Alaskana 2021

Alaska History, Vol. 36, #1, Spring 2021

Alaskana is an annotated listing of recent publications on the North featured in Alaska History, the journal of the Alaska Historical Society. All titles are available through the publisher,,, or your local library, unless otherwise noted.

Compiled by Kathy Ward, Juneau Public Libraries.

Chris Allan and M. J. Kirchhoff, A Rough and Tumble Country: Juneau’s Origins as Alaska’s First Gold Mining Boomtown as Described by Eyewitnesses, 1880–1881 (Fairbanks: National Park Service, 2020) 26 pp., paper, no ISBN. The authors use primary source materials, including journals, letters, and newspaper articles, to build a portrait of the city of Juneau in its early years.

Ted R. Boatsman, Half a Bubble Off North (independently published, 2020) 201 pp., paper, $10.00, ISBN: 9798652640620. Boatsman writes about his thirty-two years serving as a pastor and raising a family in Kotlik, Emmonak, Nenana, and Fairbanks.

John B. Branson, The Dawn of Aviation around Lake Clark Pass 1927–1960, with the Diaries of Helen Beeman Denison 1943–1952 (Anchorage: Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, 2020) 292 pp., paper, $37.00, ISBN: 9780160955655. The advent of reliable planes in Alaska fueled the growth of both commercial and civilian life in Alaska as remote places became more easily accessible and were even developed specifically as fueling stops for aircraft. Located between Anchorage and Bristol Bay, the Lake Clark Pass area became a necessary stopping point as small planes carried freight and supplies between Anchorage and the burgeoning Bristol Bay commercial area.

Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse and Aldona Jonaitis, eds., Unsettling Native Art Histories on the Northwest Coast (Seattle: Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Native Art, Burke Museum, in association with University of Washington Press, 2020) 344 pp., hardcover, $34.95, ISBN: 9780295747132. This book of critical essays begins to untangle the Western view of Native “art” from the many purposes that Native design actually served pre-colonization, including showing lineage and kinship, telling stories, recounting history, and establishing an indigenous culture and worldview.

Floyd Ellen Carvey with Martha Wetzel and Fred Wetzel, eds. Soliloquy: By an Alaskan Goldminer’s Wife (independently published, 2020) 437 pp., paper, $14.95, ISBN: 9781692143350Though a young widow with a child at the age of 24, Carvey soon found a second husband, a goldminer, and she spent years in Alaska making a home for her family while moving with him from strike to strike.

Steven, J. Craig, All Present and Accounted For (Hellgate Press, 2020) 278 pp., hardcover, $$29.95, ISBN: 9781555719685. In 1972, before GPS and before reliable satellite communications or accurate weather forecasting, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Jarvis was caught in a November storm off the coast of Alaska that threatened to drive it onto a reef. Craig recounts the story of how the crew worked together to save their foundering ship and themselves.

Michael Gates, Dublin Gulch: A History of the Eagle Gold Mine (Madeira Park, BC: Lost Moose, an imprint of Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd, 2020) 240 pp., hardcover, $44.95, ISBN: 9781550179408. Though the first placer mining claims in Dublin Gulch were staked in the 1890s, it was over a century later that the area finally gave up its riches; today the area is a productive hard rock mine.

Andrei Val’terovich Grinev, Russian Colonization of Alaska: Baranov’s Era, 1799–1818, Richard L. Bland, trans. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2020) 269 pp., hardcover, $70.00, ISBN: 9781496222169. When Alexander Baranov was sent to Russian America, it marked a new era for Alaska as the Russian-American Company, headed by Baranov, consolidated authority and power over the formerly somewhat autonomous Russian settlements.

Julie Harris and Frank B. Edwards, Signposts & Promises: Canada and the Alaska Highway (Fort St. John, B.C.: North Peace Museum, 2018) 192 pp., paper, CDN $31.45, ISBN: 9781775216308. Bringing the history of the construction of the road together with the histories of the communities alongside it, the volume resulted from research done in an attempt by historians to nominate the route and sites along it for recognition by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Available by contacting the Fort St. John North Peace Museum directly.

Constance Helmericks, We Live in Alaska (Kenmore, Washington: Epicenter Press, 2019) 302 pp., paper, $20.33, ISBN: 9781941890127. Reprinted with new preface by the Helmericks’ daughter, Alaskan author Jean Aspen, this is the story of the couple’s adventure in which the newlyweds, recently transplanted from Arizona, spend the summer and fall of 1942 canoeing from Fairbanks to Bethel via the Tanana, Yukon, and Kuskokwim rivers.

Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan, People, Paths, and Places: The Frontier History of Moose Pass, Alaska (Palmer, Alaska: Ember Press, 2020) 82 pp., paper, $18.99, ISBN: 9780998688336. What started as a Moose Pass school assignment grew into a community-wide project and finally into this volume, which recounts the history of one of the Kenai Peninsula’s first towns through oral histories and stories.

Tom Kizzia, The Wake of the Unseen Object (Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2020) 336 pp., paper, $21.95, ISBN: 9781602234307. For this reprinted edition of the 1991 classic, Kizzia wrote a new introduction that examines both the changes that have taken place in rural Alaska and what travelers arrive knowing in the past 30 years.

Kwanlin Dün First Nation. Kwanlin Dün: d kwndur ghày ghàkwadîndur = Our Story in Our Words (Vancouver, British Columbia: Figure 1 Publishing, 2021) 296 pp., hardcover, $49.77, ISBN: 9781773270784.  This illustrated history of the Kwanlin Dün people of the southern Yukon begins hundreds of generations ago with transcribed oral histories, traditional stories, and interpretations of archeological findings, and ends with first person accounts of the arrival of whites to the area, the Gold Rush period, the building of the Alaskan Highway, and the struggles of the First Nations for recognition by the Canadian government.

Darrell Lewis, Alaska’s Matanuska Colony (Washington: National Park Service, 2020) unpaginated, paper, available as a download or by request from the National Park Service website. The Matanuska Colony was born during the Great Depression, when hundreds of farming families were transplanted from the American mid-west to the Matanuska Valley as both an effort to alleviate poverty and a strategic move to increase the white American population of the Territory of Alaska.

K.L. Marshall, Faith and Oil (Eugene, Oregon: Resource Publications, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2020) 210 pp., paper, $26.00, ISBN: 9781725256668. For decades, there has been a real, but muted, connection between the Religious Right and Big Oil, one that has affected politics and legislation both nationally and in states such as Alaska which rely heavily on oil production for their economy.

Michael W. McCann and George I. Lovell, Union by Law: Filipino American Labor Activists, Rights Radicalism, and Racial Capitalism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020) 512 pp., paper, $35.00, ISBN: 9780226679907. Following the U.S. invasion of the Philippines, Filipino nationals began working in the United States but were constrained by law and by custom to certain low-paying workplaces such as agriculture and salmon canneries. This traces decades of activism by Filipino workers working towards parity in American society.

Alexander K. Nefedkin, Warfare in the Russian Arctic: The Military History of Chukotka from the Early First Millennium to the Nineteenth Century (Bethesda , Maryland: Academica Press 2020) 438 pp., hardcover, $139.95, ISBN: 9781680531435. The Bering Strait divides Alaska from Chukotka in the Russian far east, and this history takes readers through conflicts in the area beginning in ancient times to the 19th century when open warfare ceased.

Mary Odden, Mostly Water (Pasadena, California: Boreal Books, 2020) 248 pp., paper, $16.95, ISBN: 9781597099196. A series of linked autobiographical essays about Odden’s life on the American West Coast and in villages in rural Alaska.

Hillary Olcott, Yua: Spirit of the Arctic. Highlights from the Thomas G. Fowler Collection (Munchen, Germany: Prestel Verlag, 2020) 140 pp., hardcover, $40.00, ISBN: 9783791359458. Fowler’s collection emphasizes the joining of the artistic with the utilitarian in the lives of Arctic peoples and stresses the spirit inherent in the raw materials. This book includes essays by contemporary artists and scholars on themes of art history, anthropology, and reminiscence.

Christopher Patrello, Northwest Coast and Alaska Native Art (Denver: Denver Art Museum, 2020) 100 pp., paper, $10.95, ISBN: 9781945483011. Recounts the back story of works of particular aesthetic beauty created by historic and contemporary Alaskan and Northwest Coast artists which are held in the Denver Art Museum.

Christina Reagle, Life at Fifty Below Zero: An Alaskan Memoir on Teaching and Learning (independently published, Wild Eagle, 2020) 390 pp., paper, $18.00, ISBN: 9781734502107. Reagle and her husband moved from California to teach in an Alaska village, just for a year, and experience a different life. Thirty years later, her children grown up and on their own, Reagle reflects on learning to handle a dog team, build a log cabin, and more.

Chie Sakakibara, Whale Snow: Iñupiat, Climate Change, and Multispecies Resilience in Arctic Alaska (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2020) 304 pp., hardcover, $100.00, ISBN: 9780816542154. The bowhead whale hunt, threatened by both climate change and politics, is a foundation of Iñupiat culture. Here Sakakibara relates stories from her adopted Iñupiat family that show the connections between the human and animal world in contemporary life.

Tracy Salcedo, Search and Rescue Alaska (Guilford: The Lyons Press, 2020) 208 pp., paper, $18.95, ISBN: 9781493037285. Salcedo writes about the special challenges faced by those who venture out of the comfortable confines of Alaska towns and cities, about the Alaskans trained in search and rescue operations, and about historical rescues as well as those of modern day.

John Schoen, Tongass Odyssey: Seeing the Forest Ecosystem through the Politics of Trees (Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2020) 350 pp., paper, $28.95, ISBN: 9781602234260. Four decades spent advocating for the Tongass National Forest as a biologist leave Schoen well-equipped to lead readers through the political, ecological, cultural, and biological debates which founded, and continue to protect, our largest national forest.

Thomas Thornton and Madonna L. Moss, Herring and People of the North Pacific: Sustaining a Keystone Species (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2020) 276 pp., hardcover, $95.00, ISBN: 9780295748283. Herring has been in decline since the advent of the commercial market for them as fertilizer, oil, and feed in the mid-20th century. Measures to prop up the population have so far merely slowed their decline; here the authors present a compelling argument for, and path to, a genuine restoration of the species.

Carolyn Marie Watson, Diary of a Gold Miner: The Story of James Thomas Watson (independently published, Las Vegas, Nevada: Carolyn Marie Watson, 2020) 122 pp., paper, $10.01, ISBN: 9798675444120. When James Watson headed to the Klondike to make his fortune, he left his wife and five children behind, but took along a diary which he had promised his wife to keep for at least a year. This is his diary, annotated and transcribed, describing thirteen months of his life in the gold fields.