Forum Magazine, spring 2018

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Documenting Alaska’s Magnetic Personalities Boxes of Mystery: Heirlooms and Art Legacy of Juneau’s Observatory Books Twice up the Alaska Highway in the 1950s

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421 W. 1st Ave., Suite 200 Anchorage, AK 99501 (907) 272-5341 | BOARD OF DIRECTORS


strong community is one where people are engaged, resilient, supportive, and growing. Although this definition aspires to encompass all people, efforts to build a strong community often take place in silos focused on specific groups rather than the entire population. Such efforts begin with the population as it is: more divided than ever by politics, ethnicity, education, gender, access to information, and more. One significant challenge to community-building is a generational divide. Policy-makers and researchers suggest that a number of threats to community—high poverty (particularly among children); growing stress of care-giving families; youth unemployment and job insecurity; violence; and growing social and economic disparities—reflect a fraying of the “social compact,” the exchange of resources and care across generations. In America today, this generational divide is becoming a two-dimensional challenge. A pair of major demographic changes account for it: a growing older population, and increasing ethnic and racial diversity in the younger population. While the population of adults over 65 is becoming more diverse, Caucasian people comprise 80 percent. In contrast, 47 percent of our youth—and over 50 percent of children under five—are of color.

Elizabeth Qaulluq Cravalho, Chair, Kotzebue Chellie Skoog, Vice Chair, Chugiak Kathleen Tarr, Secretary, Anchorage Clayton W. Bourne, Treasurer, Anchorage Lenora Lolly Carpluk, Member-at-Large, Fairbanks Thea Agnew Bemben, Anchorage Bruce Botelho, Douglas Gerry Briscoe, Anchorage Michael Chmielewski, Palmer Anne Hanley, Fairbanks Ernestine Hayes, Juneau Steve Henrikson, Juneau Aldona Jonaitis, Fairbanks Raimundo Martinez, Anchorage

The generational

Peter Metcalfe, Juneau

divide is becoming

Judith Owens-Manley, Anchorage

a two-dimensional

Moira K. Smith, Anchorage


The generation gap in the United States is fast becoming a racial generation gap. It is at risk of splitting further as competing agendas form between an older, white electorate and a younger population that is increasingly Latino, Asian-American, Native American/Alaska Native, and African-American. But in the gap, the Alaska Humanities Forum sees potential. Granted, an increasingly multi-generational and multi-racial/ethnic society can open divisions. But it also necessarily suggests that we have access to numerous and varied experiences, values, and ideas with which to span them. In the resources of this human diversity, we see powerful opportunities to develop the social, physical, and organizational infrastructure necessary to build strong communities. Working this out in real time is a task the Forum takes seriously. It will require us to make spaces to understand these different perspectives. It will require innovative approaches that use a life-course perspective, and intentionally foster trust across generations. The effort poses some timeless questions: How do we honor and learn from our elders, while making space for a new generation of leaders who bring new perspectives? How do we preserve our history and traditions, but not let the fear of change limit our openness to what is possible? Please join us as we listen for answers in the voices of our community.

­—Kameron Perez-Verdia, CEO


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Pauline Morris, Kwethluk Sheri Skelton, Anchorage Mead Treadwell, Anchorage

STAFF Kameron Perez-Verdia, President and CEO Ted Leonard, CFO Amanda Dale, Education & Youth Program Coordinator Carmen Davis, Director of Education and Youth Programs Kitty Farnham, Director of Leadership Programs Allison Foust, Youth Program Coordinator Jennifer Gibbins, Leadership Programs Manager Grace Harrington, Public Programming Coordinator Nancy Hemsath, Operations Manager & Board Liaison Dave Lamothe, Education Program Manager Kari Lovett, Youth Program Manager Simonetta Mignano, Education Program Associate Dora Moore, Education & Youth Program Associate Jann D. Mylet, Director of Development & Communications Naaqtuuq Robertson, Youth Program Manager & Cultural Specialist Rayette Sterling, Leadership Programs Manager Denali Whiting, Education Program Coordinator Kirstie Lorelei Willean, Education Program Coordinator Megan Zlatos, Director of Special Projects & Grants

and Art Director
 Dean Potter Contributors Debra McKinney, Lillian Maassen, Patti David, Dewey Kk’ołeyo Hoffman, Itzel Yarger-Zagal, Luisa Nemitz, David Holthouse, Michael Conti

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Photo courtesy of Ellen Frankenstein


The documentary project 14 Miles explores the people and cultures of Sitka in a series of short films. The episode Saturday in Sitka considers what brings locals together—here, at the combined Veterans Day and Native American Heritage Month parade. Page 26.

4 Magnetic Personalities A new documentary film series preserves the stories of characters as large as Alaska

10 Transformed by Needle Women’s handwork from generations past is the backbone of the Inheritance project

18 DONOR PROFILE George and Brenda Dickison explain how cultural encounters “really open up your eyes”

20 New Horizons The Forum and its partners expand a program to help teachers in rural Alaska

24 KINDLING CONVERSATION How Does Language Connect Us? How Does Language Divide Us?

34 What Others See in You

26 2018 Annual Grants

36 Tending the Flame

From children’s stories to indigenous hip-hop, a preview of eight projects the Forum is supporting this year

28 Tale of Contents What happened on the corner when the corner bookshop closed

32 FORUM NOTES Leadership Anchorage projects underway; Forum’s first Alaska History Day

A Leadership Anchorage participant reflects on turning hardship into inspiration The 2018 Governor’s Arts and Humanities Awards

38 It Wasn’t Easy Journals recount an epic trip and early travels on the newly opened Alaska Highway

43 AFTER IMAGE Michael Conti photographs Greenlandic rapper Josef TarrakPetrussen

ON THE COVER : Nathan Jackson is one of the subjects of the documentary film series Magnetic North: The Alaskan Character. Page 4. Photo by Kyle Seago for Magnetic North

FORUM is a publication of the Alaska Humanities Forum, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, with the purpose of increasing public understanding of and participation in the humanities. The views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the editorial staff, the Alaska Humanities Forum, or the National Endowment for the Humanities. Subscriptions may be obtained by contributing to the Alaska Humanities Forum or by contacting the Forum. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission. ©2018.

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Jacob Anag• i Adams, Sr. of Utqiag• vik, is one of six subjects of Magnetic North: The Alaskan Character, a documentary film series presented by the Alaska Humanities Forum and Rasmuson Foundation. Photo by Steven L. Rychetnik for Magnetic North

he life stories of some Alaskans are so intertwined with the history of the state it’s not easy telling one without weaving in the other. As a young mother, Arliss Sturgulewski saw her husband off at the airport, then learned by radio on her way to the grocery store that his plane went down. In the decades since, she’s filled the hole in her heart with service to Alaska. Nathan Jackson swamped his skiff in the Chilkat River, prayed as his boots filled with silt, then kissed the ground when he made it ashore. He now leads a spiritual life, devoted to his Tlingit art and culture and to mentoring others in traditional carving and in ways of being in the world. Clem Tillion, one of the “wise men of the fisheries community,” a bit jagged around the edges and unfazed by enemies made along the way, bulldozes his way through life consumed


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by the conviction that Alaska has no future if it doesn’t put fish first. These are among the stories told in Magnetic North: The Alaskan Character, a documentary series exploring the lives of six Alaskans who helped shape the political, social, and cultural landscape of the state. Presented by the Alaska Humanities Forum with funding by Rasmuson Foundation, the series will be completed this summer and made available through Alaska Public Television and online streaming, with screenings planned for schools, museums, and cultural venues. The idea behind the series began aboard a boat in Kachemak Bay. “I was riding over to Halibut Cove with Clem Tillion, and he was singing and reciting poetry and doing what he does,” said Rasmuson Foundation President Diane Kaplan. “And I said, ‘Has anyone ever made a film about you?’ And he said, ‘No,” and I said, ‘Wow.’” continued on page 6

Magnetic Personalities A new documentary film series preserves the stories of characters as large as Alaska By Debra McKinney

The six Alaskans profiled in Magnetic North documentaries cover a broad swath of Alaska life. CLEM TILLION (above) of Halibut Cove is a former

nine-term state legislator and senate president who devoted himself to the politics that shaped the state, including establishment of the Alaska Permanent Fund. His passion, however, is fisheries and other politics of the sea.

ROY MADSEN of Kodiak was the first, and so far only,

Alaska Native Superior Court Judge. He was a pillar of the Russian Orthodox Church, and played substantial roles in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights, and the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. BILL SHEFFIELD (left) of Anchorage, fifth governor of Alaska and former president and CEO of the Alaska Railroad, survived a brush with impeachment and other controversies to become one of the state’s leading philanthropists. A man who embraces compromise, Sheffield is driven by what he believes is best for the state, especially regarding job creation.

Sheffield photo by Steven L. Rychetnik. Tillion Photo by Kyle Seago

ARLISS STURGULEWSKI of Anchorage, whose life

took an unexpected turn after the 1968 plane crash that killed her husband, twice won the Republican nomination for governor, the first woman to head a major party ticket in Alaska. Although she left the state senate more than 25 years ago, she remains involved, pushing for the tough decisions necessary for the wellbeing of the state. NATHAN JACKSON (cover) of Ketchikan survived a near drowning in the Chilkat River to become a world-renowned Tlingit woodcarver and metalsmith, best known for his totem poles. His work is in major museums in the U.S. and abroad. A long list of his accolades includes a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, this country’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts.

JACOB ANAG I ADAMS, SR. of Utqiag• vik, is an

Iñupiaq elder, whaling captain, sobriety activist, and former mayor of the North Slope Borough. He fought for the passage of ANCSA and was instrumental in establishing the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, later becoming its president and CEO. Though he’s busy juggling business, politics, and subsistence, he won’t miss a high school basketball game if he can help it.

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Pioneer, fisherman, politician, rebel, charmer, and gladiator of debate, Tillion is a quintessential Alaska character. At 92, he still goes where the action is, most recently to Adak and Juneau, where he fought for commercial fishermen and for a constitutional amendment to protect Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend. With his trademark red suspenders and barbwire wit, he still can’t resist a good fish fight, nor a fine martini. Kaplan pitched making a film about Tillion to her board, which approved funding. Made in partnership with the Forum, that film was going to be “a oneshot deal.” But once finished, it was too good for the project to end there, Kaplan said. “We decided there are other people who are getting older, who have Alaska character, who’ve had a profound effect on the state. We thought we should do them, too, before too much time passes. So our board approved additional funds to do five more.” The five were chosen from dozens of nominees by a committee representing the Forum, Rasmuson, and the community. Like Tillion, the others—Sturgulewski, Jackson, Roy Madsen, Bill Sheffield, and Jacob Anaġi Adams, Sr.—represent Alaska passion, values, and spirit. One who made the original list, Alaska’s first female attorney general, Grace Schaible, passed away before her film could be made. “Alaska has not done a great job of documenting its history or its characters,” Kaplan said. “I think it’s typical of ‘frontier’ kind of places, that you really don’t realize you’ve lost some of your history until it’s gone.” Clem Tillion at the helm of the MV Stormbird, which carries mail and residents to and from Halibut Cove, during filming of Magnetic North. Photo by Steven L. Rychetnik for Magnetic North above: The Magnetic North crew: cinematographers and editors Steve Rychetnik and Kyle Seago, with director Marla Williams. top:


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In their own voices

The film series is being produced, directed, and written by independent filmmaker Marla Williams. She’s working primarily with cinematographers Kyle Seago and Steven Rychetnik; Kevin Kurka and Joshua Corbett are providing additional camerawork. Williams, whose work airs on television networks nationally and internationally, has been telling Alaska’s stories for more than 30 years, from the floors of its legislature to some of its most remote places. Among her best-known films is the documentary Aleut Story, about the internment of more than 800 Unangan (Aleut) people after the Japanese invasion turned their homelands into a war zone during World War II. Williams is approaching Magnetic North the way she does all her stories, first through a moun-

Roxanne Brower talks to Marla Williams about how Jacob Adams inspired her dedication to the community through his enthusiastic support of the Barrow High School girls basketball team. Photo by Steven L. Rychetnik for Magnetic North

tain of research, and then by watching, listening—especially listening—and letting the story lead the way. “You know, there’s no science to this,” she said from her home office in the Seattle area. “Whatever storytelling rules you may bring with you quickly get shoved out of the way by what’s unfolding in your presence.” Although friends, family, historians, policymakers, and others weigh in, Magnetic North is about presenting people’s stories in their own voices. Williams wants to capture the essence of who they are, not just as leaders, but as human beings. “I really wanted to get the voices of people who are living now, to go in and spend time with them in their environments and their homes,” she said. “To get a sense of them while they are still here with us.” In order to do that, Williams asked each of the six Alaskans profiled to let her small team into their lives. And not just for a few hours. In some cases, that means team members sleeping in their guest rooms or on their couches. She’s the first to admit that’s asking a lot, especially of people in their seventies, eighties, and nineties. “These shows are demanding of the subject because we put the camera at their elbow or over their shoulder. It can be physically exhausting.”

Creation of the series comes with a sense of urgency since so many of Alaska’s iconic voices have already been lost: Gov. Jay Hammond, Sen. Ted Stevens, and tradition bearers throughout the state. “When you lose a Native elder in a community, it’s like losing a library,” Kaplan said. “And I think that’s true of all these people we’ve profiled. The things they know, the things they’ve experienced, and their ability to tell it are really special. You can’t get that back once they’re gone.”

‘Whatever storytelling rules you may bring with you quickly get shoved out of the way by what’s unfolding in your presence.’

Chickens moments

Each profile in the Magnetic North series is 26 minutes and 46 seconds—a public television half-hour. Williams thinks of these documentaries not as definitive life stories, but as short, guided tours of people’s lives. Along with documenting their contributions to the state, the films include simple moments: Jacob Adams and his wife, Lucille, strolling with a grandson along the Arctic seacoast; Clem Tillion feeding his chickens, one of William’s favorite scenes. “We’d stayed at Clem’s house in Halibut Cove. We’d just had breakfast, and Clem said, ‘Well, I think I’ll go out and feed the chickens.’ And Kyle [Seago] says, ‘Well, I guess I’ll go out and film you feeding the chickens,’ and off they go. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S P R I N G 20 18


Arliss Sturgulewski. Photo by Kyle Seago for Magnetic North

‘She came up the highway with a sense of adventure and determination and not much else.’


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“We call that our chickens moment, actually,” Williams said. “That set a precedent [for the rest of the profiles]: ‘What’s our chickens moment here? We’ve got to keep our eye out for a chickens moment.’” Other chickens moments include Roy Madsen and his wife, Linda, at Abercrombie State Historic Park, strolling among the Sitka spruce trees, which the judge considered his oldest living friends. “There are so few people remaining of my age and my generation,” he told the film crew. “So I like to come out here and just look at the trees that are as old or older than I am, something that has lived beyond and is still standing.” “The sense of place is very strong in these folks’ lives,” Williams said. “Some were born here, some were drawn here, but they all remain bound to Alaska by a strong sense of place—its rare, wild places, its unique opportunities.” The Sturgulewski film, for instance, describes legislation she supported that allowed private lands to enter public trust. “You can take an overlay of those trust lands and see Alaska preserved,” Williams said. “You can see the imprint of the legislation on the state, you can see Arliss’s imprint. These places have been preserved for generations of Alaskans. “Arliss, to me, connects in so many ways to a profile of Alaskans of that era,” Williams continued. “She came up the highway with a sense of adventure and

determination and not much else. She rode out the earthquake and she lost her husband in an airplane crash. How many Alaskans have not lost someone in an airplane crash or accident in an abrupt, devastating way? It’s an experience that binds us and reminds us that Alaska is a very different place from the rest of the United States. It’s beautiful and offers tremendous opportunity, but it’s not without risk.” Planes, patience, and perok

The Magnetic North stories have taken the film crew from the North Slope to Washington, D.C., and many airstrips and harbors between. “Just getting from point A to point B in people’s lives is a challenge in terms of both time and money,” Williams said. “And then there’s always the weather. Anybody who’s worked or lived in Alaska for any length of time knows you never bicker with Mother Nature. You just say, ‘Yes ma’am,’ and you sit and you wait.” For the Adams episode, planes were diverted to Prudhoe Bay six times as Williams and her cameramen tried to get to Utqiaġvik three times. One trip for the Tillion documentary, to film supporting interviews in Juneau and then Sitka, got reversed when the pilot made three attempts to land in sketchy weather in Juneau, then bailed and headed for Sitka instead. Williams didn’t mind.

left: Roy Madsen and wife Linda atop Pillar Mountain in Kodiak, during filming of Magnetic North above: Madsen being interviewed at Kodiak Courthouse (now named the Roy H. Madsen Justice Center) in Courtroom A, where he presided for many years. Photo by Kyle Seago for Magnetic North

“I love it,” she said, “because it’s a reminder to be humble. It’s a reminder that you have to take the moment as it comes. Patience and appreciation for where you are is really important. And all the people in our series embody that spirit.” One of the more moving moments of Magnetic North comes at the end of the Madsen film, when the judge’s wife, Linda, talks about what might be most fitting on his headstone. “‘He who clings to the rock,’” is one possible epitaph, Linda told the film crew, referring to her husband’s devotion to Kodiak Island. “But I think a simple one would also just be, ‘Roy Harding Madsen: He loved and served.’” “I didn’t ask the question, ‘What do you want on your headstone,’” Williams said of her conversation with the Madsens. “We had just sat down in that little den of theirs with the sun coming in. It was a beautiful afternoon and we were talking about his experiences when he was young, and how life changed over time, and expectations and aspirations. And that was just one of those special moments. I thought that was both brave and really generous of them to share those thoughts.”

That is typical of Williams’ work, Kaplan said. “She connects with people. I sat in on the filming of Bill Sheffield, for example. He has a lot of sadness in his story, and she was able to get him to open up in a way I haven’t seen before. She never knew Roy Madsen before we did the film, but by the end she was like a member of the family.” This past Christmas, Williams was planning a holiday meal at her house. She asked Madsen for his recipe for perok, a Kodiak fish pie, which, she said, is the best she’s ever tasted. “The judge was failing and seriously so, but he took the time, found the way, the will, to write out his recipe by hand for me. Linda took a photo with her phone and sent it as a text message.” Williams printed out the image of the hand-written recipe, framed it, and propped it next to the perok on her Christmas Eve buffet table. Madsen, 94, died two days later. In this case, the Magnetic North film was finished just in time. And Madsen was able to see it before he died, at a screening in Kodiak two months earlier at which the

whole community, it seemed, turned up to celebrate his life. Lives such as his add a layer of richness to Alaska history, said Jayson Smart, former senior program officer at Rasmuson. “It’s our belief that for young people or others who are interested in understanding Alaska, having content like this—a body of work to draw upon to help tell that story—is really important,” Smart said. “The best possible way to try to understand it is through the lives of the people who live here.” Williams likes that, but is also going for empathy. “I think we’ve got more divides now than we can even put a label on,” she said. “So this is one way of getting us to connect and bridge what divides us. “Empathy is best fostered, nurtured, by conversations, books, films—life experiences that allow us to get to know one another. At the end of the day, my hope is this series helps us understand one another a little better.” ■ Award-winning journalist Debra McKinney is a frequent contributor to FORUM.

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TRANSFORMED BY NEEDLE Women’s handwork from generations past is the backbone of Amy Meissner’s Inheritance project By Debra McKinney

eglected vintage textiles and homeless needlework projects have been finding their way to Amy Meissner for years. Handworked lace, hand-embroidered tablecloths, hand-tatted doilies. They come from trunks and closets and boxes stashed in attics. From flea markets and thrift shops. From yard sales when relatives move a great-aunt into assisted living and sell her crocheted potholders for a quarter apiece. Meissner sees past their water stains and fold lines yellowed with age. She sees heads bowed over kitchen tables, hands hard at work in dim light. She doesn’t always know what to do with these things. Most have been waiting for years, even decades, for someone to notice their potential, so there’s no rush. But as they pass through her hands, through her laundry, and through her thoughts, they show her the way. Her job is to listen until the heart of each piece reveals itself, to listen for stories steeped in its stitches. It’s then she’ll begin its transformation, infusing it with new life.


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The award-winning Anchorage textile artist has shown her work nationally and, last year, internationally, in Karachi, Pakistan. Her upcoming solo exhibition, Inheritance: makers. memory. myth., is a contemporary, mixed-media exploration of the emotional landscape of women. It debuts at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center in May. “There are reasons to sit quietly and stab a needle repeatedly into a piece of cloth,” Meissner said. “It’s very quiet, but there can be a lot of emotion poured into whatever it is that you’re sitting there silently doing.” Meissner recently wrapped up another project, the Fossil series, which incorporates elements of Inheritance, as well as beach stones gathered in Prince William Sound and Nome. As part of Fossil, she created four 10-inch-square pieces as awards for the Governor’s Arts and Humanities Awards (page 36); a fifth became part of the Alaska Humanities Forum’s permanent collection. With a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage— on top of undergraduate degrees in arts and


Materfamilias (detail). Abandoned quilt, vintage doilies, unfinished embroideries, wool, silk organza, stones; 2017. Photo by Brian Adams / courtesy Anchorage Museum

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Amy Meissner. Photo by Brian Adams / courtesy Anchorage Museum

textiles—Meissner exquisitely describes the process of Inheritance in her blog, “Spontaneous Combustion.” On her website, she details the motivation behind the project: Because I honor the makers—all these mothers, grandmothers, aunts—the majority of whom are unknown. Because I honor the history, stories and emotional resonance within each piece. Because I’m tired of women’s work being shoved in a trunk and I’m interested in unraveling the narrative of each stitch, real or imagined...

Although the textiles guide her, inner life and memory weigh in, too. “It’s that idea of kind of prodding at the coals or embers, or poking the fire from one side, then poking at it from another,” she said. “I’m sometimes really surprised by the themes that emerge.” Among them are gender inequality, postpartum depression, menopause, and hysteria—that archaic medical diagnosis reserved exclusively for women, which covered everything from nervousness and insomnia to licentiousness and troublemaking. Although she works in the quilt form, she prefers exhibiting off the wall. A number of her Inheritance pieces are sculptural. One is 20 feet long and hangs from the ceiling. Some incorporate illumination through


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sheer fabrics or portals. All avoid nostalgia, sometimes chanting, sometimes whispering of anguish. “To take these items and turn them into art is incredibly challenging, and means that I have to pull from that well. I wouldn’t classify my work as angry, but there’s an undertone—an undertone of darkness. I try to strike a balance. If it’s all beautiful, then it’s too nostalgic for me. But if it’s all terrible, then it’s just work made by an angry woman. So it has to be both.” Boxes of mystery

Meissner has been working with vintage textiles for years, those passed along as well as finds and heirlooms of her own. But the Inheritance project is her first go at crowdsourcing. She started spreading the word in 2015 through fellow artists and social media: If anyone would like to contribute materials, she’d be grateful. “Use what you can,” one contributor wrote. “Feel free to dispose of anything you don’t want, in any manner you see fit. I only wish my own inheritance had come with that disclaimer.” Meissner blogged about these donations as they poured in, calling her series of posts “Boxes of Mystery.” The first box showed up on her doorstep two summers ago from upstate New York. Among the linens and doilies were a half

dozen brassieres, the scary, pointy “bullet bras” that were all the rage in the 1950s and made caricatures of women’s breasts. Although they didn’t fit this project, Meissner and her then first-grade daughter created a cherished memory as they tried them on over their tops, cracking up together on their porch in the sun. Friends and family sent boxes. Artists, acquaintances, and strangers sent boxes. Boxes came from nearly half the states and several countries—Canada, England, Ireland, France, Australia, and Sweden—boxes smelling of mothers, grandmothers, aunties, and family tradition. Quilts, tablecloths, napkins, tea towels, potholders, handkerchiefs. Most are from the forties, fifties, and sixties, but one piece, a dresser scarf, was embroidered with the date 1893. Many of these items had spent their entire lives in storage, either too precious or impractical to use. “Save the best for never,” as a friend of Meissner’s says. Some came with stories, but most without. Indiana fiber artist Helen Geglio sent along a storied scrap from a crocheted tablecloth that got massacred in the laundry. ...the voice of this cloth is so strong I wanted you to have a piece of it,” Geglio wrote. “Amelia [the creator of the tablecloth] was incarcerated in the Detroit House of Correction for killing her

abusive husband. My mom was involved with a prison visitation group and commissioned this tablecloth so that Amelia would have some money when released.

Lorie McCown, a Virginia fiber artist, sent crocheted potholders along with this note: These came out of my mom’s house... We buried my dad and put my mom in assisted living all in one week. So my feelings on these are this: dissolvent (of my childhood home), sadness, loss, and grief. Had all the aging stuff gone down a different path, i.e. gracefulness, nostalgia, or whatever, I may have tender thoughts. Now I’m a raw bone.

A New Jersey man sent a quilt his greatgrandmother, Hettie, fashioned out of Bull Durham tobacco pouches and made on a treadle sewing machine. Along with the faded, stained quilt came a sepia-tone portrait of a defiant-looking Hattie, jaw set in stone, a photo Meissner loves so much that she keeps it on her studio wall. She incorporated Hettie’s quilt into War

Room, a piece topped by an unfinished crossstitch with tiny, tiny, blood-red stitches. The cross-stitch came in the fifth box of mystery, from textile artist Olga Norris, who designed and started the piece the last summer she lived with her family in Greece. About to be married, she hoped it would help her connect with the difficult matriarchs in her life, as proof she was worthy. Meissner has long been drawn to unfinished needlework projects like this, the way they represent hope and promise. First the “I can do this.” Then derailment. Then guilt. “And then not to finish… There are so many reasons not to finish,” said Meissner. “[Norris] got to a point where she said, ‘Enough of this.’ She took the thing with her and never finished it. And she said it glowered at her from every cupboard of every house she lived in. That bit of narrative really got me thinking about the way women battle… and what we carry with us, what sorts of weaponry we have.” The image that emerged was of generals in a war room leaning over a battle map on a table. War Room will be displayed that way, horizontally, about hip height. continued on page 16

Descent. Vintage doilies, silk organza, rubber, wire, epoxy clay; 2017. Photo by Brian Adams / courtesy Anchorage Museum

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War Room (detail). Baby quilts, abandoned embroidery, domestic linens, foam, tapestry needles; 2017. Photo by Brian Adams / courtesy Anchorage Museum

left: Hettie Collie Nickell’s quilt, contributed to Meissner’s project by her great-grandson, is incorporated into “War Room.” Meissner keeps the photo of Nickell in her studio.


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Photo courtesy of Dennis Anderson

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Inheritance. Abandoned needlepoint, vintage doilies, cotton velvet, silk organza, wool. Hand embroidered, machine pieced; 2016. Photo by Brian Adams / courtesy Anchorage Museum

Meissner stitched in arrows and Xs and meandering conga lines of pearly white buttons—troop movements and tactical maneuvers that make no sense. She then impaled the piece with tapestry needles— roughly 2,000 of them. Kirsten Anderson, deputy director and chief curator of the Anchorage Museum, is particularly fond of this one. Meissner’s work “kind of flips the idea of domestic work on its head,” she said. “The way she approaches it is so incredibly different and unique.” The crowdsourcing component of Inheritance speaks to her, as well. “When we talk about crowdsourcing nowadays, we talk about it in a social media sense,” Anderson said. “But if we think about it, crowdsourcing is something we’ve been taking advantage of and making part of our lives for a long time. So I like that tradition being carried forward… of women coming together and sharing stories and skills to make something bigger.”


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In September 2016, after 13 months of mystery boxes, Meissner announced in her blog that the crowdsourcing portion of the project was done. But then another box arrived. And another. And another. “Even the kids were like, ‘Oh my god, Mom, you’ve got another package.’ It did become overwhelming because I’m the only one. I don’t have anyone to catalog all this stuff for me and photograph everything and keep everything straight. I mean, I have pages and pages of spreadsheets—who I responded to, who I sent a thank-you card to, and who said what.” At last count, contributors had donated the handwork of as many as 350 women, the vast majority unknown. Early on, Meissner had decided she’d make a tiny doily to tuck into a thank-you card for everyone who sent a box. It seemed like a good idea at the time, anyway. As the boxes kept coming, she got faster and the doilies got smaller, she said with a laugh. She’s made more than 70 so far. And she got another box just the other day.

Busy hands

Meissner was about five when she first picked up the needle. “My mom taught me the way she was taught. You start at point A and then you go to B and then you go to C, and there’s no leaping forward to M. With my mom, it was like, ‘Okay, first we’re going to clean the machine, then we’re going to wind a bobbin and then we’re going to...’ Whereas with my daughter, I kind of said, ‘Just hit the pedal and go.’” Her mother was old school, raised on a farm in Sweden by her grandparents, with chores, no television, little money, and an iron fist. “The evenings when all the farm work was done, they’d sit around the table in the kitchen and do the mending. And if they had time to embroider or crochet, they would make beautiful curtains for the kitchen or things to embellish the home. If you had any free time then you were busy with your hands.”

Like her mother, Meissner grew up with busy hands. In high school, she was making her own clothes, and prom and homecoming dresses for herself and friends. At 17, during her last year of high school in Reno, she landed an internship with a small custom design and costume shop using her formal dresses as a résumé. For the next six years, she did everything from alterations to making gowns and casino uniforms. “Costumes and cigarette girl uniforms. We made weird things, like 1950s lamé jackets with skinny ties for this band named Papa Clutch and the Shifters. “I did a lot of beadwork and embellishing, that sort of thing. It was the late eighties and nineties, and I was making wedding gowns, so there was lots of bling.” All the while, the hope chest her mother bought her at 16 was filling up as relatives in Sweden and elsewhere gave their handwork as gifts. This became a problem after she and her husband, Brian Meissner, moved to Vancouver, B.C. and into a 600-square-foot apartment. “I remember feeling really frustrated in my early twenties. ‘I cannot take any more of this stuff!’ And it just kept coming. At that time my husband was in architecture school and he didn’t want to live with doilies.” During their seven years in Canada, she continued working as a patternmaker and designer, making custom wedding dresses mostly. “The final place I worked, I was meeting with clients and consulting with them and designing, making a sketch, and doing all their fittings—and wading through all the drama and chaos and the mother-in-law who has come to town from the old country and thinks the wedding gown isn’t white enough.” After 12 years in the clothing industry Meissner was burned out. As 30 loomed, she knew she wanted children and couldn’t see how to juggle the two. When her husband accepted a job in Anchorage in 2000, she launched a new, second career—illustrating children’s books. Over the next decade or so, she got her MFA in creative writing, had a son and a daughter and illustrated a dozen children’s books, including the Seldovia Sam series, Grandpa’s Clock, and Salt & Pepper at the Pike Place Market. Then came her third career, as a textile artist, which overlapped with her second. Unlike painting, this was portable work, work she could do with children at her feet and, later, take along to piano and swim lessons. Finally, she could make use of some of

those heirlooms buried in her hope chest. In 2013, she won the juror’s choice award in the Earth, Fire & Fibre exhibition at the Anchorage Museum. The following year, she received an Artist Fellowship Award from Rasmuson Foundation, which allowed her to put illustrating aside and focus entirely on textiles. In 2017, Meissner earned further grants from Rasmuson Foundation and the Sustainable Arts Foundation to work on the Inheritance project. Needle & Myth

Meissner used a portion of her 2017 Rasmuson award for a community component of the Inheritance project. She hosted a series of workshops at the Anchorage Museum, called Needle & Myth, which resulted in a collaborative piece of the same name. She provided vintage handkerchiefs from her mystery boxes, each mounted on a panel of sheer silk organza. Participants were to think of a word or phrase to complete the sentence, “She is…” or “She was…,” and to bring a small, light object to attach or embed between the layers. Then they embroidered their answers into their panels:


heartbroken tough as nails too attached mujer Mexicana migrante a sailboat captain one of those mean-mean-mean girls covered in glitter and dancing like a fiend

“They had time to think about what they wanted to embroider,” Meissner recalled. “And yet a handful of people, once they saw the handkerchiefs, went either a completely different direction or were inspired by what they saw and made changes, which is great. That’s what I do.” This collaborative artwork, Needle & Myth, is made up of 80 of these panels, each infused with the energy and reflections of people from the community, mostly women but also five men and three children. In a sense, all Meissner’s pieces could be considered collaborative. She’s always acknowledging, always grateful that the handwork of women of a different era found its way to her. The countless hours and innumerable stitches she’s put into the Inheritance project aren’t just hers, she knows. They are generations’ worth. ■ Alaska journalist Debra McKinney wrote about the tradition of storyknifing in the last issue of FORUM.

Inheritance: makers. memory. myth. Anchorage Museum at Ramuson Center Opens May 4. Runs through August 26 Alaska State Museum, Juneau Opens December 7

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George and Brenda Dickison




Forum is a unique organization that fills an important niche in Alaska. We like that it’s focused on rural areas and art and culture and history. It funds interesting projects that maybe wouldn’t happen otherwise. It raises cultural awareness and appreciation.

What was it like to move from Outside to rural Alaska in the early 1980s?

George and Brenda Dickison in Mexico, March 2018. Photo courtesy Brenda Dickison

Help Wanted GEORGE AND BRENDA DICKISON met when they were in high school in central Illinois. In college, George discovered his second love, Alaska, on a trip with the National Outdoor Leadership School. After graduate school, where Brenda earned a master’s degree in social work, the couple lived in Washington. George often went to the library to read the Anchorage Times help-wanted ads. In 1982, he found an ad for a position in Tyonek to implement the Indian Child Welfare Act. Brenda fired off an application, did a phone interview, and three weeks later they were flying north. The couple lived in Tyonek, a Dena’ina Athabascan village on the northwest shore of Cook Inlet, for nearly two years. George got a job with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and spent seven months commuting to Anchorage via air taxi before the couple relocated to the city. They remained in Alaska for 23 years, where they raised two children. (Their daughter Sandra participated in the first Alaska Humanities Forum Sister School Exchange program in 2002.) Brenda worked in the Alaska Office of Public Advocacy. She was state director of Court Appointed Special Advocates, a child advocacy program, and traveled across the state to start local programs. George moved from DNR to the North Slope Borough and eventually to the National Park Service. In 2006, the help-wanted ads took the couple away from Alaska, reluctantly, when George became director of the National Park Service’s Fort Collins Science Center in Colorado. They miss Alaska and visit almost every year.


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george: It was an interesting time. We landed in Tyonek in our little airplane, and we were met at the airstrip by the village council president. He told us, “You’re about to read something in the paper, but we want to make sure you feel welcome here.” The very next day, there was a banner headline in the Anchorage Daily News, about four inches high, that said, “Whites Banned from Tyonek.” It got picked up by all wire services; our parents read about it; we got interviewed by someone from the New York Times because we were walking down the street and looked white. It was a really interesting time. It drove home the fact that what you read in the newspapers isn’t necessarily true. What was portrayed in the Anchorage papers was the line they were being given by one of the protagonists. brenda: The village was pretty quiet about it. george: Right, they told us: “Our elders have got to meet and then we’ll get back to you about it.” And when, about six months later, they addressed it, it turned out the interest had passed. It was a good lesson in cultural differences with how people respond to crises. brenda: It was tough in Tyonek because there were a lot of problems and issues, but it was a wonderful introduction to Alaska for us. People there were truly very welcoming; they took us fishing. It was really nice. Your daughter was part of the Forum’s Sister School Exchange program?

george: Sandra was a sophomore at Service High School when she was in the inaugurating class of the Rose UrbanRural Sister School Exchange, as it was called then. She went to Kalskag for two weeks. When she came back, she was tapped to be a spokesman for the program. She traveled to Juneau and met with legislators. She met with Fran Ulmer, who was then the lieutenant governor; she was a guest on the Herb Shaindlin radio show, which was a little intimidating because he was sort of a bombastic radio personality. brenda: It gave Sandra an opportunity to try things, which now, later in life, she’s excelled in. The exchange and her subsequent activities were very instrumental in shaping her career. And it gave her a subject for a pretty good college essay.


Your Humanities Council The Alaska Humanities Forum is one of 56 humanities councils, located in all U.S. states and jurisdictions, that serve as partners of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). “The preamble to the legislation that created the NEH proclaims that ‘democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens,’ ” explains Esther Mackintosh, President of the Federation of State Humanities Councils. She continues:

george: She ended up developing an interest in politics and policy and international relations. She went to graduate school in International Foreign Service with an emphasis on energy, which went back to her interest in oil and gas and such. She now works in Washington, D.C. for the Department of Energy, on international renewable energy projects. What do you think is most valuable about cultural encounters like the Sister School Exchange?

Any exposure

george: We got involved with the cultures in Alaska by living in Tyonek, as part of an Athabascan culture, and then when I worked in the North Slope Borough I traveled to Barrow [now Utqiaġvik] a lot, and experienced the Iñupiaq culture there. So we had an introduction to different cultural wonders from the inside.

different from

brenda: I’m a big proponent of any kind of exchange program, especially for high school kids. It’s such a formative time. I was an exchange student in Turkey in 1970, and it changed my life. I continue to volunteer with exchange students. I think any exposure to something different from your little world really opens up your eyes. Has living away from Alaska changed your perspective on it? What do you miss?

brenda: Alaska is just so special in its urban-rural divide, and the cultural implications. There’s nothing quite like that here. george: Alaska is much more multicultural than Colorado is. We miss that. We also miss our friends in Alaska. Even now, when we come back, we see somebody we know everywhere we go. brenda: We always appreciated Alaska. Maybe that was due to our introduction, and the richness of all the different cultures, and the beauty of all the different places, because we like to be outdoors. It just feeds our soul. ■ — Interview by Lillian Maassen

to something your little world really opens up your eyes.

This lofty assertion calls for citizens to develop the ability to carefully evaluate and shape decisions about issues they confront in their personal and community lives. It requires citizens to understand their own and their nation’s history in order to fully understand the forces that brought us to our present moment. It asks that citizens recognize and accommodate differences in viewpoint and experience as a necessary prelude to shaping strong communities.

Given this charge, each council develops and leads unique programming to share and preserve the history, culture, and stories of its home state; and to engage, inform, and connect citizens. NEH provides funding to support this work—funding that requires a match in private donations. Here in Alaska, individuals, corporations, foundations, and other partners have stepped up to invest in the Forum. Together, we support programs, events, and projects that encourage critical, creative, and compassionate thinking and dialogue about the future of Alaska. Will you join us?

Make a Gift • Give online at—make a monthly pledge or one-time gift • Call Jann Mylet, Director of Development and Communications: (907) 272-5302 • Mail a check to the Forum: 421 W. 1st Avenue, Suite 200, Anchorage, AK 99501 • Double your impact—ask your employer about making a matching gift • Select Alaska Humanities Forum when you Pick. Click.Give.

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NEW HORIZONS The Forum and its partners expand a program to help teachers in rural Alaska By Dean Potter


his should have been done long ago,” says Mark John. As a passionate advocate of Yup’ik culture, John has worked since his youth at Toksook Bay to learn and pass on traditional knowledge and practice Yup’ik ways of life. “When I was in school, teachers weren’t part of the community,” he continues. “None of our culture was incorporated in the school. Now it’s a lot different; we use our culture for teaching. It’s better for the students, it’s better for the elders.” John knows the difference. While his schooling in the 1960s and ᾽70s was barren of Yup’ik content, his father, the late Paul John, lived traditionally and became a revered elder. Today, Mark John is a cultural advisor at Calista Education and Culture, Inc. (CECI), a non-profit that documents traditional knowledge and facilitates education in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. At CECI, he and his colleagues are launching an initiative to enhance rural schools by improving the integration of


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Yup’ik culture into educational settings. It’s called the Yuuyaraq Program, taking its name from the Yup’ik word for the right way to live as a human being. A partnership between CECI, the Alaska Humanities Forum, and school districts, the program creates cultural immersion and mentorship experiences for youth, as well as for teachers who are new to rural Alaska. The Yuuyaraq Program brings new energy, and an emphasis on Alaska Native leadership, to an established and successful endeavor called “Creating Cultural Competence”—C3, for short. The Alaska Humanities Forum launched C3 in 2011 and managed the program for six years. In Southwest Alaska, the Forum collaborated with the Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) and CECI. In Northwest Alaska, the Forum’s partners were the Northwest Arctic Borough School District and the Maniilaq Association. Grants from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) funded the program. C3’s proximate goal was to reduce the high turnover rate of teachers new to rural Alaska. Teachers selected

for the program were given a robust grounding in Alaska Native cultures, including a week’s immersion at a remote culture camp, followed by continuing support as they undertook their first years in village schools—in many cases, their first years in classrooms anywhere. Six years and 113 teachers later, C3 has demonstrated its success. Now, as recipients of new DOE grants, CECI and the Maniilaq Association are helming the programs—Yuuyaraq in the CECI region, and Ilisautilavut Ilisautrit (Teaching the Teachers) in the Maniilaq region. Together with the Forum, they are expanding the programs’ participation and geographic reach, and reinforcing the connections between cultural immersion, teacher retention, and their broader missions to help Alaska Native cultures thrive and grow. The Forum remains a vital member of both partnerships. “Our focus is coordinating and designing the teacher experience and building greater community connection,” says Kameron Perez-Verdia, Forum president and CEO. “We work with the new teachers to prepare them for what can be a transformational experience. We also work with them during and following the culture camps to incorporate this new knowledge and way of thinking into their teaching practice and community relationships. “Creating these kinds of experiences—ones that bridge cultural differences and offer new learning—is the core of what we do at the Forum,” PerezVerdia continues. “We believe such experiences not only offer growth opportunities for the individuals involved, but they help our communities become stronger and healthier places, too. They’re essential to each of our programs, including Take Wing, Leadership Anchorage, Sister School Exchange, Salmon Fellows, and our public programs.” Where learning becomes real

The nuts and bolts of the cultural induction programs are many: an orientation for new teachers; a university-credit class in regionally-specific Alaska Native cultures; a village mentor to help integrate teachers when they reach their destinations; periodic meetings where new teachers reunite for support; surveys and evaluations to measure success. But ask the teachers, students, and elders, and they’ll quickly tell you this: the week they spend together at a remote culture camp is the heart of the program. And subsistence activities are the heart of camp. “It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done,” says teacher Ke’ani Lake, a C3 participant, originally from Oregon, who attended the culture camp near Buckland in 2016. “I was able to help process a seal. I was watching as an elder worked on the seal, and then the ulu was handed over to me. There’s nowhere else in the world that will happen.” Lake elaborates: “There’s a huge difference between studying and reading about another culture,

and actually being immersed. That’s why camp is so important. It’s where learning becomes real and powerful.” Gathered at the July camps are elders, 7th and 8th grade students, about 15 new teachers, and representatives of the Forum, Native organizations, and school districts. One camp is on the Kobuk River, near the village of Kiana. Other camps are near the villages of Umkumiute, Akiak, and St. Mary’s. The

camps are important places where communities return each summer to harvest traditional foods, speak their Native language, tell stories, and pass knowledge from generation to generation. They are places of education. “Teachers see how the elders work with the youth,” says Mark John, of CECI. If the teachers are perceptive, he says, they will see “a way of being that’s passed down from elders to youth.” It’s the Yup’ik way of being—yuuyaraq—that spans social, ecological, and spiritual dimensions. Joshua Gill, human resources director for the LKSD, sees the positive effects of culture camp on newly hired teachers each year. “Camp is special,” he says. “At camp, teachers can get into situations where, in the past, they might have felt uncomfortable. Steam baths, bathing naked together, is not the Western norm, but it’s a regular thing here. You sit together in a steam bath and have a conversation about the week.” “I’m amazed, time after time, how excited the teachers are by their new adventure,” Gill continues. “And once they’ve been to camp, it’s like someone poured gasoline over a fire. They are pumped for the school year that’s about to start.”

AT CULTURE CAMP NEAR BUCKLAND This article is illustrated with scenes of teachers, elders, and youth at the 2015 Buckland culture camp. All photos courtesy of the Northwest Arctic Borough School District.

Slowing the revolving door

As pumped as the new teachers are in August, they face a winter of challenges that, for many of their peers, proves to be too much. They can be worn down by remoteness, cost of living, culture shock, inadequate housing, community health chalA L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S P R I N G 20 18


lenges, and limited access to health care, transportation, and shopping. “Teaching in bush Alaska can be a stretch for people. It’s not for everyone,” says Gill. “A master teacher from a rural Iowa town might fail. It can feel very isolating. And it’s not an eight to five job. The teachers live, eat, and breathe school. Anything that’s going on at the school, the teachers are involved. The amount of work is incredible.” Consequently, teachers often leave after a year or two. For example, the LKSD hired 56 new teachers for the 2013-2014 school year. Of the 43 who did not go through the C3 program, only 10 returned for the next school year. Of the 13 who were selected for C3, all returned. By the fourth year, the retention rate for the C3 group was 62 percent. For the others, it was 21 percent. “The cost to replace teachers is horrific,” testifies Dr. Dale Cope, an education policy researcher who has worked with the Forum to evaluate C3 since its inception. “We have a revolving door in Alaska. If you can get a teacher to stay for just three years, you’ve reduced your costs.” Cope’s research concluded that the up-front investment in a cultural induction program like C3—about $8,000 per teacher—is recovered in two to three years through gains in teacher productivity, and savings in recruitment and support of replacement teachers.


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The benefits of teacher retention are more than economic. “For the students, the continuity is great,” Cope says. Measures of student performance consistently show gaps between high- and low-turnover districts. Joshua Gill concurs: “All the research shows that teacher retention has a huge effect on student achievement. [At LKSD,] we don’t just look at it district-wide, but school by school. We have 27 schools. The data can show dramatic changes [in student outcomes] with teacher turnover.” “The longer teachers stay, the better it is for the kids,” he concludes. Becoming a bridge

“My favorite part of working on C3—and now Ilisautilavut Ilisautrit—is the relationships,” says Kirstie Willean. She is a former teacher and teachermentor, and now serves as an education program coordinator at the Forum, working with the Maniilaq Association and Northwest Arctic Borough School District. Willean explains that the program is a catalyst for deepening relationships: between teachers and communities; teachers and students; teachers and teachers. “The Forum is good at the connection piece,” says Willean. “That’s what the Forum does, bring people together.” Two special connections are forged during the cultural induction program. The cohort of teachers always forms a strong bond. Additionally, friendships with village mentors can be key to incorporating teachers into the life of their communities. “The biggest benefit of camp, by far, is the friendship group created among the teachers,” says Gill. “An amazing bond is created.” Cope’s research confirms this. “We’ve found, every single year, the importance of the cohort,” she says. “These are people who have had a powerful experience together. They feel like they know each other at a deeper level. Someone from your cohort is someone you are growing with.” The teachers can support each other through the year via social media, Skype, and email, and in person at a mid-year gathering. In the LKSD, all new teachers assemble monthly in Bethel. “It’s hard to find hotel rooms for everyone,” Gill says, “but like clockwork, the C3 folks always want to camp out together at the school.” At CECI, Mark John coordinates the village mentorship program in LKSD communities. “When the teachers are connected with a mentor, they get an understanding of the community, the history, the events,” he explains. “Teachers are invited into the mentors’ homes. The mentors are usually elders, and the teachers get connected with their children, too. They can do subsistence activities together, take steam together. Teachers get invited to events, like dancing, first catch, funerals, or weddings. Events where they can meet other members of the community.”

Rea Bavilla, CEO of CECI, emphasizes the value of the relationship. “In a lot of villages, there can be a disconnect between school and community,” she says. “Teachers who have mentors, they can become a bridge. They can bring other teachers into the community. It’s a ripple effect.” To find a mentor, John asks for recommendations from a village. He’s looking for people who are active with subsistence activities and in the community. Bavilla points this out as an example of how CECI relies on the expertise of communities and elders in its education and cultural initiatives. Expansion and growth

CECI enacts a broad cultural mandate across the Calista Region. It works with elders to document traditional geographic names and cultural knowledge. It provides educational and vocational scholarships. And it’s developing a curriculum of traditional life skills for middle and high school students. “Multifaceted but related,” is how Bavilla describes the organization’s activities. When the opportunity arose last year to apply for new DOE funding for the teachers’ cultural induction program, CECI and the Forum didn’t just replicate the initial effort, but expanded its context and scope. Along with the experience for new teachers, the Yuuyaraq Program adds a parallel track of culture camps, projects, and mentorships for middle school students. The teacher camps will be open to rural school administrators, too. The project has expanded to include more districts in the Calista Region: the original Lower Kuskokwim, plus Kuspuk, Yupiit, Lower Yukon, and St. Mary’s. “Other districts have heard the stories of successful teachers getting

out to the communities, and of the improvements in teacher retention there,” reports Dave Lamothe, the Forum’s education program manager. “CECI has a real expansion and growth mindset.” By weaving the teachers’ cultural induction program into a wider effort to strengthen Yup’ik culture in youth, CECI and the Forum are capturing complimentary benefits as they retain the program’s focus on teacher retention. Simply put, it’s hard to bring Alaska Native values and knowledge into the classroom without culturally competent teachers. In the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, Ilisautilavut Ilisautrit is playing a role in cultural education for Iñupiaq youth, too. At the district’s Buckland school, teacher Ke’ani Lake reports that after her experience at culture camp, she could better “facilitate kids learning about their culture. Elders I met at camp can come into the classroom and teach the kids. “I’m Native, too, from down south,” she continues. Going through the program and teaching in Buckland “awakened something in me, to try and help preserve the culture here. I want my [kindergarten] kids to see how important that culture is. There’s a sense of urgency to help the kids want to learn about who they are, about their ancestors.” Rea Bavilla confirms the link between teachers who are culturally competent and youth who are learning to live their cultures. “When youth participate in cultural activities at school or camp, they find an appreciation for who they are and where they come from. They are valued,” she says. “What we’re doing with our partners is very exciting, and it’s been needed for so long. We’re already seeing positive impacts.” ■

All photos courtesy of the Northwest Arctic Borough School District.

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How Does Language Connect Us? How Does Language Divide Us? Dewey Kk’ołeyo Hoffman

Tl’eeyegge Hukkenaaga Hedohu- deg’eeh: I Am Learning Our Language

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In 1998, my Setsoo (grandmother) Lillian Olin spent Thanksgiving dinner with us in Anchorage. After the feast, she told the Tobaan Etseh story. It’s about Porcupine Woman, who was crying on a river bank because she was hungry and stuck on the side opposite her favorite foods. Setsoo told the story in Denaakk’e* first, using the intonations and sways of our language, and then translated to English for us to understand. At one point, Porcupine Woman encounters a river otter who takes pity on her and offers her a ride across the river on its tail. Counter to our core beliefs of respect and seeking balance, Porcupine Woman rejects the offer, saying the otter’s tail is too skinny and resembles a fire poker. The slighted otter fires back: “Hmmph! What do you know anyway, you old tunnel nose!” Setsoo, while cracking up at this, pointed out that in English, it’s just not the same. It falls flat. I felt cheated, excluded from the joke that played on words. As a 13-year-old boy, I decided I was going to figure this out. Jump forward to 2007. I spent a winter with Setsoo in Galena, where I picked

up some conversational Denaakk’e. I also learned how to connect with others and the land surrounding me. The relationships I built then, and the belief in myself, have shaped the mentality I have as a language learner and teacher. Learning our language helped bring to the surface from deep below a fundamental sense of “I can stick to something.” For me, it has been a transformation: to actively choose to create something good, and not to blame myself or others. A grandmother’s love is really what spurred my journey learning Denaakk’e, and it’s the love I have for future generations that keeps me going. Hedo’kūhūdeł’eehenh. I am a teacher. Currently I speak and sing to my prekindergarten students in Denaakk’e. My hope is that these 20 will see that our language and practices have value and are fun. We can be who we are, here and now. Working with our language and youth will help prevent anyone else sharing that feeling of being cheated. I want them to hear elders or learners out in public—at the store or at the basketball game—and think “Denaakk’e henaayh!” “That person is speaking our language!”

* Denaakk’e, also known as Koyukon Athabascan, originates from areas surrounding the central Yukon River and all of the Koyukuk River. Our 3,000-plus people now live all across Alaska and the world. I estimate that there are 250 active Denaakk’e learners of all ages and races, each continuing our arts, songs, and practices in schools and families. Anyone can learn and anyone can teach. Here’s a fun one for you to try: If you are feeling happy you can say sodegets’eeyh! (soda-gets-eeeh.) Try to say that one without smiling. Find more information and audio samples at: www.

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Dewey Kk’ołeyo Hoffman is an associate educator at the Fairbanks Native Association’s Indigenous Language Project, a Head Start program for three- to five-year-olds that provides instruction and support in Koyukon Athabascan language, culture, and traditions. Originally from Ruby, Dewey was given the name Kk’ołeyo by his grandmother, after her grandfather Big Jim Kk’ołeyo; it means “long distance walker.” He earned his BA from Dartmouth College in 2009, and is working toward a master’s in education.

Itzel Yarger-Zagal

Keep It Quiet! Itzel Yarger-Zagal grew up below the volcano Popocatepetl in a town called Tepetlixpa. Her writing is influenced by her experiences as a child growing up in rural Mexico and then later as a human rights advocate throughout Mexico, Central America, and the United States. She writes bilingual poetry, children’s stories, and short stories on issues related to immigration, decolonization, gender equality, and peace, among others. “Ammo Xinahuitl!” That’s Náhuatl, the language spoken by the Aztecs, for “keep it quiet!” My great-aunt Prima would say this to us when somebody was listening and we should be quiet or change the topic. She grew up during the Mexican Revolution when you had to watch what you said because your life depended on it. My aunt Prima was the last person in my family to speak fluent Náhuatl. As a way to remember her and preserve Náhuatl, we say it as much as we can. We don’t need to often, but it is useful when my son is being too loud: “Ammo Xinahuitl!” We moved to Alaska when my son was eight months old. My husband got a job teaching Spanish, and I started the journey of being a new mother in a place I had never before imagined. Being so far from Mexico is difficult, and I want my son to be proud of what he is, even as he faces negative stereotypes about Mexicans. The image of the “bad hombre” profoundly hurts my heart, because it negatively labels my father, my Latino friends, and of course my own son. I counter this environment by telling my son good things about Mexico. I tell him stories about good hombres and mujeres, like Emiliano Zapata and Sor Juana. We do everything in Spanish, because language is the door to experience a culture. We play traditional games like adivinanzas, a guessing game with rhymes. We listen to traditional music and we dance. We make tortillas from scratch. It is difficult to love and appreciate a culture you are not familiar with, and so it is essential for me to find ways to encourage my son to love his roots, brownness, music, food, and Aztec heritage along with his Spanglish. The result so far is that my son is fearlessly bilingual, bicultural, and in love with Alaska. He loves snow as much as he loves Mexican food. Despite the long, dark winters, I am grateful of the beauty Alaska and Alaskans have to offer. While at times I have felt judged for speaking Spanish to my son, I mainly feel accepted and even applauded for doing so. The challenge gets greater as our son grows, and schools and the public arena decide what is cool. They say a language can get lost in two generations. I only can hope that our music keeps going in our family and that all languages, especially those humming in very few tongues, never keep it quiet! Aic ammo xinahuitl!

Luisa Nemitz

‘Yes, I Understand What You Want!’ Luisa Nemitz is a native of Berlin, Germany. She came to Anchorage five months ago to live and work as a nanny for one year, before returning to Germany for university. She had a little English from her education in Germany, but enrolled in English classes twice a week at the Alaska Literacy Program to improve her fluency. FORUM sat down with Luisa for a conversation about learning English; passages are transcribed here. In October, when I came here, my English was not so good. It was difficult for me to understand the family. By Christmas time, it was better. But it still goes up and down. To live here, I must have a bank account. After I got here, I opened an account. Two days later, a person from the bank called me to ask if everything was okay. I didn’t understand; it was really hard to speak over the phone. They had to ask four times before I knew what they wanted. It was really hard to have someone call and say something about money and not to understand. I also filled out a lot of documents to live here, like the Social Security card. And, I studied hard for my driver’s license test. So, my English is getting better and better. I must speak English or I might miss something important. Now, I have more practice, English school, and I hear English all day. I feel comfortable to talk with people, and say, “Yes, I understand what you want!” I’m really happy about this. I feel like part of the country and not so much of an outsider. I’ve met people from other countries who have lived here for five, seven years, but their English is not so good. I don’t understand: to live here a long time and not speak English. It must be very difficult for your job. I must have English for my job. Even in Germany, there is so much English. In Berlin, people who are speaking German use words of English, too. There is English in the cinema, in the music. I want to be an airline pilot, so I need English. Pilots speak English in Europe. Here, when I see other au pairs, French au pairs, we can speak English together. When I need a break, I can speak German with German au pairs; that’s really nice. But, I couldn’t live without English. ■

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2018 Annual Grants THIS YEAR, NEARLY $80,000 will be provided to eight annual

grant proposals that support the mission of the Alaska Humanities Forum: educate the public; get people talking; increase public access; preserve and promote Alaska’s stories. From performances to documentaries to exhibitions to books, these projects represent the entire state in scope and subject.

14 Miles $9,850 / Sitka / Artchange, Inc.

14 Miles is a documentary film project set in Sitka. From one end of town to the other, there are 14 miles of road. While the distance is not long, the potential to engage people in a series of three- to four-minute documentaries is abundant. 14 Miles has two parallel goals: to examine Alaskan identity, community, and values; and to explore the use of social media and online culture as a tool to cultivate conversation and share stories. Additionally, the project team will host public gatherings and a series of local tours. Alaska Water Wars $10,000 / Arctic National Wildlife Refuge / Daysha Eaton

Alaska Water Wars will bring to life the resource development conflict over a proposal to open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development, elevating and amplifying voices of indigenous peoples of the Interior and North Slope regions. Although ANWR is usually framed as a lands issue, oil and gas drilling there would impact waters, including lakes, lagoons, deltas, glaciers, and ultimately the Beaufort Sea. Under the Trump administration, public lands, which are often congruent with the traditional territories of indigenous people, are quickly opening to resource development. Alaska Water Wars will make indigenous Alaskan voices and perspectives central to the storytelling. Eyes Closed: Living Stories of Anchorage’s Children $10,000 / Anchorage / Keys to Life

Eyes Closed will be an exhibition, and accompanying book, to visually represent the dreams and stories of 16 children from immigrant and under-served communities in Anchorage. The exhibition panels will be strategically placed in the city to introduce diversity in a symbolic way, and promote cross-cultural understanding through art. Public programs, a school curriculum, and a cross-city exchange will follow in order to foster interaction and understanding. IllumiNative $10,000 / Anchorage / Alaska Native Heritage Center

The two-year IllumiNative project will showcase Dena’ina culture through three approaches. Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC) will erect signs to identify 11 Dena’ina sites, including information about the name and historical significance of each. ANHC will install digital kiosks at the Heritage Center and the Anchorage Visitor’s Center, featuring interactive information including videos and virtual reality experiences. Finally, ANHC will work with artists to create both permanent and temporary art installations at select sites recognizing and highlighting the historical significance of Dena’ina people and culture in Anchorage.


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Our Alaskan Stories $10,000 / Statewide / Island Institute

Our Alaskan Stories is a student filmmaking program based at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, Alaska’s state-run boarding school for rural students. Now in its third year, the program teaches small groups of students technological and narrative skills to share stories of home—from Hooper Bay to Hydaburg; Kongiganak to Kodiak. After last year’s screening, nearly a third of the Mt. Edgecumbe student body expressed interest in joining the program and making films of their stories. This grant will allow the program to expand, while deepening the quality of experience for the young filmmakers. Ping Chong + Company: Undesirable Elements: Juneau Histories $10,000 / Juneau / Juneau Arts and Humanities Council

above: Rachel Chew, an Artchange intern, and filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein, 14 Miles project director, drove from one end of Sitka to the other to see if it is truly 14 miles (it’s 14.3). Photo courtesy of Ellen Frankenstein left: James Wassillie of Iliamna was photographed by Brian Adams for the first installment of Alaska Water Wars. Adams teams up with journalist Daysha Eaton for the next, which will focus on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Brian Adams

below: A still from the documentary film WE UP depicts Amoc, a Sámi rapper from Inari, Finland. Amoc raps in the critically endangered Inari Sámi language. Photo courtesy of David Holthouse

Ping Chong + Company, a New York-based theatrical group, produces works that explore the intersections of race, culture, history, art, media, and technology. Undesirable Elements: Juneau Histories examines a range of forgotten and overlooked histories of the community as it undergoes rapid change. Working through an interview process with artists, community members, and civic and cultural leaders, the company will help unearth and examine deepseated issues, and facilitate dialogue around them to build greater cultural understanding and appreciation. Revisiting the Lost Villages of the Aleutian Islands $10,000 / Aleutian Islands / Unalaska Community Broadcasting, Inc.

During World War II, the Aleutian Islands became a front line in the Pacific theater. The arrival of war resulted in mass relocations of the Unangan people. Several villages were never resettled. Evacuation had a profound impact on culture and identity that continues to resonate today. Public media productions for radio, television, and multimedia will weave together archival content and conversations with second-, third-, and fourth-generation descendants about their quest to recover family history and restore cultural identity disrupted by World War II. WE UP: Indigenous Hip-Hop

of the Circumpolar North $10,000 / Statewide / Anchorage Museum Association WE UP: Indigenous Hip-Hop of the Circumpolar North combines a

feature-length documentary film and traveling exhibit to tell stories and showcase talent from Alaska and around the Arctic. Forty years after hip-hop culture was born in the South Bronx, its “four elements”—rapping (MC’ing), breakdancing, graffiti, and turntablism (DJ’ing)—are being reinterpreted in fascinating ways by young indigenous artists in far-flung places of the circumpolar north. From Sámi reindeer-herding towns in Norway, to public housing blocks in Greenland, to Iñupiaq and Yup’ik villages in Alaska, indigenous northern hip-hop artists are challenging stereotypes, revitalizing endangered languages, and grafting timeless traditions and stories onto a new medium. ■ A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S P R I N G 20 18



welve years ago, I made the pilUpon my arrival in Juneau, I climbed up grimage up Juneau’s Franklin Street to Ob- Franklin Street and entered the dark old servatory Books, as many had done before store, then stumbled over a Golden Retrievme. Like all bibliophiles, readers, and his- er spread across the only empty floor space. tory buffs, my book radar constantly pinged, As my vision adjusted, I said hello, and a and Observatory Books—purveyor of used, friendly voice answered. Behind a huge old rare, and vintage volumes, among much desk, a tiny, birdlike woman smiled and said, else—returned a strong echo. I lived in Sitka “How can I help you?” It was Dee Longenthen, and during my research on the Jewish baugh, proprietor. I launched into a sing-songy narrative history of the American West, I discovered a thread to pull: a tidbit of information I about the history of the Teichmann Diary. thought might become a quirky footnote to When I concluded, she simply said, “I have Alaska’s Jewish history. I wanted to be the two copies, and I will sell one of them.” She got up, disappeared into the stacks, one who noted it, so I boarded the overnight ferry for Juneau with my sights set on the and in five seconds flat she returned and handed me the volume: $90. well-known bookstore. “Wow, my goodness, thanks,” I said, gobThe object of my quest was the “Teichmann Diary,” also known by its official title, smacked. That seemed far too easy. A Journey to Alaska in the Year 1868: Being “My copy is in the original binding, but I a Diary of the Late Emil Teichmann. An don’t want to sell it,” Dee explained. “This edition of 100 was published in 1925, and one is rebound, the only other one. Now, sit a reprint of 750 was issued in 1963. Teich- and tell me about yourself and what you are mann visited Sitka as a representative of a doing in Sitka.” fur company during the feverish boom that This was my first taste of Dee’s erudite perfollowed the transfer of Alaska from Russia sonality and steel-trap memory for historito the U.S. The diary reveals him to be the cal information. As she and I sat and chatted, spoiled son of a rich man, prudishly critical the bright noonday waned. I departed into of the rough and rowdy outpost that Sitka dusk, mentally whipped after discussing evwas at that time. Most noteworthy, the book erything from the North Pacific voyages of contains the first published description of the French to Ernest Gruening’s participation in the establishment of Israel. Jewish people in Alaska (see page 30).


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TA L E OF CONTE NTS What happened on the corner when the corner bookshop closed By Patti David

above : Author Patti David examines documents while working on the liquidation of Observatory Books. The bookstore was renowned for its collection of Alaska historical sources, among much else. Photo by Liz Kellar / Juneau Empire

left : The store’s former premises in Juneau are presently vacant. David established a “free library” under the awnings to distribute some of the store’s stock. Photo by Ben Huff

I had no idea that afternoon that twelve long years later that I would return to Observatory Books, this time to liquidate the historic institution after Dee, rather suddenly, lost most of her eyesight and closed the shop. the day i arrived to begin dismantling the bookshop, I set my coffee down and stood in silence. No point in saying hello this time; I was alone. It was not so much a silence as an absence of something. Dee’s wool sweater was still wrapped around the shoulders of her chair. Her coffee mug rested on the old desk. Since my encounter with Dee over the Teichmann Diary, I had broadened my work to include handling dispositions of private libraries and estate art. When the Juneau writer and poet Marylou Spartz informed me that the store had been closed for nine months, I inquired about the fate of the materials. Soon after, Dee’s family contracted me to facilitate the liquidation. The first days were almost like shopping. I sat and looked intently at books piled everywhere. For forty years—first in Sitka, finally in Juneau—Dee had been collecting and dealing in books. Buried under the layers was an astonishing conglomeration of great stuff: about 30,000 books, 20,000 pieces of ephemera, and 500 maps. The place was

a labyrinth of bookcases protruding into rooms. Nobody ever got as much out of the square footage of a retail space as Dee Longenbaugh did at Observatory Books, that’s for sure. A thick layer of gray dust coated books, shelf edges, Dee’s sweater, even the walls. I coughed constantly. The Taku winds swept in a fine silt in the months the shop was closed. I penciled out a plan of attack: first get rid of junk and clutter, then assess each bookshelf. It was not just a matter of organizing books—it was a major cleaning job, then organizing the books. The bookcases were loaded, and atop them more books were stacked toward the ceiling. Books were piled haphazardly on the floor, in front of the desk, along the walls, and across parts of the maze. The back doorway of the shop was blocked by a solid wall of huge, old legislative manuals and dozens of text books. They had been stacked there purposely, to provide security against a druggie who kept breaking in the door to steal petty cash. Along with three fake cameras, this stack of books was the store’s security apparatus. Their removal uncovered four valuable travel books—missing for a decade—with pristine maps inside. (Another such find was when I picked up two fairly recent magazines and something fell from between them. It appeared to be continued on page 31 A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S P R I N G 20 18


Teichmann’s Diary and Early Alaska Jews In 1868, Emil Teichmann was an awkward, 25-year-old Ivy League kid stuck for the summer in Sitka. It was a place packed with humanity: frontiersmen off the plains, Civil War veterans, Presbyterian missionaries, Navy seamen, shipwrights, Russian priests, prostitutes, schoolmistresses, a Chinese grocer, Aleut sealers working Sitka Sound in bidarkas, and Tlingit families segregated along the quay in a ghetto called “the Ranche.” Among those Teichmann recorded in his diary was the merchant Abraham Cohen, who was a Prussian immigrant and a Jew.

Emil Teichmann’s diary was published with illustrations in his own hand. Above: “Greek Catholic Church in New Archangel, Sitka. E.T. 1868.”


Cohen came to Alaska with three other Jewish men, sponsored by the Alaska Commercial Company and the San Francisco Jewish Federation. His migration was part of a movement put in place by Jewish Federations in New York, Cincinnati, Denver, and San Francisco to establish an immigrant pipeline across the U.S. At the time, Jewish immigrants from Europe—many of whom, like Cohen, were fleeing persecution—had poured into northeastern America. Nativists howled at Congress. In response Jews organized to send new immigrants to the West, where they worked in Federation-sponsored mercantile stores along the trade routes of gold rushes and rail lines. A percentage of the stores’ sales went to the Federation to sponsor other Jews.

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Cohen, as a Russian speaker, was valuable to the Alaska Commercial Company, which was positioned to fill the lucrative vacuum in the fur seal trade created by the Russian departure. The Aleuts and most Tlingits spoke Russian, as did the remnants of the Russian commercial establishment. Teichmann expressed his distaste for the Jews’ business of brewing beer and “most likely purveying of women of the night.” There is no evidence elsewhere that the Jewish merchants of early Sitka operated a brothel, but brewing beer was indeed one of Cohen’s occupations. Since migrating to Alaska, Cohen had been joined by his wife and daughters, and at least seven more Jewish men. Cohen’s daughters became the first two female postmasters in the Territory of Alaska (and quite possibly the entire country). In his diary, Teichmann mentions staying in Cohen’s hotel: Our sleeping quarters, which were built only of planks, abutted on another hut which was used as a warehouse by a Jewish trader. Up to then I had never heard a sound there in the evenings, but on that night my curiosity was aroused by the murmur of several voices in the adjoining room. Looking through a crevice I saw quite an assembly of some twenty men all of the Jewish persuasion, who were holding their Sabbath services and reading their prayers under the leadership of the oldest man present who took the place of the Rabbi. It was a memorable thing to see this religious gathering in so strange a setting and it said a great deal for the persistence with which the Jews everywhere, even in the most remote countries, practise their devotional exercises.

It seems likely Teichmann heard them praying in Russian, rather than Hebrew, but we will never know. His observation is the first published description of Jewish people in Alaska. —Patti David

When it closed, Observatory Books contained about 30,000 books, 20,000 pieces of ephemera, and 500 maps. Most of the valuable Alaska historical materials found new homes in local institutions. Top right and bottom left photos by Liz Kellar / Juneau Empire. Other photos by Joel Bennett.

a small invitation envelope and, thinking loads of books. For weeks it was just locals, a series of short scripts—characters move in I would place it with Dee’s personal papers, then locals and tourists. Pilots, cruise-ship and out of the frame, pausing to tell stories I discovered it was a 1950 Christmas card crews, tourists on return trips—each arrived of how they met Dee, or how they came to from Robert Frost.) at the doorway, read the “store closed” sign, Juneau, or what they think of Trump, or the The locals passing by had quit glancing in then looked up the sidewalk and noticed me. ferry system. And they often asked: “Will the windows months ago. They did not seem “It’s closed?” they asked. “Unbelievable.” the important Alaska stuff Dee had stay in to notice the lights were on for a change. I Alaska? Maybe go to the State Museum?” came and went many times before anybody when she had been there, Dee held court For many weeks I trekked to the shop, said anything. I spent weeks behind papered at her desk. I was drawn to the sidewalk, be- unlocked the heavy glass and oak door, and windows, sorting, organizing, and making cause once the doors were open, the com- faced the same question: what would becalls. When springtime brought a rare sunny munity came by to say hello. I met people come of the books? The maps and ephemday to Juneau, the blocked door was pri- from all walks of life; Dee had been an oc- era? The rare and valuable and the almost oritized, unblocked, and swung open. Fresh casional source of income for several street worthless? Tongass breezes scoured out some of the dust, people who sold books to her and it took Each bookcase held a very wide range of and the job took a new turn as my solitary some finesse to reset their expectation levels values; treasures were shelved next to books sorting inside was over. to zero. I found over the months that side- I literally could not give away. A rare copy I began setting obsolete and low-value vol- walks are a more equitable place to solve po- of a volume by Harriet Beecher Stowe was umes outside, along the window ledges under litical issues than a legislature or a bar; the crammed between Watergate bios. I was not the awnings. People stopped and we chatted sidewalk next to a bookstore welcomes every selling retail, but rather wholesale, since this on the sidewalk as I stocked this free library opinion, from every flavor of human being. was a liquidation—and in Juneau, at that. and padded in and out the back with arm- My time on the sidewalk can be viewed as The job required sorting by value: books not A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S P R I N G 20 18


worth the price of shipment, to be distrib- ens of maps were lost, there were many othuted locally; books worth shipment in bulk, ers, including early maps of Alaska, that were to be sold at retail Outside; and books worth given to the State Museum to consider. Dee Longenbaugh’s impatient curiosity special attention for their value to historians about Alaska led to her distinguished collecand collectors. One primary goal was to send as little as tion, now happily the property of the people possible to the landfill. This pledge, carried of Alaska. This is perhaps the greatest legacy out through the dedication of one volunteer, of Observatory Books. Trish Beckwith, resulted in less than half a garbage can of trash ending up at the dump. the day i finished the job at the bookstore, For weeks, the free library outside the store I sat in the empty, echoing space in the late was continually refreshed. It was a pleasure afternoon light of September. The books to watch folks excitedly find a good read. were gone, the walls bare of bookcases, and Many books went right into homes that people passed by without looking in, just could not afford to buy books at any price. as on that first morning. After a summer of When the books were gone, we dragged the conversations, the corner grew quiet as the old particle-board bookcases to the curb; last cartons were lugged out and trucked people came back and carried those away, away. Next year, visitors will find no one to counsel them about the old bookstore and too. The bulk of the nice volumes worth less their memories of Dee. The corner shop, too, has been returned than $5 were donated to the Amazing Bookstore, run by the Friends of the Juneau Pub- to the community. For now, it’s empty. The lic Library. The spinning paperback racks at shop had been a neighborhood market, a the senior center, Bartlett Regional Hospital, small political press, and a pizza joint before ferry terminal, and Glory Hole Shelter and it was the bookstore. There’s a bakery in the Soup Kitchen reaped a basement; in fact, it is couple of fill-ups. The likely the books and balance of the better ephemera upstairs survived the wet Juneau books and the maps climate because the will be offered for baker’s ovens dried the sale through Andrew air rising through the Langer Books in Berkeley, California. floorboards. It seems Dee’s renowned remarkable only one Russian-America colshelf held moldy books. lection came into play That last day, I stood after a major collector there thinking: There declined to take it. This was a time I lived with was a true blessing for many books. These the people of Alaska. days I keep just a few, Museums were invited preferring to save my to look over the materilimited wall space for als. Hundreds of books, art, I suppose. Of all documents, ephemera, the books I could have journals, and maps are chosen from the store, today part of the collections of the Alaska I kept not one. I even donated my copy of State Museum, Sealaska Heritage Institute, the Teichmann Diary to the Sitka Historical and Juneau-Douglas City Museum. Among Museum. the materials are copies of President Andrew Yet, a bookshop will always glow within Johnson’s 1868 welcome to Alaska’s formerly- my heart because of Observatory Books. So Russian residents, in which he advised them I do have books, after all. ■ on how to interact with their new government, who was in command, how laws were Postscript: Dee Longenbough passed away on made, and the benefits they would enjoy as February 9, 2018, in Juneau. citizens of the United States. Other treasures include original inaugural speech notes by Patti David wrote about the artist Alfred Gov. William Egan; a cookbook from a 1901 Skondovitch in the Spring 2014 issue Nome gold camp; and rare chapbooks by of FORUM. She also writes about her John Haines, the late Fairbanks poet. And life in Alaska. She may be contacted at despite a robbery two years ago, when doz-

The sidewalk next to a bookstore

welcomes every

opinion, from every flavor of human being.


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Leadership Anchorage Projects Focus on Equity and Inclusion Applying lessons learned through community-based, small group projects is a core component and enduring legacy of Leadership Anchorage (LA). Over the past 20 years, LA participants have connected with a wide range of organizations and community champions to meet real needs. In these partnerships, LA groups help to plan, manage, market, or research new projects. In the past two years, projects have been focused on supporting the Municipality of Anchorage’s Welcoming Anchorage initiative: building a stronger community through supporting and celebrating equity and inclusion. Following are the organizations and projects currently benefiting from collaboration with LA. ALASKA FOOD POLICY COUNCIL (AFPC): ANCHORAGE URBAN FARM PROJECT

AFPC’s mission is “a healthy, secure food system that feeds all Alaskans.” The Council seeks to promote the local food economy, as well as revitalize downtown Anchorage and adjacent neighborhoods, through the development of a highly-visible, working urban farm. A key strategy for project success is equity and inclusion in farm development, implementation, and impacts. ACLU OF ALASKA: KNOW YOUR RIGHTS VOLUNTEER PROGRAM

It is critically important that constitutional rights are robustly defended, but that is difficult to do if people do not know what their rights are, how to exercise them, or what to do if their rights are violated. A community striving to be equitable and inclusive must ensure that all its residents—not only those who are economically or socially privileged—are aware of their rights. As part of their public education work, ACLU is interested in creating a

Forum’s First Alaska History Day a Success

The Leadership Anchorage 21 cohort assembled in November, 2017.

comprehensive “Know Your Rights” program to train volunteers to give educational presentations to a wide variety of community groups including students, new Americans, and members of historically marginalized communities. THE ALASKA CENTER: CIVIC ENGAGEMENT WITH NEW VOTERS IN MOUNTAIN VIEW AND FAIRVIEW

The voter turnout rate in Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood is 6%; in Fairview, 6.6%. In 2018, the Municipality of Anchorage will transition to Vote by Mail (VBM). While the city will focus on educating currently registered voters about VBM, the Anchorage Community Land Trust, Cook Inlet Housing Authority, and The Alaska Center are pooling efforts to engage new voters at the neighborhood level in Mountain View and Fairview. Leadership Anchorage is helping to welcome them into the democratic process. JAPAN ALASKA ASSOCIATION (JAA): CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: KOTATSU SERIES

The Japan Alaska Association is partnering with LA21 to implement changes to its Kotatsu Series of community discussions that share, honor, and preserve Alaska’s

Spring marked the first Alaska History Day state contest coordinated by the Alaska Humanities Forum. Alaskan students first entered the nationwide contest in 1989, when it was under the auspices of the National Park Service. For this year’s event, more than 400 students in grades 6-12 researched a topic in history that resonated with them, and explored it through the lens of the national theme, “Conflict and Compromise in History.” Students created websites, wrote papers, made exhibits, performed, and produced short films. Topics included Agent Orange: Cooking Up Compromises; Mass Panic: The Postwar Comic Book Crisis; the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the Christmas Truce of World War I, among many others. One project, about subsistence rights in the Arctic, was inspired by a student’s grandfather.

Japanese traditions. The kotatsu refers to a heated wooden table that is often the central gathering place and main heat source in Japanese homes. JAA seeks to reach a larger audience, create stronger ties within the Japanese community and the broader community, and help preserve cultural traditions and experiences. A wider goal is to create a replicable structure of a discussion series that other cultural groups may utilize to form peaceful bonds for a stronger community. BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS (BBBS): BIG CONNECTION

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska’s mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong, enduring, professionallysupported mentor relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. BBBS has connected thousands of healthy adult volunteers (“Bigs”) with children facing adversity (“Littles”) in Alaska for decades. While volunteers and children are matched in the program they are engaged in the mission of the organization. After the match ends, however, BBBS often loses touch with the volunteers and children. LA is assisting BBBS in developing strategies to deepen connections to its alumni.

The Fairbanks Regional Alaska History Day Contest was held at Pioneer Park Civic Center in February.

Regional contests were held in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Haines; winners (and entrants who didn’t have access to a regional contest) advanced to an online statewide contest. Schools with noteworthy performances include Barnette Magnet School and West Valley High School in Fairbanks; Haines Elementary and Middle School; and Begich Middle School, Rogers Park Elementary, and Romig Middle School in Anchorage. Winners of the state contest will be determined in April; they become eligible to compete at the national contest, June 10-14 in Washington, D.C. To get involved, visit or contact Amanda Dale ( ■ A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S P R I N G 20 18



What Others See in You LA21 participant Victoria Baldwin recounts surviving adversity and growing into leadership

VICTORIA BALDWIN is a member of the 21st cohort of Leadership

Anchorage (LA). In the U.S. Air Force for ten years, Baldwin has moved through four domestic stations and two overseas deployments. She is a mother to an energetic preschooler, and when she’s not fulfilling her commitment to the military, she pursues photography, writing, do-it-yourself projects, and weight lifting. She plans to complete a degree in social work and pursue a career in public service after she leaves the military.

I’ve been fortunate to survive a lot of things that could have

How did you decide to join the Air Force?

I enlisted at 18 years old, less than a month after I graduated from high school. Like any teenager, I thought I knew it all. I joined the Air Force because, as one of nine kids, I knew I couldn’t go to college without falling into lifelong debt. I also felt like I needed to get out of the small Idaho town I called home at that time. Unfortunately, I didn’t take my work seriously, or the responsibility that came with wearing the cloth of my nation. I got in trouble as a young airman. My very first performance report was a referral— not a good thing. I was also overweight, which isn’t something you’d expect from someone in the military. Essentially, I was this close to losing my career when a non-commissioned officer sat me down for a strict talking-to, with a bit of a heart-to-heart. He told me I had potential and that I could recover from my mistakes, with a lot of work, and have a great career. I heeded his advice and still maintain a friendship with him today. My career took a turn for the better and I have progressed to the rank of E6 [a non-commissioned officer]. What are your duties?

I’m a health services manager. I have a lot of opportunities as far as duty positions go. I can work with manpower and funding requirements in the medical group, run the administrative portion of a medical clinic, work medical readiness and ensure members are trained and qualified to deploy in contingency operations. I’m currently working a special job opportunity as First Term Airmen Center Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge. I run the five-day professional development program that all active duty airmen attend within 30 days of arriving at their first operational Air Force duty station. It’s a very rewarding job and allows me to help guide and mentor these new recruits, and hopefully set them up for success early in their career.


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destroyed me. I like to say, “It could break me, but instead, it made me.”

You’ve advanced despite a difficult upbringing. Will you tell us about that?

I grew up in unfavorable conditions. Many people, even my own family, didn’t expect me to make anything of my life, given the circumstances of my upbringing, which included abuse, abandonment, mental health crises with both of my biological parents, and the fact I didn’t live with my own parents after I was 12. I’ve been fortunate to survive a lot of things that could have destroyed me. I like to say, “It could break me, but instead, it made me.” Most recently, I’ve been moving through the trauma and heartbreak of losing my five-yearold brother to child abuse in April 2017. I try and use my painful experiences as a road map of what not to do in my life, how not to treat people, and hopefully channel it into a source of inspiration for others who may be struggling. I’ve found that being open and honest with the challenges, heartbreak, and setbacks that life can bring gives me the opportunity to inspire others to persevere and be better than they were before. How did you first hear about Leadership Anchorage? What drew you to the program?

Chief Master Sergeant Dave Wolfe, who used to be stationed with me, sent me the program info with the message, “You should apply

for this!” I’ve learned that when a leader or mentor offers an opportunity, even if you may not feel you’re qualified, you should take it. It means they see something in you that you may not see in yourself. I have always been drawn to community service, development, improvement, and giving back. It seemed that Leadership Anchorage was exactly that. How’s LA going? Does what you’re learning jibe with the leadership qualities you’ve acquired through your military service?

It’s really great to work with so many people of different backgrounds and experiences. I am the only active duty military in the group, though I know at least two are military veterans. Some of the very same leadership lessons we’ve covered in LA have been taught in my military career, so it’s great to know that the Air Force and the civilian sector have some of the same priorities in professional development. In LA, I’ve learned to be more careful with the language I use when talking to others, and I’ve developed a better understanding of perspectives and how our own unique experiences can influence how we approach a problem or situation. Which group project are you working on in LA?

I’m part of a team that is creating an alumni program for Big Brothers Big Sisters Alaska. We still have a few more weeks to develop our plan, and we’re trying not to reinvent the wheel, so we’ve been reaching out to other BBBS organizations to see if they have insight on lessons learned or successes with already-established programs. Each LA participant picks the project they would like to work on. I consider myself lucky to have ended up with the group I did; they are truly inspiring.

The Alaska Humanities Forum: A Good Pick Pick.Click.Give. allows Alaskans to easily share part or all of their Permanent Fund Dividend with nonprofit organizations they care about. The 2018 PFD application period runs through March 31; donations can be added or amended through August. When you apply, please consider making a gift to the Alaska Humanities Forum.

What do you think you’ll carry with you once you’ve completed LA?

We conducted an in-depth personality assessment. I found that to be valuable, to better understand who I am and perhaps why I’m drawn to the things that I am. And it’s highlighted some of my weaknesses, but also connected me with people who have my weaknesses as their strengths. They are willing to mentor me and help develop my abilities. As the saying goes, iron sharpens iron. So I think I will most value the relationships when we graduate in May. — Interview by Lillian Maassen A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S P R I N G 20 18


Gary Holthaus (left), honored for lifetime achievement in the humanities, was the first executive director of the Alaska Humanities Forum. Here, he speaks with the Forum’s current president and CEO, Kameron Perez-Verdia.

Tending the Flame The 2018 Governor’s Arts and Humanities Awards


e find ourselves in a darkened world, and we are reminded that many sources of light exist to give us hope,” remarked Alaska Writer Laureate Ernestine Hayes in her opening blessing at the 2018 Governor’s Arts and Humanities Awards. “And of those sources, we are surrounded tonight by resolute, substantial, brilliant flames of the arts, humanities, social justice, community service, and the human caring we find in and receive from one another.” Hayes, an author, professor, and Alaska Humanities Forum board member, addressed a packed house gathered to honor eight Alaskans for their work connecting people, enriching lives, and strengthening communities across our state. This annual celebration is a partnership of the Alaska Humanities Forum, Alaska State Council on the Arts, and the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation, with generous support from the Office of the Governor and longstanding lead sponsors ConocoPhillips and Rasmuson Foundation. The event was held at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center for the third time. Awards for service to the humanities were given in the categories of leadership, education, community, and lifetime achievement. This year’s awardees were all honored for their roles in bringing others’ stories to light—helping people find their voices, providing a stage, advocating for a place in the history books, and forging connections across, race, class, and cultural divides.

Nominations for the Governor’s Awards Each year, nominations for the Governor’s Arts and Humanities Awards are submitted by the public and reviewed by board members of the Alaska Humanities Forum and Alaska State Council on the Arts. Awardees are ultimately confirmed by the Governor. Further details about all of this year’s awardees and event sponsors, and information about nominating for the 2019 awards, can be found at


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Susan Anderson, CEO of The CIRI Foundation, was honored for Service to the Humanities in Leadership.

Susan Anderson Service to the Humanities in Leadership

Susan Anderson has served as president and CEO of The CIRI Foundation (TCF) for the past 18 years. Anderson is of Tlingit heritage and an original CIRI enrollee. She is dedicated to helping people change their lives through education and cultural knowledge. “Connecting the stories of my relatives led me to my work,” she reflected in her acceptance remarks. “I work in collaboration with so many others to try and weave the threads to help communities find their voice and strengthen themselves, which in turn helps to improve Alaska’s social, economic, and civic life.” Anderson was one of the first TCF scholarship recipients, support that made it possible for her to earn a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in adult education administration. She now pays it forward by helping others achieve their educational dreams. “Susan is a culture warrior,” said Forum President and CEO Kameron Perez-Verdia when he presented Anderson with her award. “Not only for CIRI, but for all indigenous peoples.”

Matt Rafferty and Arran Forbes accepted Arctic Entries’ award for Service to the Humanities in Community.

The Alaska Highway Project team accepts its award from Gov. Bill Walker. The award was made by artist Amy Meissner, profiled on page 10. All photos by Ron Gile.

Arctic Entries Service to the Humanities in Community

Alaska Highway Project Service to the Humanities in Education

Gary Holthaus Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities

Arctic Entries is a volunteer-led community storytelling organization based in Anchorage. At each of their shows, seven people—most with no previous training or stage experience—tell a true, seven-minute story about themselves in front of a live audience. Based on the premise that storytelling has long fostered social connection, Arctic Entries invites people to participate in this fundamentally human exchange. Arran Forbes and Matt Rafferty accepted the award on behalf of the group. Humbled by the recognition, they claimed that they really just provide a space. “The real recognition goes to our storytellers,” Forbes said. “The men, women, and occasionally the kids who brave the stage and the bright lights and the microphone and come up and bring our community a little closer together just by sharing a piece of themselves.” She reflected that the thirst for personal connection has given the concept momentum over the years; today, its shows, held on the main stage at the Performing Arts Center in Anchorage, often sell out.

The Alaska Highway Project team was recognized for its efforts over the past six years to research and share stories of the nearly 5,000 African-American soldiers who helped build the ALCAN highway. In 1942, these “colored regiments” proved their competence as construction engineers building “The First Road to Civil Rights.” Their efforts on the Alaska Highway ultimately helped lead to the desegregation of the United States Military in 1948. A volunteer team of educators, artists, a journalist, and an author brought this overlooked story to light. They contributed to the Alaska Highway component of the Alaska Studies Curriculum, and brought 97-year-old veteran Leonard Larkins back to Alaska during the Highway’s 75th anniversary celebration. Plans are underway to build a memorial sculpture to the black engineers—titled A View From the Mountain Top—and to develop a display for the Smithsonian National Museum of AfricanAmerican History and Culture. “I just couldn’t believe that I grew up in Alaska, and taught for many years here, and I had never heard this story,” said team leader Jean Pollard, a retired educator with the Anchorage School District. “It’s become a living history of real people with real lives.”

For over 60 years, Gary Holthaus has strengthened communities through his work building bridges between cultures and across divides. He has worked as a minister, poet, nonfiction author, educator, and advocate for environmental and social justice. He served as Alaska’s first director of bilingual education, and was the Alaska Humanities Forum’s first executive director. Holthaus spoke briefly but powerfully to close the evening. “I stand here this evening not so much with a sense of accomplishment or achievement, but most of all with a deep sense of gratitude,” he said in accepting his award. “I’m grateful to people who have worked with me on humanities projects in small towns and big cities across the state and beyond. They offer us so many avenues for considering who we are and what we might become and how we might behave to create a better world. To have been able to find work for 50 years in such an enterprise was certainly a privilege.” ■

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In the summer of 1958, Frank Leslie, Betty McRae, and her three children drove up the Alaska Highway pulling a house trailer; it was their second such trip. On their way, they visited Jimmy and Mona Anderson, above, at the Beatton River Lodge. The Andersons had aided the family on their first trip four years earlier. James E. Cook Collection; Anchorage Museum, B2016.023.11


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Journals recount an epic trip and early travels on the newly opened Alaska Highway by David Holthouse

Cold, stranded, and low on supplies, Betty McRae dated her journal entry February 2, 1954. “Looks like our luck will never change,” she wrote. “I just hope and pray the children will stay well & that I don’t run out of water. It has all been like a horrible nightmare. I suppose it will end someday.” McRae and her three children were broken down at Mile 147 of the Alaska Highway. Her husband, Frank Leslie, better known as “FL,” was in the Air Force. He’d just been transferred from Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to Elmendorf AFB near Anchorage, where a major build-up of air defense forces was underway in the early years of the Cold War. The Alaska Highway had been open to the public for only six years. It was unpaved. Services were few and far between, doubly so in winter. But money was tight for the McRaes and FL was a crackerjack mechanic and a brave soul. He traded the family’s house in San Antonio for a 32-foot-long Newman travel trailer, the kind made famous on the silver screen later that year in The Long, Long Trailer, starting Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The Newman weighed three tons. FL’s car was a 1946 Lincoln sedan. He installed a Ford dump truck engine in the Lincoln to give it power enough to haul the trailer. He also put dual rear tires on the souped-up sedan. Then he and his family set out for Alaska in the dead of winter. Betty documented their epic trip in her journal. Last year, her son, James Cook, donated it to the Anchorage Museum, along with a journal of a second McRae family trip up the Alaska Highway in the summer of 1958, plus a series of accompanying black-and-white photographs. Now archived at the Bob & Evangeline Atwood Resource Center, the journals and photographs are available to be viewed by members of the public.


A January 21 entry in the first journal sets the tone for their harrowing adventure. Three days after crossing the Canadian border from Washington State, the family struggled to make it to McLeod Lake, British Columbia. “Only 34 miles to McLeod, took us 7 hours to make,” Betty wrote. “Got stuck on two huge ice-covered mountains. Temperature 30 below & I was trying to guide FL back down the first hill we got stuck on. Have never come so near freezing in my life. I’m really scared but we must go on & hope the good Lord will look after us.” They crossed the border into Alaska late at night on January 23. “About five miles past the customs is a Lodge & Road House,” Betty wrote. “You can tell you are in Alaska. The bars stay open and the whiskey flows like water. Some of the truck drivers we’d met along the way insisted on buying us a drink which turned out to be 3 or 4.” A few days later, the customized Lincoln broke down. “Our problem was, the axles weren’t strong enough to handle those dual tires and big engine,” James Cook recalled in a recent phone interview. FL’s stepson was 14 years old in the winter of ‘54. “One axle broke, then the second one went, and it was all we could do to limp into the Beatton River Lodge.” The lodge was located about 150 miles from the start of the highway at Dawson Creek. “Their generator wasn’t working, but FL was able to fix it for them, and we became friends with the people there,” said Cook. “The son of the owners was Jimmy Anderson. He was a trucker at the time, and he gave FL a ride back to Dawson Creek to look for parts for the Lincoln.” A week later, there was no sign of FL. Desperation crept into Betty’s journaling. “I’m not sure if it’s the [February] 4th or 5th, Thursday or Friday,” began one entry. “Anyway, FL is still gone. We had to put ourselves on short rations. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S P R I N G 20 18


We split a can of soup for lunch & for supper we split another can of soup & some pudding. I found several boxes of pudding that must have been up in the cabinet for months. Sure is coming in handy.” A day or two later, FL came back, with Anderson towing behind his rig a battered two-ton truck with no engine. “FL took the body off that Lincoln, and he put the Lincoln body onto the truck, and then he put the engine from the Lincoln in the truck, all in the middle of winter,” said Cook. “It wasn’t pretty, but it got us to Anchorage.” Four years after their first trip up the Alaska Highway, FL, Betty and the kids made a second trip, this time in June and July. “It was easier than winter, but it wasn’t easy,” Cook said. “I changed at least 30 tires on that trip, a lot of them in deep mud.” In her journal of the 1958 trip, Betty documented at least 28 flat tires and 10 broken wheels. She also wrote of stopping in to visit their friends at the Beatton River Lodge. Jimmy Anderson by then was on his way to becoming the legendary “outlaw” bush pilot Jimmy “Midnight” Anderson. On July 1, she noted, “Ike signed Statehood Bill.” Her second journal ends, “This is my second diary of pulling a trailer up the Alaska Highway, & I do hope if ever get another bright idea, that I can read the first diary & if that doesn’t convince us, we can get out the second one—that should do it.” While serving at Elmendorf, FL homesteaded land north of Wasilla, on the Little Susitna River. “I still got a bit of it left, 20 acres or so,” Cook said. FL died young of cancer in 1960. He was buried in the military cemetery at what became Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Jim Cook was a logger as a young man, then he joined the Air Force and, like his step-father, was stationed at Elmendorf. He’s retired now and lives in Florida. He still drives the Alaska Highway both ways every year or two. He figures he’s made at least 30 round trips. “The highway’s nothing compared to what it was,” he said. “Most of the old places are closed, boarded up. The truckers used to stop, help you if they could. Today they just fly by.” The Beatton River Lodge is long gone, but awhile back, Cook stopped in the area to ask if Jimmy Anderson was still around. “He’d just died a week or two before,” Cook said. “They’d just had his service there at Beatton River. That’s all right. I can still remember him like he was in ’54, ’58. Like you see him in those photographs.” ■

The Alaska-bound family posed with their Jeep and trailer. Left to right: FL, Frankie, Betty, Jim, friend Bill Keegan, and Vicki. James E. Cook Collection; Anchorage Museum, B2016.023.3

‘This is my second diary of pulling a trailer up the Alaska Highway, & I do hope if ever get another bright idea, that I can read the first diary & if that doesn’t convince us, we can get out the second one— that should do it.’

David Holthouse, a frequent collaborator with the Forum, is curator of public engagement at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. This story is reprinted with permission from the institution’s “Museum Journal” blog. The James E. Cook Collection is located in the Museum’s Bob & Evangeline Atwood Resource Center.


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Road construction along the Alaska Highway in 1958. James E. Cook Collection; Anchorage Museum, B2016.023.8

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Responsibility goes beyond compliance. At ExxonMobil we deeply value the wisdom, culture and vision of Alaskan Natives. Our responsibility is to learn from and collaborate with all Alaskans to responsibly develop Alaska’s resources.

Unlocking Alaska’s Energy Resources 42

A L A S K A H U M A N I T I E S F O R U M S P R I N G 2018


Greenlandic rapper Josef Tarrak-Petrussen on the set of a video shoot in Nuuk, Greenland, October 2017. He is a subject of the upcoming project WE UP: Indigenous Hip-Hop of the Circumpolar North, a documentary film and traveling exhibition supported by an annual grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum. See page 26. Photo by Michael Conti.


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Alaska Humanities Forum Calendar Fri., April 13, 6–8 p.m. Community Conversation: Women, the Military, and Storytelling Ketchikan Library

Hosted by Dave Kiffer and Christa Bruce. This event is part of Kindling Conversation, a new program at the Alaska Humanities Forum to bring people together for short, thoughtful discussions on themes central to life in Alaska. Join us to share your reactions to an article in the Fall 2017 issue of FORUM magazine, “Stories We Tell and Stories We Don’t” by Shannon Huffman Polson. This event was made possible by funding from BP. Sat., April 14, 7 p.m. Magnetic North: Nathan Jackson Southeast Alaska Discovery Center Ketchikan

Please join us for the premiere community screening of Magnetic North: Nathan Jackson, followed by a conversation and reception. Magnetic North is a documentary film series that explores the personality and character of six Alaskans whose actions and ideas have shaped the history, spirit, and values of our state. The series is produced by Alaska Humanities Forum in partnership with Rasmuson Foundation. The Opioid Crisis Mural Project will be on display at the Forum offices in Anchorage on April 26. Photos by Steve Gordon

Thurs., April 26, 7–8:30 p.m. Community Conversation: The Opioid Crisis Mural Project Alaska Humanities Forum

The Mural Project explores the opioid crisis through personal stories. Two recovering heroin addicts and a mother whose daughter is currently using heroin tell of their struggles with addiction and how they found hope for recovery. Come see murals inspired by these stories and join a conversation about opioid addiction and recovery. Tues., May 15 Leadership Anchorage Graduation

Join us to celebrate the class of LA21 at their graduation ceremony. Learn about this year’s projects, and meet LA21 participants and their mentors. Details will be available at Fri., June 15 C3 applications due

Creating Cultural Competence (C3) is a cultural orientation and induction for new teachers headed to rural Alaska communities. The program is held during the summer prior to the school year, under the structure of a 3-credit university course. Apply online at akhf. org/c3.

Get more details about all Alaska Humanities Forum events and opportunities at