PRESENTING JUDY COOPER, DOG MUSHER AND ARTIST

A woman of many skills, Judy Cooper has lead an interesting and active life.  She was born in 1939 in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in Madison, Wisconsin.  When 18 she entered Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and received a B.A. from there, with a major in biology and a minor in art.  The summer she graduated she went to the Michigan State University Biology Station at Gull Lake, where she took biology courses.  She attended the University of Colorado in Boulder for 2 years, where she studied botany, zoology, chemistry, and geology.

In January, 1964, she took Peace Corps training and went to Bolivia for 2 years, where she worked with the Aymara Indians at 12,000 feet above sea level on the Altiplano.  Most of the indigenous people of the Andes were conquered by the Incas.  The Aymaras, however, joined the Incas, thereby retaining their own language and culture.  Judy was involved with a community development and preventative public health program, dealing with such diseases as tuberculosis.

After her return from Bolivia, she took a job for 2 years in North Carolina with a War on Poverty Community Action program.  While she lived there she had a brain hemorrhage and was taken by ambulance to Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  She was fortunate to have one of the best neurosurgeons in the country as her doctor.  When she recovered, she returned to her job and stayed until funding was cut.  Then she returned to Wisconsin and worked in a store until she had enough money to go to Alaska.

In 1968, Judy got her first Alaskan job in Hoonah, where she directed the Continue reading

TLINGIT TRIBAL HOUSE DEDICATION AT BARTLETT COVE

This story comes from guest blogger, Stephanie Shor. It is a report on the dedication ceremony of the new Tlingit tribal house in Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Park.  Stephanie is the editor of our sweet local paper, “Strawberry Point Pioneer.”  Thanks, Stephanie, for sharing the story of this historical event with us!

“We heard our ancestors singing as we came into the bay.  They’ve waited a long time for us.  It’s hard to hold back the tears of joy.”

The shores of Glacier Bay were humming with people, young and old, native and non-native, as three traditional Tlingit canoes slowly emerged through the morning mist of Bartlett Cove. Hoonah Tlingit children, grandchildren of the tribe in their ancestors’ regalia, waited with wide eyes to receive them in a long-awaited return to their homeland.

The first day of the week-long tribal house dedication event included a color guard for Hoonah veterans, a naming ceremony for the tribal house, a spirit song and a collective breath of life into the structure.

As the canoes, carved over long months from 400-year-old trees, drew closer to the sight of the new tribal house standing on ancient Tlingit land, elders and their grandchildren began to sing.  Hoonah’s youth met the
rowers and were handed the individually carved oars of their elders as the crowd lifted the canoes to carry as a whole onto land.

Huna Tlingit history began in this land of lower Glacier Bay, where there were at least 3 ancient tribal houses, like the modern-day version now in Bartlett Cove. About 300 years ago, they were forced to flee their homeland as glaciers advanced and overran their settlements, Continue reading

RAVEN STEALS THE SUN

Raven walked along the sandy beach, alone.  He wanted someone to talk to.  You see, in those days, animals and people understood each others’ languages.  So, when Raven heard voices crying, “Let us out!  Let us out!” he knew the voices of people and he searched for the source of the sound.

He came upon a giant clam shell, and from inside came the voices.  Raven pried the clam shell open with his strong beak and let the people out.  Now he would have someone to talk to!

“Thank you, Raven,” said a small spokesperson.  “But how shall we survive?  We are very cold.”

I will bring you a sun,” said Raven.  “He will warm you.”

Raven flew to the part of the sky where the suns lived.  While they slept, he grabbed a small sun in his beak and flew away.  But the Continue reading

MEET CAROLE BAKER, GUSTAVUS ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE

Carole Baker, Gustavus artist, has been perfecting her talent for 40 years.  Carole, a quiet and unassuming woman, has extended her artistic reputation across Alaska and to places Outside as well.

Carole spent her early years in Florida.  She liked to draw from childhood.  She got some drawing instruction in grade school, but art classes were not offered after 6th grade.  She went to college at Florida State University, where she majored in medical technology.  She interned in lab work in Atlanta, Georgia.

She worked as a med tech for 8 years, coming to Alaska in 1969 to work for Public Health Service in Anchorage.  As she was an itinerant worker, she traveled around the state to the communities that needed her services.  One such job commute took her to Sitka, where she met her husband, Van.  A fisherman, he lived on one-acre Maude Island (part of the Gilmore Island group), which he owned.  Carole quit her job and stayed, fishing with Van at first.  There, she again started drawing.  Van bought her some dime store watercolors, and she began painting on typing paper.  Her son, Lee, was born in 1972 while they lived on the island.

In 1973, Carole accompanied Van on a fishing trip to Icy Strait.  Van’s uncle had a summer place in Gustavus, and the couple stopped in for a visit.  The Continue reading

WONDERFUL WILD STRAWBERRIES EVERYWHERE!

In its early years, people knew the small town of Gustavus as “Strawberry Point” because of the abundance of the sweet, wild berries growing here.  The town name was changed to Gustavus in 1925 by the new post office.  This new name came from Gustavus Point at the mouth of Glacier Bay.  However, locals continued to refer to the community as Strawberry Point into the 50s and beyond.

The wild strawberry, or beach strawberry, as it is often called, is a member of the rose family.  It is a perennial from the Fragaria genus.  The plant has thick, scaly roots.  It starts new plants by runners, just like cultivated strawberries.  The leaves of the beach strawberry look the same also.  In the spring, a flower with 3 white petals blooms on a long, slender stem.  The juicy fruit grows up to 1 inch long.

The leaves, stems, and berries are edible and contain lots of vitamin C as well as iron, potassium, sulphur, calcium and sodium.  Eat the berries raw or in jam, jelly, and other desserts.

Gustavus black bears really like strawberries.  If you have a favorite patch, you’d better pick Continue reading

LEARN ABOUT WILD ALASKAN PLANTS: MEDICINE OR FOOD?

“Plant Lore of an Alaskan Island” identifies the most common plants in the Kodiak Archipelago.  It includes edible and medicinal plants and recipes for preparing them to eat.  There is a special medicinal index cataloguing all the medical  conditions for which the plant has been used and a short description of the method of use.  As Native uses of the plants are emphasized, the book is somewhat of an ethnobotany.

There are 336 pages in this book.  It covers over 200 plants, organized by habitat.  Supplemental indexes include a plant family index, a glossary of Continue reading

HUNTING WITH JIM, by Marshall (Kim) Warren

(Note from Fran:  This article is the first one submitted to my blog by a guest author.  Kim Warren is from Gustavus, and is a member of our writer’s group.)

I have a friend whose name is Jim.  He has lived in Southeast Alaska for nearly 30 years.  He is a trapper, hunter, fisherman and bushman of the first order.  I’ve known him for about 20 years.  Normally Jim hunts alone, but from time to time he has agreed to take me along to share his natural world.  Now, I am no newcomer to the Alaskan bush or to hunting, but I’m not in Jim’s class.  He talks to the animals!  Not only does he talk to them, but they talk to him and he understands.  I was with him once when he talked to the moose.  Cows would cautiously approach us to get a look at this bull they heard.  When they saw us, they would stand and stare in confusion.

Jim and I went moose hunting awhile back.  The weather was lousy; temperature around 40 degrees and raining.  It was still dark that morning when we left his cabin and headed for the area he wanted to hunt.  I had been to the area before and had way-points in my GPS so I could find the particular spruce tree we were headed for.  Of course, Jim didn’t own a GPS or know how to use one.

We picked up the trail that would lead us to the area of the target tree.  A limb knocked my hat off. Jim patiently waited while I put my hat and Continue reading

MEET ROGER AND MARY WILLIAMS, dba ALASKA METALSMITHING

Roger Williams met Mary in Indiana when he went to a restaurant to visit a friend.  Mary was working

 

there as a waitress.  They were both drawn to the other, and soon they were a couple.

The two were married in 1972 and traveled to the East coast.  Seeing pictures on a calendar of big trees in British Columbia, they decided to move there.  However, since they could not work in Canada they ran out of money and moved to Ketchikan.  Here Roger worked in a fish plant.

Ketchikan was a wild town in those days.  The mills and fish processors operated around the clock.  The town flowed with money.  Once when the couple were walking down the street, they saw a man thrown bodily through a bar’s swinging doors.  He landed on the street right in front of them.

From 1973 until 1997, when the family finally moved to Gustavus, they lived a bit of a nomadic lifestyle.  They spent time in British Continue reading

MOUNTAIN ASH — THE TREE WITH AN ALIAS

We in Southeast Alaska are fortunate to have many mountain ash growing in our forests.  They flank the road down half my long driveway, and are lovely at any time of year.

Did you know mountain ash has an alias?  It is also known as the rowan tree.  The ancient druids revered it.  This group included lawyers, poets, and doctors, but were best known for being religious leaders.  Druids believed the tree, having the power to enhance life and create magic, held forces that could counteract evil and give protection from witchcraft.  For this reason the tree was often planted in churchyards.  It was also believed that by wearing a sprig or a cross made from the wood, the person would be safe from such negative powers.  Druid priests also used the bark and berries of the tree to make a black dye used for garments at lunar coronations.

A member of the Sorbus genus, mountain ash is part of the rose family.  The berries are edible, though rather bland.  They are sweeter after the first frost.  Nutritionally, they are high in vitamins C and A.  When made into jam or jelly, their flavor may be enhanced by adding sugar, ginger and apples.  The birds, however, need no additions but find the berries to be choice food.  Thanks to these feathered creatures, the seeds have spread throughout the woods of remote Alaska.

Though the berries are edible, this shrub or tree is valuable at any time of year as an ornamental.  Its leaves, pinnately compound, are attractive by themselves.  In the spring  clusters of white flowers adorn the tree.  These flowers gradually wilt and turn brown; they then transform and ripen into stunning bright red berries.  Once the berries fall from the tree and the temperatures drop, the mountain ash leaves change to spectacular shades of red-orange and yellow, creating yet another beautiful display.

Many ancient groups have legends about the mountain ash under its rowan tree alias.  There is a Greek legend concerning Hebe, the goddess of youth.  Hebe had a magic chalice from which she served a drink to the gods from time to time, to keep them young and healthy. Continue reading

THE TRUTH ABOUT ALASKAN IVORY

Have you ever thought about buying a piece of Alaskan ivory? Has something stopped you?

Fossil ivory bear

As you are probably aware, because of the tragic slaughter of thousands of elephants for their tusks, national and international trade in the ivory of threatened species such as African or Asian elephants is now illegal, as well it should be. But what about Alaskan ivory? Because it is often fossilized and does not come from an endangered species, ivory used in Alaska is quite legal, and very much a part of Alaskan Native art and culture.
When you hold a piece of fossilized ivory in your hand, let your imagination take you back through the ages to the time when that ivory existed as part of an ancient animal. Can you imagine its prehistoric world? Close your eyes and let the piece float in your mind. What do you feel and see? It is awe-inspiring to try to comprehend the age of the piece you are holding.

Scrimshawed tooth

Ivory has had a wide variety of uses since ancient times. Prior to the introduction of plastics, ivory was made into cutlery, billiard balls, piano keys, Scottish bagpipes, buttons, false teeth, fans and dominoes, as well as jewelry and simple to elaborate carvings. The ancient Irish decorated their sword hilts with ivory from whale teeth. The Chinese valued elephant ivory for both art and utilitarian objects. Early whalers scratched designs on sperm whale teeth, then rubbed India ink into the scratches, a process known as scrimshaw. In modern times, artists have used scrimshaw to create some beautiful pieces, such as tusks displaying a complete scene from Alaskan life, or a pendant with an elaborate flower or animal scratched into its surface. Continue reading