Lost Villages

Lost Villages Project participants visit Makushin Village in 2009.
Credit Lauren Adams

During World War II, the Aleutian Islands became a front line in the Pacific theater. The arrival of war resulted in mass relocation of the Unangax̂, the indigenous people of the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands. Several villages were never resettled. Evacuation had a profound impact on culture and identity, which continues to resonate today. "Tanadgusim Adan Chiilulix (a Journey Home): Revisiting the Lost Villages of the Aleutian Islands" tells the story of a project that brought Unangax̂ survivors of World War II back to the communities they were forced to leave during the war — and then never allowed to resettle.

KUCB coverage of the Lost Villages Project is supported in part by a grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum and the National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal agency. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this coverage does not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

Zoë Sobel / KUCB

Seventy-five years after Japan invaded the furthest tip of the Aleutian chain, Attuans are returning home.

In 1942, there were 44 people living on Attu Island, nearly all Alaska Natives. They were taken as captives to Japan, where half of them died. And after the war, the federal government forbade them from returning.

But in August, a group of 11 descendants finally visited their ancestral home for the first time.

Alaska State Library, Aleutian/Pribilof Project Collection, ASL-P233-V111

Seventy-five years ago, Japan and the United States were locked in one of the bloodiest battles fought on American soil: the Battle of Attu.

Army veteran Allan Serroll served on Attu Island, which sits at the westernmost end of the Aleutian Islands — closer to Japan than Seattle.

Serroll is now 102. But he’s still haunted by the experience of staring down young men like himself.

“Some of the guys noticed that it was bothering me,” Serroll said. “They said, ‘Look, it’s kill or be killed. It’s your life you’re protecting.’ And they were right.”

Courtesy of Julia Dushkin

The last person born in the traditional village of Kashega has died.

Eva Tcheripanoff grew up in the small Unangax̂ community on Unalaska Island and spent the 1930s hunting foxes, eating dry fish, and playing with homemade stone dolls.

That all changed during World War II, when Kashega was evacuated and never resettled. But as KUCB's Laura Kraegel reports, Tcheripanoff came through the upheaval and lived a long life of 90 years.

TRANSCRIPT -- -- --

TCHERIPANOFF (Unangam Tunuu and English): "I was born in Kashega and I used to play around."

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