Left: The Angasan family, South Naknek, date unknown. Katmai National Park and Preserve. Right: Diamond NN Cannery Store, ca. 1950. Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, Alaska Packers Association records.
THE STORE: Year-Round Service
"I have memories of the smell of the cannery, like the smell of the store, the perfumes of all the detergents, and the smell of the spring merchandise that came in."
— Brad Angasan
The Local Caretakers
The Indigenous Alaskans who worked at the Diamond NN Cannery were descendants of Katmai people and culturally connected to Katmai country. Villagers migrated downriver and established South Naknek after the Novarupta volcano destroyed their village and created the Valley of 10,000 Smokes in 1912. The local people became integral contributors to and caretakers of the operation.
The Cannery Caretakers Film
Filmed by Jensen Hall Creative and produced by Katherine Ringsmuth, this film tells the story of cannery life from the perspective of the village residents. Narrated by Sonya Zimin Stewart, daughter of Carvel Jr. and Shirley Zimin, South Naknek, Alaska. Support for this film came from The Rasmuson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Park Service, Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, and individual donors.
The intense Bristol Bay fishery lasted for about six weeks every June and July. Salmon canners spent the offseason in their San Francisco and Seattle offices preparing for the next season. Canners hired local residents called wintermen to protect their million-dollar assets in the off-season.
The Cannery Store
The winterman kept the cannery store open year-round. The store sold raincoats, cold weather gear, gloves, and other apparel needed by mariners, but not all merchandise was meant for cannery work. The store carried various items for local use such as traps and ammunition, holiday decorations, canned food, shoes and clothing, cigarettes, soda, and candy.
Residents from outlying villages flew to cannery stores to purchase winter goods. The winterman knew exactly how many boxes of canned food the airplane held. Eventually, the cannery store played a central role bringing the local residents into a cash economy.
In the summer, local fishermen supplied salmon to the cannery. Before and after the fishing season, they constituted the “spring/fall” crew. The spring-fall crew opened the cannery before the outside crew arrived and winterized the operation after the outside-crew returned south. The cannery’s operational longevity is a testament to local vigilance.