Fred John, a son of the legendary Katie John, is 72; I am nearly 70. We have been friends in Delta since 1976. We both lived in pre-pipeline Alaska, a time before the land was carved up and labeled and in an era when, it was said, there was just $5000 in Fairbanks. When that money came around to a merchant, he paid his bills. A time before prosperity. As Jerry Isaac, former president of Tanana Chiefs Conference told me in 1998, "The era of fur trader John Hajdukovich and my uncle Chief Andrew Isaac was a much more intimate time between Native and non-Native. They shared the same life in the Bush, working and playing alongside each other." It was a time for the wise words of the Alaska Native grandmother, Tsucde, the matriarch who held their families together for centuries. They drew their life from the land. It has always been -- and will always be -- about the land and gramma.
May 2014, one year after their mother, Katie John, passed, Fred John and his brother Harry John walked from Dot Lake to Anchorage to protest Governor Parnell's request to the supreme court to overturn the Katie John case, the substance ruling in a 1990 lawsuit that resulted in stronger Native subsistence fishing rights in Alaska. They walked to educate the public about the importance of traditional hunting and fishing rights for Alaska's rural people, and its importance of practicing Alaska Native cultures within the legal framework.
May 3, 2015 the John brothers began walking from their home village of Mentasta to Fairbanks, a 270-mile trek. As elders, they are walking to honor their mother and all grandmothers who pass timeless values on to their younger generations. In addition, to fulfill a promise, Katie's sons are walking for the Fairbanks Four from Delta to Harding Lake.
Read more: Walk for Tsucde 2015, remembering roots
Alaska Dispatch Publishing