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About the Red Cedar of Afognak Project

With funding from the Administration for Native Americans and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Native Village of Afognak embarked on a mission to preserve the history and culture of Afognak and to develop corresponding educational materials. One project was The Red Cedar of Afognak: A Driftwood Journey children’s book and curriculum. Another is an ongoing project to develop an Afognak history book. [The Data Recovery Project materials found under the Heritage section of this Website were also developed as a result of these efforts.]

The Red Cedar of Afognak was the result of a cooperative effort among four people: authors Alisha Drabek and Karen Adams, Illustrator Gloria Selby and Afognak Elder J.P. Pestrikoff.

Throughout his life, Afognak Elder John P. Pestrikoff has contributed greatly to the oral histories, genealogy, and language documentation of the Kodiak area Alutiiq people. The former Afognak resident now lives in Port Lions, but he recalls seeing the great Red Cedar on Afognak as a child. This book is based on a story he tells about the giant log.

Alisha Drabek is an Assistant Professor of English at Kodiak College who was born and raised in Kodiak. She has an English and American Literature degree and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, both from the University of Arizona in Tucson. A former Tribal Administrator for the Native Village of Afognak, who also is the founding coordinator of Kodiak’s “Esgarlluku Taquka’aq” - “Awakening Bear” - cultural celebration, she is proud to have returned to her home island to work with other Alutiiq people to preserve and honor the Alutiiq culture and heritage.

Karen R. Adams has a PhD in ecology (University of Arizona) and a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology (Miami University, Oxford, Ohio). She has been a full-time archaeologist in the American Southwest for more than 30 years, with a specialty in the study of plant parts that are preserved in archaeological sites. Her interests in plants are diverse, and she has published extensively on the ancient plant record. Identifying wood use in ancient times has led her to a natural curiosity about driftwood and its uses.

A lifelong Alaskan, Gloria N. Selby is an Alutiiq artist who was born in Kodiak, Alaska, and raised in idyllic Afognak Village from childhood until the 1964 earthquake and tsunami. The allure of the island continues to have a strong impact on her artwork. She attributes the rugged beauty of mountains running down to bays, spruce forests reflecting in lakes, and the abundance of wildflowers as a natural inspiration to be captured on canvas or watercolor paper.

The curriculum was developed by Vera Benedek. It was built upon resources found online and an earlier driftwood curriculum by elementary school teacher Judy Olsen.