Only one member of his crews took part in all three of these expeditions—Alan G. May. While nearly everyone who knew Hrdlička recognized him to be a kind and often generous scientist of world renown, albeit an elite and difficult taskmaster, May developed an affection for him and an interest in Alaskan archaeology that brought him back on each summer’s venture. For his part, Hrdlička considered May to be his “best man.” Most important, unlike Hrdlička’s other crew members, May kept detailed and lengthy diaries of each summer’s thoughts and experiences. Those documents, presented here, offer insights into both May’s own character as well as his personal perspective on—as Aleš Hrdlička has recently been called—“a most peculiar man.” May’s diaries have been transcribed, edited, and made available through Archives and Special Collections, University of Alaska Anchorage/Alaska Pacific University Consortium Library (henceforth, the Archives), with the support of the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, the not-for-profit Alaska Native Corporation for the region. In this introduction, I offer some brief historical context to those diaries. I begin with background on Hrdlička, including his place in the discipline of American anthropology and his interest in Alaska studies. Next, I outline the significance of the Kodiak Island and Aleutian Islands region to Hrdlička. This is followed, based in part on my personal association with him, by notes about Alan May and his participation in Hrdlička’s research in Alaska. Following this, I outline the three expeditions and their participants. Finally, I offer observations on May’s diaries and the manner in which they are presented here. --Douglas W. Veltre, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of Alaska Anchorage
|Produced with the cooperation and support of The Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association and Archives and Special Collections, UAA/APU Consortium Library.
|Forewords: Dr. Dimitri Philemonof, President/CEO, Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association; Millie McKeown, Director, APIA Cultural Heritage Department; Dr. Michael Livingston, Cultural Heritage Specialist, APIA Cultural Heritage Institute. Acknowledgements Introduction by Douglas W. Veltre: Aleš Hrdlička; The Aleutian Islands and Kodiak Island; Alan May; Itineraries and participants on the expeditions; Notes on the diaries and photographs. Chapter 1: The 1936 Archaeological Expedition: From Seattle to Kodiak Island; Kodiak Island; From Kodiak to Unalaska Island; Unalaska Island; Unalaska to Atka Island; Atka Island; Atka to Kiska Island; Kiska Island; Attu Island; Attu to Kiska and Atka Islands; Atka Island; Atka to Unalaska Island; Unalaska Island; Unalaska to Kagamil Island; Kagamil to Unalaska Island; Unalaska Island; Unalaska to Seattle. Chapter 2: The 1937 Archaeological Expedition: Seattle; Seattle to Alaska; Juneau; Juneau to Unalaska Island; Unalaska Island; Unalaska to Kagamil Island and Return; Unalaska Island; Unalaska Westward; Atka and Amlia Islands; Adak Island; Adak to Attu Island; Attu Island; Attu to the Commander Islands; Bering Island; Commander Islands to Attu and Agattu Islands; Agattu to Attu Island; Attu Island; Attu Island Eastward; Atka Island; Atka to Umnak Island; Umnak Island; Ship Rock; Unalaska Island; Unalaska to Seattle. Chapter 3: The 1938 Archaeological Expedition: Seattle to Kodiak Island; Kodiak Island; Kodiak to Unalaska Island; Unalaska Island; Unalaska Westward; Kanaga Island; Ilak Island; Amchitka Island; Amchitka to Umnak Island; Umnak Island; Umnak to the Commander Islands; Bering Island; Mednyi Island; Mednyi to Kagamil Island; Umnak Island; Umnak to Unalaska Island; Unalaska Island; Unalaska to Seattle; Postscript (undated). Appendix 1: The Papers of Alan May at Archives and Special Collections, UAA/APU Consortium Library Appendix 2: Itineraries of the 1936-1938 Smithsonian Institution Expeditions Appendix 3: Poem by William Clemes References
|Diaries of Archaeological Expeditions to Alaska with the Smithsonian's Aleš Hrdlička in 1936, 1937, and 1938