Awa'uq Massacre

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Awa'uq Massacre
Part of the Russian colonization of the Americas
Grigory Shelikhov's settlement is depicted in this 1802 lithograph. Three Saints was founded in 1784 just across the strait from Sitkalidak Island.
Grigory Shelikhov's settlement is depicted in this 1802 lithograph. Three Saints was founded in 1784 just across the strait from Sitkalidak Island.
Date 14 August 1784
Location Sitkalidak Island, Alaska, Russian America
57°06′22″N 153°05′00″W / 57.10604°N 153.0832814°W / 57.10604; -153.0832814Coordinates: 57°06′22″N 153°05′00″W / 57.10604°N 153.0832814°W / 57.10604; -153.0832814
Parties to the civil conflict
Alutiiq people (Qik’rtarmiut Sugpiat)
Lead figures
500 ~ 2000 or 2,500–3,000[1]
An Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) village in Old Harbor, Alaska in 1889, with Oncorhynchus salmon hung up for drying

The Awa'uq Massacre[2][3] or Refuge Rock Massacre,[3] or the Wounded Knee of Alaska[4] was an attack by Russian fur trader Grigory Shelikhov and Russian armed men and cannoneers against the Alutiiq people (own name Qik’rtarmiut Sugpiat) in 1784 in Russian-controlled Alaska. It occurred on Sitkalidak Island, near and across Old Harbor on Refuge Rock (Awa'uq in Alutiiq language), in Kodiak, Alaska. The Russian promyshlennikis slaughtered 500[5] men, women and children on Refuge Rock, though some sources state the number was 2000,[6] or between 2,500–3,000.[1][7] Following the attack of Awa'uq, Shelikhov claims to have captured over 1000 people, detaining 400 as hostages.[6] This massacre was an isolated incident, and the Alutiiq were completely subjugated by Russian traders thereafter.[8]

The years 1784–1818, called the "darkest period of (Sugpiaq) history," ended with a change in the management of the Russian-American Company.[9]

Over a half century later, an old Sugpiaq (Koniag Alutiiq) man, Arsenti Aminak, reported his own recollections of the same events to a Finnish naturalist and ethnographer Henrik Johan Holmberg or Heinrich Johann Holmberg (1818–1864) collecting data for the Russian governor of Alaska.[10] Arsenti Aminak said:

The Russians went to the settlement and carried out a terrible blood bath. Only a few [people] were able to flee to Angyahtalek in baidarkas; 300 Koniags were shot by the Russians. This happened in April. When our people revisited the place in the summer the stench of the corpses lying on the shore polluted the air so badly that none could stay there, and since then the island has been uninhabited. After this every chief had to surrender his children as hostages; I was saved only by my father's begging and many sea otter pelts.

Arsenti Aminak, [11]

An Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) dancer in traditional attire


  1. ^ a b The Afognak Alutiiq People: Our History and Culture, Alutiiq, a wholly owned subdiary of Afognak Native Corporation, July 2008
  2. ^ Sven Haakanson, Jr. (2010), Written Voices Become History. In Being and Becoming Indigenous Archaeologists. George Nicholas (editor). Left Coast press, Inc., 2010
  3. ^ a b Afognak Village Timeline
  4. ^ John Enders (1992), Archaeologist May Have Found Site Of Alaska Massacre, The Seattle Times, Sunday, August 16, 1992
  5. ^ Korry Keeker, What it means to be Alutiiq / State museum exhibit examines Kodiak-area Native culture, Friday, April 25, 2003
  6. ^ a b Ben Fitzhugh (2003), The Evolution of Complex Hunter-Gatherers: archaeological evidence from the North Pacific, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York, 2003
  7. ^ Reuters : Grounded Shell Oil Rig Off Alaska Coast Still Has No Flooding Or Sheening, Despite Damage. By Yereth Rosen (January 3, 2013, Anchorage)
  8. ^ Aron L. Crowell (2001), Looking Both Ways, Heritage and Identity of the Alutiiq People. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2001
  9. ^ Lydia T. Black (1992), "The Russian Conquest of Kodiak." In: Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska. Vol. 24, Numbers 1-2. Fall. Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  10. ^ Miller, Gwenn A. (2010). Kodiak Kreol: Communities of Empire in Early Russian America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-4642-9. 
  11. ^ Heinrich J. Holmberg (1985), Holmberg's Ethnographic Sketches. Translated by Marvin W. Falk, edited by Fritz, Limestone Press, Fairbanks (p. 59)

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