Chenega Diaries; Stories and Voices of our Past

The year was 1944, and America was rapidly changing. The Polaroid camera was invented, Jackie Robinson broke down color lines in baseball, FDR was President, World War II raged on and the world witnessed the first atomic bomb. But the Alaska Native Village of Chenega, was a different place; insulated from the rest of the world. It was abundant with a vitality of life that revolved around fishing, trapping, hunting and other subsistence activities. Its people were spiritually grounded in the Russian Orthodox faith, their Church was the social and religious center of the community. The school was like a second home to the children. Aleut traditions were passed down from the Elders as part of daily life. The Chenega Diaries project provides a first-hand glimpse into that time.

Teachers John and Lucy Poling taught in Chenega, and served as administrative liaison to the BIA for Chenega, from 1944 - 1948. Chenega Diaries has been created from children’s diaries and from correspondence, journals and hundreds of photographs from John and Lucy’s files. In more recent years, the diary manuscript was supplemented by the stories of today’s Chenega Elders, many of whom were small children in the 1940’s. The Chenega Diaries Project is a multimedia culture preservation initiative which includes a book, documentary DVD and this Website.

Painstaking attention has been given to the accuracy and authenticity of these resources so they can be used with confidence in the classroom. Chenega Elders acted as knowledge bearers through their creation--making sure the book is a true representation of life in Chenega, as they remember it.