Sen. Mark Begich wants the National Park Service to include sites where Alaska Native peoples were forcibly relocated during World War II.
Begich introduced a bill Thursday, asking the Department of the Interior to study the cost and feasibility of adding Aleut internment-related sites as one or more units of the parks system.
The bill is called the Aleut Confinement and Relocation Sites Study Act. In a press release, Begich says it’s aimed at remembering a part of American history that has long been “swept under the rug.”
Begich is asking for a three-year study about incorporating sites in Southeast where hundreds of Unangan peoples were interned: Funter Bay, Burnett Inlet, Killisnoo, Ward Lake and the Wrangell Institute.
The relocated people spent two years at those sites, amid poor conditions and sickness. About 75 of them died.
The bill also covers the former Aleutian villages from which the people were taken: Makushin, Biorka and Kashega, all on Unalaska island, as well as the village of Attu.
The bill says those villages “were so depopulated and so significantly damaged by miliary [sic] activity and weather that the villages effectively could not be resettled after World War II.”
Begich’s office says the bill could lead to authorizing the Park Service to buy associated lands from current owners. The bill has the support of the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association. It’s been referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.