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2/20/24 What We Think We Know: The Deep Past of the Ancient Unangan Aleut. With Archeologist and Author Debra Corbett

Tuesday, February 20, 5-6 pm AKT

Friends Membership Meeting, ALL welcome.
The Zoom Recording of this event can be viewed below.

We ALL thank you so much Debbie for sharing your experience and knowledge with ALL of us.  It was great! 

Since then, exploring and trying to understand the ancient human history of these islands has been an all-consuming passion.  Along the way I worked with amazing people and experienced transcendently beautiful land and seascapes. The past and old ways lie close to the surface if you listen. Ever so gradually we learned about the people, the culture and the rich history tied to this place.  I will talk about my experiences working in the islands for 30 years and hit some of the highlights of our research. 


Debbie Corbett photographing a site on Hawadax in 2001. pc WAAPP

For 9000 years people flourished in the Aleutian Archipelago, a 1000-mile chain of islands stretching from mainland America nearly to Asia.  The rich marine environment supported 40,000 people before the coming of the Russians compared to a scant 8000 today.  In spite of this long human history and complex and interesting social organizations of the ancient Unangax, very little archeological work was done in the Aleutians perhaps because of the remoteness or the weather.  Debbie’s work was pioneering, and she is considered the foremost Aleutian archaeologist today.  Most all of the Aleutians are in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.  

Debbie’s hot-off-the-presses book that she coauthored with Diane Hanson, Culture and Archaeology of the Ancestral Unangax/Aleut of the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, will be available for purchase and signing at the talk in Homer.  The book is available online from multiple sources. 


Biography by Debra Corbett

At age seven I decided I would be an archaeologist; no other option ever entered my mind.  I got my BA at the University of Arizona, and worked for a few years in Idaho and Arizona before heading north in 1983, to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).  The job was investigating historic sites claimed by the newly created Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Native Corporations.

That summer BIA sent two crews to Adak Island.  Since I had actually been in a small boat, I was picked for one of the crews.  Of the 12 of us, ONE, not me, knew anything about the Aleutians and none of us had been there before.  My crew spent three months in a rat-infested cabin with an inflatable boat, in the Bay of Islands one of the most beautiful spots on earth.  I was completely enmeshed in the magic of the islands.

I worked for the BIA until 1989 then went on to get an MA in Fairbanks, studying–you guessed it–the Aleutian Islands.  One day my advisor approached me with a phone number on a scrap of paper and said “This crazy bird biologist in Kansas wants to find an Aleutian archaeologist.  Call him!” and my future was set.  After completing my degree, I went to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), largely because the agency manages the islands as part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.  Unusual for any agency, FWS allowed me to participate in a multi-year research project with the crazy biologist, Dr. Douglas Causey, and some of his colleagues.  From 1997-2003 we were the Western Aleutians Archaeological and Paleobiological Project (WAAPP).  Along the way we experienced the best and the worst the Aleutians have to offer, shipwreck, injury, laughter, frustration, fear, transcendent joy, and unbelievable archaeology.  

In December 2012 I discovered I was eligible for retirement and left the best job in the world so I could spend more time doing research and writing on the prehistory of the Aleutian Islands.  Long time friend and colleague Diane Hanson here at University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) talked me into writing a book on the prehistory of the Aleutians Islands.  We finished that book and here I am, to tell you all about 30 years in the Best Place in Alaska







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10/17 Membership Meeting: Waterfowl on the Yukon Delta

Tuesday, October 17, 5-6 pm AKDT, Randall Friendly, Waterfowl Biologist

This presentation was recorded; watch recording below.


Bethel – Randall, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge Waterfowl Biologist, will be speaking live at the Refuge Visitor Center (across from the hospital) with potluck to follow. Bring your favorite dish to share.
Homer – Watch Party with snacks at Alaska Maritime’s Islands & Ocean Visitor Center
Soldotna – Watch Party at Kenai Refuge Visitor Center on Ski Hill Road
Kodiak – Watch Party at Kodiak Refuge Visitor Center

The vast, watery Yukon Delta Refuge nestles between Alaska’s largest rivers, the Yukon and the Kuskokwim Rivers, where the tundra meets the Bering Sea. At 19 million acres, Yukon Delta has edged out the Arctic Refuge as the largest wildlife refuge in the country. Its diversity of habitats supports one of the largest aggregations of waterbirds in the world.  Presenter Randall Friendly was raised on this land, went off to college and has recently returned as waterfowl biologist for the Yukon Delta Refuge. Let him show you his homeland and hear from him why waterfowl has so inspired him. He will talk about how and why the refuge manages waterfowl from banding programs with Cackling geese and Brant and capture-mark-recapture with Emperor geese.


Greater White-fronted Goose, Kigigak Island, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge pc:  Kristine Sowl, USFWS

Biography by Randall Friendly.  I am from Tuntutuliak a Yupik village of about 800 people.  It is located along the Kuskokwim River on the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in western Alaska about 40 miles downriver from Bethel, the largest town on the Delta.  I grew up with a subsistence lifestyle of hunting and fishing with my family.  I found out I wanted to work with ducks and geese after my first season working as a technician for the US Fish and Wildlife Service working in remote places on the Yukon Delta. I saw how incredible it was to see the diversity of nesting birds like on Kigigak Island. Since then, I decided one day I wanted to continue working with waterfowl and learn more about them. With mentoring by ANSEP (Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program) I studied for my Bachelor’s at the University of Alaska Anchorage in biology.  I completed my Master’s from the University of Alaska Fairbanks this summer in wildlife biology.  My thesis was on threatened Spectacled Eiders and how their wintering conditions affect reproduction. While in college, I had a chance to work on Kodiak, and Arctic Refuges as well as Yukon Delta.  What I like most about my job is that I get to work with amazing people who are enthusiastic about wildlife and that I get to work outside of the office environment.

I recently moved to Bethel to work full time for the Yukon Delta Refuge as a waterfowl biologist.  I have been enjoying some family time after being away for college for quite some time. I like to spend time outdoors whether it is fishing, hunting, or gathering. Having moved to Bethel, I am looking forward to the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends.

Read an interview with Randall about how the ANSEP program welcomed a boy from the village and helped him realize his dreams. And hear from Randall in this podcast about his hopes for his work, a chance to inspire others and his masters work on spectacled eiders. 




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Walk for the Wild 2023, Across Alaska!

Let’s take a moment to celebrate the incredible Refuge Staff and Friends Volunteers that have taken action to help Wildlife Thrive in Alaska! AlaskaTeam16! held 4 LIVE events, drawing 130 participants, which were held in.

We also offered Virtual option for folks to Walk for the Wild wherever they were, along with a link to podcasts on our Refuges to be listened to while walking and folks from throughout the country did just that

We had a dream goal of $16,000… one day! We raised $1704 with help from the PLA Amplifier Fund. Our Team was 15th in the country! Those funds will be deposited into the Friends unrestricted funds for allocation to refuges in response to requests.

Walk for the Wild is a signature event of the NWRS Rebranding Campaign, a multi-year rebranding and activation campaign to invite new generations of Americans to fall in love  with America’s national wildlife refuges and increase private support for the National  Wildlife Refuge System and expand the demographics of Friends members and volunteers. PLAN on participating in 2024! 





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Membership Meeting, January 19, 2021, 5 pm AKT


Arctic Refuge, A Symbol for a Time of Global Change   Please join us online or by phone Tuesday, January 19, 2021, 5-6pm (AKT), for our Friends monthly meeting with guest speaker, Roger Kaye of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  

Webinar Recording


Roger Kaye has done it all – worked the Slope, spent a winter on a trapline, flew his own float and ski planes, hunted, hiked, explored all over Alaska, wrote a book on the Arctic and earned a PhD at University of Alaska Fairbanks.  He has spent much of his 41-year career with the Fish & Wildlife Service experiencing, thinking about and advocating for true wilderness, particularly of the Arctic Refuge.  On this 60th Anniversary of the Refuge, Roger Kaye will share some of his vast knowledge and take us back to the seven-year struggle to establish the Arctic Refuge.   He will explore the similarities with the struggle to defend the Refuge today.  

Olaus and Marti Murie, two giants of Alaska conservation and science,
were instrumental in protection of the Arctic through the designation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Arctic Refuge establishment was among the first, unprecedented American conservation initiatives of the 1960s that came about in response to concern over the worsening environmental degradations accompanying the prosperous postwar march of progress.  The campaign to establish the Refuge became emblematic of the larger contest between competing views of the appropriate relationship between postwar American society and its rapidly changing environment. Which notion of progress should this landscape represent—that underlying the prevailing rush toward attaining an ever-higher material standard of living, or that underpinning the emerging ecology-based perspective that emphasized sustainability and called for restraint? The question of whether or not to preserve this preeminent wilderness symbolized “the real problem,” as campaign leader Olaus Murie characterized it, “of what the human species is to do with this earth.”

Now again we face a new order of environmental threat, a convergence of global energy and resource scarcity, climate change, and widespread biospheric alterations. And now the Arctic Refuge is at the center of one of the nation’s longest and most contentious environmental debates. The question of oil development verses wilderness preservation here transcends the issue of potential resource impacts within the Refuge’s boundaries and has become symbolically intertwined with these larger, global issues. Again, the Arctic Refuge stands as a national symbol of pivotal questions and decisions Americans face: How does our consumption and material standard of living affect the national and global environments, and what quality of them are we to leave to future generations?

Roger Kaye skipped his college graduation ceremony in 1974 to come to Alaska and  work at Camp Denali for famed Alaskan conservationists Cecelia Hunter and Ginny Woods.  He started grad school but dropped out to earn enough money working on the Slope to buy his first airplane.  Once he met that goal, he took off on a series of Alaska adventures until the money ran out.   Then, he started his wildlife career first with ADFG and for 41 years the Fish & Wildlife Service.  He has been a planner, refuge pilot, Native liaison and in recent years, the agency’s Alaska wilderness coordinator. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Alaska where he has taught courses on wilderness, environmental psychology, and the Anthropocene. He is the author of Last Great Wilderness: The Campaign to Establish the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and numerous journal and popular articles related to wilderness. Currently, he is working on a book considering the future of the wildness of Wilderness in the Anthropocene. Roger lives in Fairbanks and works for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


This webinar was recorded.  Watch below:



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