Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
Your voice in the Aleutians.
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  • The Right Reverend Alexei was elected as the bishop of the Orthodox Church of Alaska in 2022. In May, he made his first visits to some of the farthest-flung parishes in his large, statewide diocese, including St. George in the Pribilof Islands, and then Atka and Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands.
  • A photo essay following Bishop Alexei of the Orthodox Church of Alaska on his first visit to Atka, one of the westernmost communities in the United States. St. Nicholas Church is one of the oldest Orthodox parishes in Alaska, founded in 1825. There, Bishop Alexei performed the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, which is only served when the bishop is present, as well as St. Nicholas service for the church's patron saint.
  • Dozens of people gathered in northern California last month to help tie lashings on an Unangax̂ open skin boat. Marc Daniels facilitated the build in his workshop, with the participation of Unangax̂ and local California tribal members. The vessel will be launched May 27, during the Alaska Native Day celebration at Fort Ross.
  • A collection of 50-year-old audio recordings from the Aleutians have been digitized and are now accessible online.The recordings were part of an Unalaska school project from the ‘70s. A group of students and their teacher recorded various Elders in hopes of documenting the language, culture and history of the Unangax̂ community and the Aleutian region.There’s about 60 reel-to-reel audio tapes that make up the collection. They include topics from day-to-day activities to historic events, fishing stories and recipes, to accounts from Makushin and the other lost villages that were forcibly evacuated during World War II.
  • The local Russian Orthodox community celebrated Slavi, or Russian Christmas, over the weekend, which follows the Julian calendar and takes place Jan. 7. It was the first time the church held in-person Christmas services since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unalaska’s Church of the Holy Ascension is one of the oldest churches in Alaska, and arguably the oldest Russian Orthodox church in the state. On Russian Orthodox Christmas, congregants stood at the front of the church, spinning large, colorfully decorated stars in clockwise circles, while the choir sang traditional songs in Russian, Unangam Tunuu, English and the Eastern Orthodox Church’s liturgical language, Slavonic.
  • On Friday, Oct. 21, the Anchorage Unangax̂ Dancers took the stage for the very last performance of Quyana Nights, a highly-awaited celebration of traditional dance hosted by AFN. Unangax̂ dancer and drummer, Dustin Unignax̂ Newman, composed the newest song for the Anchorage dance group.
  • Taytum x̂anix̂ Robinson is the artist behind Qawax̂ Creations - a contemporary Unangax̂ jewelry line she started about a year ago. Her earrings are known on social media for their unique use of seal intestine, or seal gut, which has traditionally been used to make rain gear.
  • Unangam Tunuu [Unangax̂ language] classes are available at the University of Alaska for the first time in two decades. Instructors Haliehana Stepetin and Moses Dirks are using traditional methods as a framework for teaching this course.
  • A collection of audio reels made in the Aleutian region in the 1970s was digitized and will soon be available online through the University of Alaska Fairbanks.The recordings were part of a school project that started in 1977 when a group of Unalaska students and their teacher Ray Hudson started collecting texts about the culture, language and history of the Aleutians. They called themselves the “Cuttlefish Class” – a name they picked out together – and they called their project the “Cuttlefish Series.”The students put together six hefty volumes meant to bring the island community and Unangax̂ culture into the classroom. They contain things like fishing stories, letters, recipes for alodics (an Unangax̂ form of fry bread), as well as memories from Makushin and the other lost villages that were forcibly evacuated during World War II.
  • Jacob Tix̂lax̂ Stepetin co-founded and plays lead guitar for the Indigenous heavy metal group, Merciless Indian Savages. They have song titles like “Pseudo Savior,” “Manifest Death” and “Kill the Man/Save the Indian.” These song titles grab your attention, but Stepetin says the point is to create an opportunity to talk about Indigenous issues.