Aleutian Internment

Until I found Karen Hesse’s lovely, haunting verse novel Aleutian Sparrow (2003), I had no idea that the Aleut people–Native Alaskans who had lived for thousands of years on the spare, windswept Aleutian Islands off of Alaska–had been forcibly removed by the U.S. government. Citing fears of a Japanese invasion, the government insisted that the 881 Aleuts living in villages across the islands must be evacuated and moved inland to an entirely different landscape and climate.

The internment was disastrous to the 9,000 year old Aleut culture: Aleut people could no longer feed themselves because there was nowhere to fish and they could not treat illnesses or injuries because none of their medicinal plants grew where they were interned. Shelter, sanitation, and health care were vastly inadequate. In short, government neglect, racism, and disinterest insured that conditions were brutal. These links help to tell the Aleuts’ story.


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