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Our Alaska: Life on Afognak

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
YouTube via Ssmallfry

Even longtime Alaskans might not be familiar with Afognak Island. That's because there's not much to talk about on the island today; mostly just a fishery, some public use cabins, and some logging and fishing camps.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing to do, as this video -- recently uploaded to YouTube by user Ssmallfry -- demonstrates. Be sure to watch to the end, where a brown bear apparently decided that the videographer's GoPro camera looked pretty tasty, and decided to pick it up in its mouth:

The video demonstrates some of the fishery life on Afognak. On the island is the Kitoi Bay Hatchery, which produces juvenile coho, sockeye, chum and pink salmon, and is administered by the Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association. Like much of the rest of the island, there's a rich history behind the Kitoi Bay hatchery, which was reconstructed in the wake of the massive 1964 Good Friday earthquake that struck Alaska.

That earthquake had an impact on more than just the hatchery, though -- also affected was the Alaska Native village of Ag’waneq, which had previously survived being buried by three feet of ash in the eruption of Novarupta in 1912. The village was so damaged by the effects of the 1964 earthquake that the entire community left the island of Afognak for Kodiak Island, just a few miles across the water.

Today, many of the descendants of the residents of Ag'waneq live in the city of Kodiak or in Port Lions, a new home established for those moving from the original community. Today, about 200 people still call Port Lions home. The Native Village of Afognak still oversees the descendants of that original village of Ag'waneq. 

If you want to visit Afognak for yourself, there's a 75,000-acre state park now established on the island, and two public use cabins available for rent there. The area is accessible by float plane from Kodiak Island.

Our Alaska takes a look at the people, places, activities and wildlife that make Alaska great. There's the Alaska that many people know from reality television, and then there's Our Alaska. If you have a video that puts the spotlight on the positive, educational or unique aspects of Alaska and its people, send links or submissions to ben(at)alaskadispatch.com.