Puffins have always seemed such a comical bird. I suppose just their coloring and crazy beak, plus their little round eye that seems to be bisected by two black lines is a good start. They also have these colorful flappy feet sticking out of their rotund bellies that make them waddle-walk. Out at sea, they run on top of the water, flapping their wings furiously for what seems like eons, trying to get their unsvelt bodies up off the water and into the air. And somehow they manage to catch little fish and get them all lined up without dropping them, and walk and fly with them hanging out of their beaks. We laugh at them a lot. They are cute and funny. I have to say, though, that I had to laugh at myself when I was going through my shots of trying to capture juvenilles flying to and from the cliffs, practicing flight and strengthening themselves for their time at sea and finding out that only two out of the twelve pictures I shot had birds in them at all. Haha. Crazy fast when you don’t want them to be.
I was sitting with my mother this past summer during an early evening in June. My husband was discussing some of the finer points of the agenda for the 75-year Commemoration of the bombing of Dutch Harbor and the evacuation of the Unangan people. Events were to include a memorial ceremony, historical presentations, personal stories, many luncheons and dinners, and flyovers by historical aircraft. The commemoration of a little-recognized part of history is significant and educational not only for those connected to World War II in the Aleutians, but for a much broader international public. My mother, who was 87 1/2 in June, had been 12 years old when the events of WWII enveloped the islands that she called home and changed her life forever.
On the morning of June 3, 1942 and continuing June 4, Japanese planes rained bombs on her home town of Unalaska and the Navy and Army infrastructure that had been constructed for the protection of Alaska and the lower 48 states. Within a month, her family was split apart as older siblings joined the military or, in the case of her two older sisters who had married servicemen, were evacuated to their husbands’ families in the lower 48. She, three of her siblings and her mother were forcibly evacuated to an abandoned fish cannery in Southeast Alaska. Her father, not being native, was not allowed to accompany them. They were not allowed to return to their home until late in 1945. Although the war ended, and things were supposed to return to normal, nothing was ever normal again. Families were smaller, having suffered the loss of 10 percent of their population in the detention camp. Economies were changed as industries that had been in place prior to the war had disappeared. Many Unangan homes had been ransacked by the military personnel and were unfit for habitation. The trust that they had in their government was badly damaged. My mother’s family was never, ever all together again after July of 1942.
So, a 75th year commemoration was a pretty important event in the life of my mother. It would mark a time when she knew that it most likely would be the last time she would see any of her friends who might come back for the commemoration. Only a handful of original evacuees remain living in Unalaska, so she was looking forward to seeing her now distant friends.
As she sat in the living room of the home in which she grew up, a drone of engines, starting out faintly, grew louder and louder, soon passing directly over the house. She turned toward us and in a surprised voice said, “The Japanese.” In the blink of an eye, with the sound of the plane engines, she was transported back to what was, most certainly, a hellish part of her life.
We are privileged to live in an extremely diverse town. If you can think of a nationality, we most likely are fortunate to have one or two or a small community living here. We just all live and work together. Our community is a blue town living in a red state. We believe in equality and justice for all.
In our disbelief, the results of the recent election finally crept up on us. I kept thinking that something would happen between November and January to save us all from the fact that life as we have known it was going to go through some dark and drastic changes. So I was ready to support my fellow women who were marching on Washington in peaceful protest.
We all marched for many different reasons. Because we can. My 87 year old mother marched to remind US citizens not to step on people’s civil liberties like happened to the Unangan/Unangas people during World War II. She was 12 years old when her civil liberties were taken from her by the US government.
Ours was not as formal as some of the larger city marches. We didn’t have speakers. We did have signs. Great signs. One said Ataqan Akun. We are one. One of them said March 4 love. One said March against Hate. Another said equality and justice. One said feminist AF, carried by a man. One said Tuman tanax^ agliisaax*txin. Take care of the land. Another said Tuman alag^ux^ agliisaax^txin. Take care of the sea/ocean. And one said Ig^ayuux^txin, ang^im atxag^ingin agachan madada. Do the things you know are right.
And this is not right. Unfortunately, things are being taken away from us all, but some are suffering sooner than the rest of us. We, the marchers, just knew it would happen before others realized the impact. We all need to practice the values handed down by the indigenous people of this great land Our people. Our values….the right way to live as human beings.