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Katmai National Park to dedicate monument to Pelagia Melgenak

Pelagia Melgenak
Wilbur A. Davis
University of Oregon
Palakia Melgenak, Photograph from "Mount Katmia, Alaska Eruptoin Tape Recording" July/August 1961 NPS-AKSO Katmai park file

Katmai National Park and Preserve announced Thursday officials will unveil a monument to commemorate the life of a widely respected leader closely affiliated with Katmai.

Pelagia Melgenak dedicated her life to living, teaching, and sharing her culture, values, and spirituality on her ancestral lands.

The monument will be unveiled 1 p.m. June 7 in the King Salmon Visitor Center.

Melgenak was born in the 1870s and a lifelong resident of Savonoski, Alaska, until 1912 when a volcano Novarupta, erupted. She saved several of her fellow townspeople by sharing oral traditions that her family passed down — such as overturning boats to prevent ash collection and to collect fresh water before rivers and creeks were tainted.

The people eventually relocated to a new area along the Naknek River and named it New Savonoski. She never permanently moved back to where she grew up, but she made annual trips to Qit’rwik, also known as the Brooks Camp area of Katmai National Park, until she was in her 90s.

More information about Melgenak can be found on the U.S. National Park Service website.

Get in touch with the author at brian@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.