Place Names of Unalaska Island

My project, Place Names of Unalaska Island, has evolved from focusing simply on geographic places and has grown to incorporate visual media, both traditional and contemporary oral histories, and other cultural information.

I am seeking to create an intersection between archival materials and the experiences of local traditional land users with the goal of creating and strengthening Unangan identity and cultural revitalization.

Indigenous identity can be created and realized through physical interaction with traditional landscapes and natural resources. Unangan and other local people have a strong sense of the geographic layout of the island of Unalaska through activities like fishing, hiking, and snow machining.

Merging this embedded local knowledge with GIS technology creates a multi-faceted and accessible resource for Unangan people and local traditional land users.

In addition to highlighting the indigenous language, Unangam Tunuu, the map features place names in Russian and English languages. Many features on or around Unalaska Island have multiple names which are representative of the colonial governments who exerted power over the region.


My community partner, the Ounalashka Corporation, and CEO Chris Salts and Executive Assistant Lydia Gordon, in particular, have helped keep the project focused on the Unangan people and our cultural revitalization. Qagaasakung!

The UAA Center for Community Engagement & Learning has generously supported my project with their Second Bridge Scholarship Award, which will allow me to continue my research in Unalaska.

Dr. Kenneth Pratt at the Bureau of Indian Affairs ANCSA office, as well as Matt O’Leary, have opened their archives to me and provided much-needed guidance.

Finally, my advisor, Dr. Medeia Csoba-DeHass, has been instrumental to my growth and success within the field of anthropology over the last two years. I would also like to thank my fellow De-colonizing Methodologies students for their thoughtful and constructive feedback throughout the semester.


Contact Jana V. Lekanoff (, or watch the following video project update from the fall 2015 semester, for more information.