After 121 years away at “school” across the country, Anastasia Ashouwak's remains were taken home and reburied in her southwest Alaskan village this summer by her descendants.
Anastasia was an Alutiiq girl who was taken from an orphanage off Kodiak Island as a 13-year-old in 1901 by a government agent and sent to the Carlisle Indian Boarding School on the opposite side of the country. Carlisle, in Pennsylvania, was one of more than 400 boarding schools run or operated by the government as part of a 150-year-long scheme to forcibly assimilate Native youth into the dominant white society. While boarding schools today evoke images of privilege and pedigree, Indian boarding schools were a means of cultural genocide.
Journalist Jenna Kunze followed Anastasia's great-nephew Ted Ashouwak, along with his family, on their journey to reclaim the ancestor they didn't even know was missing: from disinterring, identifying, and honoring her on the grounds of the nation's first off-reservation Indian boarding school in Carlisle to a potluck and Alutiiq dance celebration in the remote village on Kodiak Island, where she was reburied beside family.
Iñupiaq photographer Brian Adams documented Anastasia's reburial ceremony in Old Harbor, and her family members—one of whom is the age that Anastasia was when she was taken to boarding school—that participated in bringing her home.
This is a story about what was taken during the boarding school era—including Anastasia's life—but ultimately about what remains: strong Alutiiq culture that Anastasia's ancestors rely on for strength and healing, despite the government's best efforts to erase and destroy it.