Friday, December 9, 2011

Filipinos on Kodiak: Celebration and Inquiry

For the last 100 years, Kodiak's story is very much an immigrant story. The most current US census data lists Kodiak as 7% Latino and 20% people of Asian descent, and those numbers only reflect Kodiak residents, not seasonal workers temporarily living on the island. Fulbright Scholar Joefe Santarita spoke at the Baranov Museum on Filipino Kodiakans, and jokingly emphasized the question of why people from the tropics immigrate to Alaska by quoting an article on King Crab fishing that states "Alaska has cold, frigid, eat-into-your-soul weather." On a more serious note, Mr. Santarita spoke about a variety of socio-economic reasons that Filipinos have immigrated to this island. His talk helped inspire Baranov Museum staff to launch both a celebration and inquiry into Filipino culture on Kodiak.

Our first celebratory event was a Family Fun Night hosted with the Filipino American Association of Kodiak ( Members of FilAm Kodiak prepared a veritable feast of foods ranging from bibinka to lumpia, and highlights included dressing up in traditional Filipino garb and learning how to dance. FilAm Kodiak President Mary Guilas-Hawver took the lead to engage the variety of participating community members in Filipino culture, and fun was had by all.

FilAm Kodiak's support of the Baranov Museum did not end with family fun night; they are now our partner in a project called Kodiak's Filipino Community Stories (KFCS) that received $8,500 of funding from the Alaska Humanities Forum. The Baranov Museum, FilAm Kodiak, and Media Action ( planned KFCS to engage high-school students in ethnography and digital storytelling about the history of Filipino Americans on Kodiak, culminating in an exhibit featuring these digital stories during October 2012, National Filipino American History Month.

While we will keep you posted about how the KFCS project unfolds, we hope that you consider the family photographs and family objects in your life that shed light on Kodiak's Filipino history and consider sharing them with the museum and this project. Even the most seemingly trivial items can contain a world of stories; an old, tattered pair of extra tuffs your grandpa wore in a cannery, a western union receipt documenting money sent home, a recipe handed down through the generations.

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