CIRI Spotlight: Feodoria Kallander Pennington

The matriarch of Point Possession, Feodoria Kallander Pennington, 88, died March 24. She was born to Julius and Cora Kallander on April 7, 1921, in her family’s small village southwest of Anchorage just across Cook Inlet’s Turnagain Arm.

Two of her children, Norman Kallander and Betty Gilcrist, issued a statement on behalf of the family: “We remember as children, being taught the ways of life by Moma. We were educated to know the difference of doing something right or wrong – not only in life – but in the ways of living the traditional lifestyle of being a Native with respect and dignity,” they said.

“Moma made sure that her children grew up with the knowledge and respect for the land and water as they would become our livelihood also.” Gilcrist recalled that after one moose hunting trip while cutting up the moose, Feodoria telling her son-in-law John after each piece she cut, “best part, best part.”

“She was a true leader of our village – and is respected for all her hard work at making sure the village would stay occupied with her children and grandchildren and the generations that will follow.”

Feodoria, as she was known to all, was the eldest of nine children. She was the granddaughter of Dena’ina Athabacan Chief Nicholi, head of the tribe at Point Possession, and Doris Nicholai. She was among 23 Alaska Native Elders featured in the oral history book “Our Stories, Our Lives,” first published in 1986 by The CIRI Foundation and reprinted in 2002.

In 2003, Feodoria was also honored by CIRI during the 19th Annual CIRI Friendship Potlatch as one of two Elders named Shareholders of the Year and presented with an Athabascan chief ‘s necklace made of moose and caribou skins and beads.

She married Robert “Bob” Pennington on Nov. 24, 1963. She and her husband spent 27 years together until his death.

In 1927, Feodoria and her sisters moved to Anchorage to attend school. In the summer, family members returned to Point Possession to fish, trap, log and hunt. As the oldest, Feodoria helped her mother raise her brothers and sisters.

Feodoria started her own family and reared them in Anchorage and Point Possession, teaching them the commercial and subsistence lifestyle, including making her famous smoked salmon. She was proud of her 10 children, 19 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

One of Feodoria’s favorite stories passed down by her family was of Capt. James Cook sailing into Cook Inlet, landing at Point Possession in June 1778. The name is from Cook taking possession of the land and meeting with her ancestors. The story (as documented in Cook’s logbook) is that he buried a jar with some coins and a map somewhere at Point Possession. Feodoria recounted her desire as a child to find the treasure.

In the 1940s, Feodoria worked at the Alaska Railroad with her best friend, Johanna Kerr. Later, because cooking was her passion, Feodoria worked in Anchorage restaurants. At the time she retired from working as a cook, she was employed by the Hotel Captain Cook and had received awards from the company for her devoted service.

During the 1960s, Feodoria worked with many people in the Kenai and Anchorage areas supporting the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. She documented the history of Point Possession to help create the group status of Point Possession village. Feodoria was elected president of Point Possession Inc., a position she held until retiring at age 80. Her Native culture was always the backbone of the way she lived her life.

“I was proud to be a Native because that’s what I am and that’s what I’m going to be. It’s my life,” she said.