Earlier this month (Feb 14), the Alutiiq Museum announced Chris Wooley as its volunteer of the year for his research about children who were taken from the Kodiak Archipelago and sent to boarding schools in the Lower 48.
The Alutiiq Museum’s Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes folks who spend time working on projects with the museum. This year’s award went to Kodiak resident Chris Wooley. Dehrich Chya, the Alutiiq language and living culture manager for the Museum, says that when they decided to work on the Carlisle Repatriation Project, Wooley was one of the first folks on their radar.
The museum undertook the research project to find and contact descendants of Indigenous children taken from Alutiiq lands to a boarding school in Pennsylvania to repatriate their remains.
Wooley was asked to be part of the project thanks to his extensive knowledge of Woody Island families in particular. Wooley has worked as an archaeologist and anthropologist around Alaska for over 40 years and says that knowledge has been instrumental to the project.
“I’ve been involved at the Alutiiq Museum for many years,” he said. “I had done work on Woody Island and ended up working to get a good chunk of the west side of Woody Island on the National Register of Historic Places, so I had been pretty familiar with the records from that era, basically the late 1800s into the early 1900s.”
He says while he’s grateful for the award, he was just one part of the research team.
“It was mixed emotions, I was really happy, but I wanted to share it with the others in the group that are doing just as much work as I am,” he said.
Part of his work with the Carlisle Repatriation Project included contacting the family of Anastasia Ashouwak, whose remains were brought back to the village Old Harbor for reburial in her family’s plot last year.
But the work hasn’t ended, he and the team are still looking into contacting descendants of Pariscovia Friendoff, another Native girl taken from Woody Island. She was taken to what was called the “Outing Program” in Pennsylvania, where children were sent to be acculturated to western norms and gender roles. Young men were taught to farm or otherwise learn about western life, while young women were sent to handle kitchen and house duties.
Wooley says it’s been more difficult to find records of Pariscovia than it was for Anastasia.
“We’re trying to kind of track down any reference to Pariscovia, who had spent four years in the Outing Program with families in Pennsylvania,” he said. “(It’s) not clear if there’s any relatives – it doesn’t sound like there are. But her story is a bit of an enigma and we’re trying to work through it.”
In recognition of Wooley’s work, the museum has issued him a plaque as well as recognition on their website.