Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

Suffering in the Aleutians: Military and Unangan Memories of War

Fri, October 9, 10:00 to 11:45am, Sheraton Centre, Chestnut West


The Aleutian Campaign (1942-1943) in the Pacific Theater of WWII is often called “The Forgotten War.” Spanning over a thousand miles from Attu Island at the far Western edge of the Aleutians to Dutch Harbor on Unalaska, this battle, and its memory, has been a contentious point for indigenous territorial claims, American nationalist memory, and environmental relationships. US narratives of military personnel experiences during the Alaskan Campaign center around the harsh climate and its negative effects on life, limb, and equipment, while the indigenous Unangan memory of war stems from their forced removal and relocation away from the Aleutians to Southeastern Alaska. These two experiences - of Unangan and Military - are the feature of the Visitor Center for the Aleutian World War II National Historic Area, operated by the National Park Service in partnership with the indigenous Ounalashka Corporation, in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
While the Unangan were placed in unfamiliar environments and inhospitable conditions in Southeastern Alaska, US military personnel were also introduced to unfamiliar and inhospitable environments to varying degrees along the Aleutians. The misery of the environmental conditions represented in these experiences becomes the focal point of Aleutian WWII interpretation. The first floor of the Aleutian Visitor Center details Unangan experiences of war through narratives, quotes, images, and artifacts from the different island communities spanning their pre-war homes in the Aleutians, war-time internment, and post-war relocation often to new and unfamiliar islands. The second floor focuses on the WWII experiences on Dutch Harbor and the island’s role in supporting military efforts throughout the entire campaign through large reproductions and flashy colored panels. In analyzing the differing representations and present-day relations of the visitor center and the Aleutian Islands in general, I draw on scholarship on rhetorical, memory, environmental, and indigenous studies. This paper will compare the Visitor Center’s representation of the wartime experiences of these two groups in order to put forward an understanding of America’s WWII victory as a continuation of the nation’s expansionist project that continues to dispossess its indigenous communities of their rightful homelands by incorporating them into American nationalist memory.


©2020 All Academic, Inc.   |   Privacy Policy