American Indian Counter Narratives: On Survival and Free
Kuiu Island is one of thousands of islands in Southeast Alaska. Pronounced Kwee-you, it was once the home to the Koon Hit (Flicker House) of the Kuiu Kwaan (Tlingit Indian villagers of Kuiu Island). A young Tlingit girl who would later be known as Kitty Collins was born on Kuiu Island in the mid1800s. One summer when Kitty was about ten years old, smallpox struck her village. It wasn’t the fi rst time the disease struck Alaska, and it wouldn’t be the last. Th at particular summer, however, the disease hit with surprising swift ness and lethality. When the summer began, Kuiu was in full health: for the hundreds of villagers living within the dozens of clan longhouses, life went on as it had for thousands of years. By the end of the summer, the village and all its villagers, except for a handful of children, were ashes. Th e island is still all but desolate of people today.