Our Way of Living
Changes came when the United States purchased Alaska in 1867. The U. S. Army and American fur trade companies took over in the town that was now called St. Paul, and later Kodiak. Smithsonian collector William Fisher described Kodiak in 1880. He wrote that its 500 residents included Russians, Creoles, and Alutiit. Most people lived in Russian-style log houses, although there were several Alutiiq barabaras. The town had warehouses and docks for large sailing ships. Most people spoke Russian or Alutiiq and were members of the Russian Orthodox church. Native sea otter hunters, now working for the Alaska Commercial Company and Western Fur and Trading Company, went out in fleets of kayaks each summer. Another American visitor, W. T. Wythe, wrote about the exciting return of the hunters with their precious cargo:
"The news that the hunters are returning soon spreads, and soon every one in the village runs to the bluff to see them enter the harbor. The head of the column pulls around the point of Blisky Island, keeping time to an Indian boat song. There are several hundred bidarkas [kayaks] and large skin boats." (as quoted in Crowell 1992).
Today, Kodiak is one of Alaska's busiest fishing ports, home to more than 6300 year-round residents of many nationalities. Looking back on the 20th century, people remember the rain of volcanic ash from Katmai volcano in 1912, the years of World War II when the town was a Navy base for the Pacific fleet, the destruction caused by the Great Alaska Earthquake and tidal waves in 1964, and the "boom" years of king crab fishing in the 1970s. The Alutiiq Museum, built in 1995, is a center for Alutiiq culture and education.