The John Trigg Ester Library

Library Lecture Series: Jennifer Jolis

See more about the lecture series and upcoming speakers here.


Jennifer Jolis: "Otherwise, there is nobody." The Fate of the People of Attu Island

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On a tranquil June morning in 1942 the island of Attu, farthest west of the Aleutian chain of islands, in fact farthest west point in the United States, was taken by an invasion force of Japanese soldiers.  The forty-two Aleut residents of Chichagof village,the school teacher from the mainland, and her husband were taken prisoners.  Thus began a journey that would take them to Japan as 'honored guests' of the Japanese government, where almost half of them would die before they were returned to the United States four years later. 

Not one of them was ever allowed to return to live on Attu, few of them were ever even to see it again.

Today Attu and the few remaining individuals who were alive on that June morning are part of a project by the National Park Service entitled "The Lost Villages Project".  A recent non-fiction account joined the fictive account of the fate of the school teacher and her husband. 

Jennifer's talk on May 18th is not about that, but about what she, as a graduate student in the UAF Northern Studies program in the 1990s was able to glean of what transpired in the lives and deaths of the Attuans, in those four years and in the decades that followed. 

Jolis has had the incredible good fortune to have have have spent time on Attu over half a dozen times (8 or 9 to be accurate) in spring, early summer, and fall. Her love of the island sparked her interest in the fate of those long ago residents—likewise her love of the island makes the diaspora ever more poignant to her. 


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