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Aleut Evacuation: The Untold War Story (film)

Documentary film that tells the story of the forced removal and incarceration of the Aleut people from their ancestral Alaskan homes to detention camps in southwest Alaska during World War II. Based on interviews with surviving inmates and their descendants and on historical photographs and documents, Aleut Evacuation proceeds in largely chronological fashion, starting with a brief portrait of the Aleut community prior to the war, then covering their forcible removal by the U.S. government—ostensibly for their own protection in the face of possible Japanese attack—and their subsequent incarceration in several different camps. Focusing first on the largest camp, Funter Bay, which held those from the Pribilof Islands, it also considers a camp on Killisnoo Island where those from Atka were held, along with Ward Lake, where those from smaller villages were incarcerated. Former inmates remember the poor and harsh conditions in the camps and the rampant health problems they suffered which resulted in the deaths of some 10% of inmates. The film contrasts these conditions with the relatively good treatment that German POW received in a camp just a few miles from Funter Bay.

Aleut Evacuation goes on to cover the role of seal harvesting in the gradual release of inmates and the return of the Aleuts to their homes at the end of the war. To add insult to injury, many returned to find their homes and churches had been vandalized and looted by American military personnel in their absence. The final section of the film covers the movement for restitution that began in the late 1970s, noting that this movement joined forces with the push for reparations by Japanese Americans and ultimately resulted in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 that called for an apology and monetary reparations for both groups.

The hour-long film was written and directed by Michael Thill for the Aleutian/Pribilof Island Association, Inc.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like Aleut Story (2005); Right of Passage (2014); The Empty Chair (2014)

Media Details
Release Date 1992
Runtime 59 minutes
Director Michael Thill
Writer Michael Thill
Narrator Michael Thill
Starring Philemon Tutiakoff (interviewee), Harriett Hope (interviewee), Alice Petrivelli (interviewee), Flore Lekanof (interviewee), Gabe Stepetin (interviewee), Dora Dushkin (interviewee), Rufina Merculief (interviewee), Father Michael Lestenkof (interviewee), Agafon Krukoff (interviewee), John Kirtland (interviewee), Mike Zacharof (interviewee), Ted Stevens (interviewee), Dimitri Philemonof (interviewee), Boris Merculief (interviewee)
Cinematography Michael Thill
Editing Michael Thill
Studio Gaff Rigged Productions