Setting the record straight

by Peter Twitchell

I, Peter Adams Twitchell, wish to set the record straight once and for all. I write this being of sound mind and body.

I was born April 25, 1950 to Sarah and David Twitchell in Bethel, Alaska. My mom Sarah was born May 29, 1909 in Akula Village of Nunacuaq, now covered by a body of water.

Sarah married Toni Sumi, an immigrant from Wakayama, Japan. He was 20 years Mom’s senior, an older man who came to the Kuskokwim region and married a Tuluksak Yupiaq. They had a store there in the early 1900s.

After her death Toni moved to Bethel where he ran a movie house in front of Orutsararmiut, often accepting dried salmon by Yupiaq movie-goers. In 1936 Toni started asking my grandma Hannah Betka to make him a parka of muskrat furs, a malaggaay, mittens, and piluguqs. Then he began bringing his dirty laundry to be washed.

My mom Sarah and Toni were married by a Moravian pastor in 1938. Toni and Sarah often took in orphans and Jerry Sumi became their son by adoption.

Together they planted huge gardens of vegetables to sustain their mink farm. They cleared the land where the old airfield was built in 1942 and the Civil Aeronautics engineers picked that spot across the river from Bethel and put the Army and Airforce base next to the CAA Compound.

Sarah and Toni had bought a horse from Albert Schmidt to clear the stumps to plant their gardens.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor the Army took Toni Sumi and interned him Lordsburg, New Mexico in 1942. Toni Sumi died there and Mom never saw him again. She did get his cremated ashes and several 8×10 photos of a few hundred Japanese men all in black suits in attendance.

The Sumi Fur Farm Homestead was bulldozed by the Army Corp of Engineers. Mom, who had an 8th grade education was not capable of operating the mink farm homestead nor operate their freighting service up and down the Kuskokwim River. All was lost.

The CAA and Army government never returned or compensated Mom for her losses. Before he died, August 2019, Joe Vanderpool asked me why Mom’s homestead was never returned to her. I did not have an answer for Joe.

I did tell him what Mrs. Grace Lieb had showed me in the States Recording documents stating the young Army/Airforce recruits released all her mink into the wild.