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The Silence

Interview Ken Roosa

Ken Roosa

An attorney in Anchorage, Roosa represents about 240 Alaska Natives who were molested as children by Catholic priests. This is the edited transcript of interviews conducted on April 14, 2009, and Dec. 9, 2010.

Editors' Note: This interview contains descriptions of sexual abuse against minors.

Give me a sense of the isolation and remoteness of St. Michael.

Well, for starters, St. Michael is probably 150 miles below the Arctic Circle. It's on the western coast of Alaska on the Bering Sea, south of the Arctic Ocean from the Bering Sea, actually on the edge of Norton Sound and due south of Nome, Alaska. It's not accessible by road anytime of the year. It's not land-accessible. You can get to St. Michael by ocean. That's during the summertime. But in the winter it's closed, because the ocean freezes. It's accessible year-round by airplane. Otherwise, it is accessible from nearby villages by four-wheelers or snow machine[s] ... from villages within, oh, say, 60 to 100 miles; beyond that, it's completely inaccessible.

“This was 1970. It was unthinkable that the Catholic Church could be involved in the sexual abuse of children … and covering it up”

So it's cut off from the rest of Alaska except by air for all practical purposes. Until satellite communication became commonplace, so probably until about 16 or 17 years ago, phones were very uncommon in the villages. ... Usually you can get there directly by Anchorage in about an hour and a half to two hours, or you can fly by jet to Nome and then take a twin-propeller plane across Norton Sound. It's about 450 miles north-northwest of Anchorage by land.

How often do people leave St. Michael? They don't hop on the plane every week and go shopping.

No, it's just $500 or $600 ticket round-trip if you can get the cheapest fare to Anchorage. If you go through Nome on Alaska Airlines, it's closer to $1,000 by the time you pay your fare back and forth between St. Michael and Nome on one of the local bush airlines. So people don't come to Anchorage routinely. ...

What about between villages? How often do people interact between villages?

Stebbins is the nearest village to St. Michael, and it's about 12.5 miles to 13 miles away by road. It's closer by snow machine, which makes it pretty easily accessible in the winter if you have a snow machine, and there is tremendous amount of travel back and forth between Stebbins and St. Michael.

Less so as you get farther out. The next closest village is Unalakleet, which is about 45 miles away, but it's a couple of hours by snow machine, and then the next one is Kotlik to the south, and it's about 60 miles away.

So the farther you go, the less contact there will be, but there is still contact among the people in the different villages and a fair amount of intermarriage as well. In the springtime during basketball season, the kids fly back and forth and have tournaments, and there is a lot of exchange there. There are also cultural exchanges in the spring when there are dances and potlatches [Pacific Northwest Native festival ceremonies] and people get together and exchange gifts and have feasts and basically have celebrations.

Give me a sense of the family life in St. Michael.

I can only recount what I've been told by my clients and friends in St. Michael. I wasn't there at that time, but what I'm told by them in St. Michael and many other villages is that, prior to Alaska adopting the local option law that allowed the villagers to choose whether or not to allow alcohol to be sold and possessed in the villages, each village would be allowed to choose by itself whether to be dry, wet or damped, and that didn't happen until the late '70s or the even early '80s.

There was a tremendous amount of alcohol sold in the villages by people, who were just out to make the profit. And certainly during the 1960s, my clients described life as a child in St. Michael and in Stebbins as being -- and other villages, frankly -- as being an effort to survive among the world of drunk adults, where there was a tremendous amount of interfamily violence, where husbands and wives were frequently drunk and fighting each other; the children were neglected, often hungry. ...

The saving grace for very many children was their grandparents, if they had grandparents. ...

Tell me about [Father George S.] Endal, S.J. [and church volunteer Joseph] Lundowski … when they arrived.

Well, according to the encyclopedia of Alaska Jesuits -- it was published by the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus -- George Endal came to Alaska in 1936 as an ordained Jesuit priest, and he was here until he died in 1988. ...

We know, again from the same Jesuit sources, from the documents that we've received, that in about 1950, he was tasked to go to Dillingham, Alaska, which is on Bristol Bay, and opened a cafe from [a] boarding school. He founded the Holy Rosary Academy, which began operation sometime in the mid-1950s. ...

Sometime [after 1949], according to correspondence that I've read, he met Joseph Lundowski. Now, Joseph Lundowski was a setnetter [a type of fisherman]. He had a setnet permit in the village of Eek on the southern edge of Bristol Bay, which is on the northern coast of the Alaska Peninsula. ...

We don't know a lot about him. He is somewhat of a mystery, but we know that he spoke Russian, and we know that he had some training in the Russian Orthodox Liturgy. ...

Endal brought him in as sort of a novice master at the school. He was, we were told, placed in charge of the boys' dormitory. What we also know now is that Joseph Lundowski was a pedophile. He lived and breathed every moment of every day to molest boys, and we know that he molested boys in Dillingham. We have talked with men who were molested there, and one man testified in the deposition -- that's under oath, under cross-examination -- that in 1961, he was 6 years old; he was a resident of that boarding school, living there in the first grade, and he was being molested by Joseph Lundowski, and Father Endal, the Jesuit priest, walked into the room and saw the molestation in progress, made eye contact with him, smiled and walked [away], closed the door and left the room.

Thereafter, [the boy] was warned occasionally by Father Endal to stay away from Joe because it wasn't safe for him to be alone with Brother Joe, but he continued to have Joseph Lundowski work with him until 1962, when Father Endal was moved to the village of Nulato, and he took Joe Lundowski with him. ...

While in Nulato, for a period of two years, Lundowski molested children there -- boys, always boys, and the ages could be anywhere from 5 to 20. It didn't matter particularly to him.

In 1964, Father Endal was sent to Hooper Bay. Joe stayed behind for the better part of a year and then joined him in Hooper Bay in 1965. The two of them stayed together in Hooper Bay until 1968, although during the period of that time, Joe was on his own in a little village nearby called Scammon Bay. Joe continued to molest there, at a prodigious rate, molesting children in Hopper Bay and in Scammon Bay.

In 1968, Joseph and Father Endal moved to St. Michael. … Father Endal, who was by that time getting up in years, somewhat, would stay in the village of Unalakleet, which was a larger town and had a smaller catholic population and had better facilities and had more comfortable quarters.

It was easier going for [Father Endal], and he would make routine trips out to St. Michael and Stebbins to check on things, but by and large … Lundowski had free rein in those villages. [He] ran the catechism classes. After a short period of time, [he] began offering -- what [are] they called? -- ... Communion services. ...

So, to sum it all up, what really happened between 1960 and 1975 was, for a 15- or 16-year period, Father Endal and Joe Lundowski moved through a series of Alaska villages, always in very remote parts of the state, always with no one there to supervise them except themselves -- Joe under the supervision of Endal, but Endal being really in charge of whatever station or assignment they had. And the way I read it is that the abuse of children by both of them became more and more blatant, more and more egregious, more and more violent and vile, until it got to the point where there was almost nothing that wasn't being done. And they were doing it with complete impunity. There were no consequences; there was no one to whom they could report. They were a law unto themselves, and they did whatever they wished. ...

Let's go back and talk about catechism.

... Lundowski would teach catechism to the boys and girls every day after school. [He] began to hold Communion services, which was the local equivalent of Sunday Mass. [He] wouldn't actually have a Mass because the Communion would not be consecrated by a priest, but he would have essentially preconsecrated wafers, and except for the consecration, there would be a homily, Communion would be given to the faithful, and in all other respects [he] would really serve as a priest.

[He] would have altar servers with them, boys or girls, who would help serve during the religious services of the day. In those days, St. Michael and Stebbins were almost an exclusively Catholic community, so there was a tremendous turnout in both the catechism and at the church services.

Another really important thing was t