Reading the North

July 23, 2011 

Sharing Our Pathways

Edited by Ray Barnhardt and Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley (University of Alaska Fairbanks, $20)

The blurb: This collection of essays address pedagogical prices and school curricula that could incorporate and document Alaska Native knowledge systems into a formal education system.

Excerpt: "There are many aspects of cultural knowledge that form the basis for Alaska Native peoples' ability to thrive in their respective environments, among these are the traditional trails.

Throughout Alaska there are trails which have been used by Native people for generations. These overland trails were often the most efficient and safe route for people to travel. They provided routes to hunting and fishing grounds, seasonal camps, for trading between Native groups or, with the arrival of Europeans, to trade with them.

One of the prominent trails in Dena'ina Athabascan country in southwest Alaska is the Telaquana Trail. It is a 50-mile route through the mountains and river valleys between the old village on Telaquana Lake and the Dena'ina village of old Kijik on Lake Clark. This trail has been used by the Dena'ina for hundreds of years."

Rat Island: Predators in Paradise and the World's Greatest Wildlife Rescue

By William Stolzenburg (Bloomsbury)

The blurb: At just three percent of Earth's landmass, islands harbor more than half of its endangered species. Their demise comes largely by way of recent invaders -- rats, cats, goats and pigs. This book chronicles conservation movements in various locales, including Rat Island, midway between Alaska and Russia.

Excerpt: "As the fears for Kiska mounted with the carnage, those tending the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge were already busy considering the deeper ramifications. In their jurisdiction were at least a dozen islands with rats chewing holes in the ecosystems they were charged with defending. The concerns went far beyond seabirds. It was about the missing songbirds and Kamchatka lilies, the shorebirds and the dune grass and the intertidal communities languishing in the post-rat age of the Aleutians.

And now Kiska, among the finest jewels of the chain, was being robbed beneath their noses. Art Sowls, in his years defending the harbors of the great Pribilof rookeries against incoming rats, had come to assume that prevention was the islands' only salvation. He and his boss, Vernon Byrd, had repeatedly characterized the invasion of a single rat as a fate worse than any oil spill"

The Great Alaskan Quake: First Hand, and Other Cups of Coffee, the True Alaskan Connection

By Lloyd L. Peck (Publish America)

The blurb: Peck's memoir recounts his first-hand experience of the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, his time spent fighting wildfires in Alaska's interior and his 20 years of volunteer work with mentally challenged Alaskans.

Excerpt: "Buddy and I were serenely situated in the basement, me practicing piano, while Buddy busily read comic books. Suddenly, the ground began to quiver, and the piano played grotesque music without my help.

Buddy exclaimed, 'What's that?' I reassured, 'It's just a little earthquake -- it'll stop in a few seconds.'

Fifteen seconds later both of our stomachs went sour and we implored the Great Beyond to stop this nonsense. My music wasn't that lousy even though I'd begun lessons only a year before. We decided together that the basement was no place to be, and groped for the stairway. The shaking began to worsen to the point where it was everything we could do to hold onto the handrail and launch ourselves up those stairs. We fell backwards several ties before finally reaching the top and slamming the basement door. Whew!"

-- Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News

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