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This project contains oral history interviews with long-time residents of Skagway, Alaska talking about their observations of environmental change in and around Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and with National Park Service employees and residents of Nome, Alaska discussing the changing environment in and around Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. Capturing the effects of change on cultural and natural resources at these two coastal park areas, and hearing about the effects on the human connection to those resources allows audiences to gain first-hand understanding of a changing environment and provides the opportunity to draw comparisons between two distinct regions of Alaska. The interviews pay particular attention to: vegetation succession; differences in plant and animal species; retreating glaciers; vertical advance of tree lines; changes to coastal lagoons and formation of sea ice; shoreline erosion; permafrost melt; and shifts in phenology. Additionally, the interviews highlight the impact of such changes on the flora, fauna and humans, and the adaptations all are making to these changes.
Support for this project was provided by the National Park Service, and Anne Mastov and Karl Gurcke of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park and Katie Cullen of Bering Land Bridge National Preserve who assisted in project planning and implementation, and helped identify and select people to be interviewed. The Skagway interviews were conducted in 2018 by Karen Brewster of the Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the Nome interviews were conducted in 2019 by Leslie McCartney of the Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Katie Cullen of the National Park Service. The Observing Change in Alaska's National Parks Project Jukebox was completed by Karen Brewster in 2020. The information in this project reflects the context of the original creation date. Some information may now be out of date.
Ken Adkisson graduated from high school in 1960 and after military service he studied anthropology at the University of New Mexico. In 1968, he got his first job with the National Park Service as a seasonal archeologist in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. He went on to hold a variety of seasonal and permanent positions with the Park Service in the Southwest region until January 1985 when he was hired as a ranger at the newly formed Bering Land Bridge National Preserve in Nome, Alaska. He has held a... Read More
Betsy Albecker was born in Seattle, Washington in 1945 and was raised in Skagway, Alaska. She is the daughter of well-known Skagway photographer and entrepreneur, Barbara Dedman Kalen, and her ties to the community go back to her grandparents who arrived during the 1898 Gold Rush and ran a number of local businesses. After attending school in Washington and living in other places in Alaska, and coming back every summer to garden at the family homestead property at Nahku Bay, Betsy has been... Read More
Roy Ashenfelter was born in 1955 to Alex and Annie Ashenfelter in White Mountain, Alaska. He grew up living a traditional Iñupiaq subsistence lifestyle until leaving the village to attend junior and senior high school in Anchorage. He earned an associate’s degree in business administration from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and moved to Nome in 1982. Roy has held a variety of jobs in Nome, but for the last twenty years has worked at Kawerak, Inc., the regional Native corporation. He... Read More
Andrew "Andy" Beierly was born in 1940 in Juneau, Alaska and grew up in Skagway, Alaska. He attended the Mission School in Skagway, and then graduated from Skagway High School. In 1957, while he was still in school, he started working for the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad on a section crew, and then worked full-time for them from 1962 to 1982, as an engine mechanic, on the bridge crew, and in the car shop. After the White Pass Railroad shut down, Andy went to work for... Read More
Joanne Beierly was born in Seattle, Washington, and moved to Skagway when she was in high school when her father came to the area for a job as a heavy-duty mechanic on the Black Lake Road construction project. She graduated from Skagway High School, where she met Andrew Beierly. They were married in 1965 and together raised two children in Skagway. After her children were grown, Joanne worked as a teacher’s aide, at the Skagway library, and in the Skagway Museum. Joanne is a founding member... Read More
Dorothy Brady was born in Skagway, Alaska in 1958 to Bea Hillery (Lingle) and John O'Daniel, and grew up in Skagway being raised by her mother, and step-father, Ben Lingle, who operated the hardware store and Skagway Air Service. At age 18, Dorothy moved away from Skagway, and lived in Juneau, Gustavus, and on the Aleutian Islands. She returned to Skagway in 1996, where she met and married her husband, Jeff. Dorothy is an avid gardener, having started gardening in the Aleutians and... Read More
Originally from North Carolina, Jeff Brady came to Skagway, Alaska in the mid-1970s. He first worked for a hiking and rafting business, but eventually started the Skagway News newspaper, which he edited for 37 years. He also started the Skagway News Depot and Books bookstore. In 1996, he met his wife, Dorothy, who grew up in Skagway, and in 2011 they purchased the old Hanousek Homestead in Dyea. They have restored the cabins and other buildings on the property and now use it as the... Read More
Originally from Idaho, Lynne Cameron first came to Alaska in 1980 to visit her parents and her sister who were living in Anchorage at the time. She fell in love with Alaska and made it her home. She move to Skagway in 1987, where she worked a variety of jobs, including janitor, hotel housekeeper, and tour guide until eventually returning to her previous nursing career and became the family nurse practitioner at the medical clinic in Skagway. In the 1980's, when Skagway was first facing... Read More
|Howard Farley, Sr.||
Howard Farley Sr. was born in Detroit, Michigan and after World War II his family moved west. After the death of his father, Howard’s mother worked for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) moving from station to station, and finally ended up in Seattle, Washington, when Howard was a teenager. She later worked for one of the airlines, which in 1949 gave her an opportunity to fly the family to Juneau, Alaska for a visit. This is when Howard fell in love with Alaska. While serving in the... Read More
Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Susan Fredricks first arrived in Alaska in 1978. She first lived in Haines, and then moved to Skagway in 1986. She has held a variety of jobs, including jewelry store sales, running a daycare facility, and providing wildlife tours for summer visitors. In the 1980s, when Skagway was faced with possible lead contamination from ore trucks passing through town to the docks, Susan was an active participant in the community's response with the "Get Out The Lead"... Read More
Elaine Furbish came to Skagway, Alaska in 1999 and was employed by Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park as their second Natural Resources Manager, a position she held until 2001. During her tenure with the park, Elaine conducted baseline natural resource surveys of parklands, as well as started a study of lichen as indicators of air pollution. Elaine vacated the position when it was subsumed under a general Resources Manager who was an individual with whom Elaine did not see eye to... Read More
Letty Hughes was born in Montana, but her family moved to interior Alaska when she was about six years old. She graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2004 with an undergraduate degree in wildlife biology. She has worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks, Bethel and Nome, Alaska, and since July 2018 has been the wildlife biologist for Bering Land Bridge National Preseve based in Nome. Her work has included being a field technician studying the stomach... Read More
Tahzay Jones grew up in Arizona, and earned an undergraduate degree in biological sciences from the University of Chicago, and a PhD from the University of Miami focused on invertebrate animals in the marine environment and how the influences from coastal runoff impacted the near-shore environment. He then left the sciences and pursued his interests in art, design, theater, photography, and videography. After a number of years, he regained an interest in science and came to Alaska as a... Read More
Jeanette Koelsch was born in Anchorage, Alaska to Joe and Grace Cross, and moved to Nome in 1982 when she was about ten years old. Her maternal grandparents were Jane and Jack Antoghame from St. Lawrence Island. After graduating from Nome-Beltz Senior High School, she attended Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, graduating with an undergraduate degree in general science. Her first professional job after college was in 1994 as a summer seasonal park ranger with the National Park Service... Read More
Born in 1954, Charles "Charlie" Lean grew up in Nome, Alaska until he was seven years old. His father was an engineer for the United States Smelting, Refining, and Mining Company (USSR&M) and then was construction engineer with the Bureau of Public Roads for the Kougarok Road. The family moved away when his father found employment elsewhere in Alaska. After earning a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management, Charlie returned to Nome at age twenty-eight to work as a fisheries biologist... Read More
Bea Lingle was born in 1927 in Skagway, Alaska. Her grandfather came to Skagway as a gambler during the 1898 Gold Rush, and after a year brought up his wife and young daughter. This daughter was Bea's mother, who received training as a nurse's aide and English teacher at school in the Lower 48, and returned to Skagway where she met and married Albert Roy Hillery, who was working on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. They eventually divorced and she moved to Seattle where she raised her... Read More
Jacob Martin was born in 1993 in Nome, Alaska to Mildred "Blue" and Arthur "Guy" Martin. His maternal grandparents were Lucy Koyuk and John Taxac from King Island, Alaska. Jacob grew up living a subsistence lifestyle of hunting and fishing, with many summers spent with his aunt and uncle in Koyuk. He graduated from Nome-Beltz Senior High School in 2012 and attended one year at the University of Alaska Fairbanks before returning to Nome where he worked for Sitnasuak Native Corporation in... Read More
Originally from the Seattle area, John McDermott came to Alaska in 1970 for a teaching job in Skagway. He met his wife, Lorna, and in 1977 they purchased the old Patterson Cabin in Dyea ( and made Dyea their permanent home. After teaching for a couple of years, John took a job as a conductor for the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad and worked there until the railroad shut down in 1982. After living outside of Alaska for a few years, the McDermotts moved back to Skagway in 1993 and John... Read More
Vera Kingeekuk Metcalf (Qiwaaghmi clan) was born to Theodore and May Kingeekuk in Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island Alaska, and grew up living a traditional subsistence lifestyle. Vera attended high school in Nome, Alaska and in 1999 earned a bachelor’s degree in rural development from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She and her husband, Bob, moved to Nome in 1979 where she has worked a variety of jobs including as a teacher’s aide, as a translator of her native St. Lawrence Island Yupik... Read More
Carl Mulvihill was born in Skagway, Alaska in 1938 and began working for the Whitepass and Yukon Railroad when he was sixteen. Both his father and grandfather worked for the railroad. Carl held a variety of positions from section crew member to brakeman to dispatcher to chief clerk. His interest in the railway’s history developed when he was in college.
Stan Selmer was born in Iowa in July 1948 while his parents were traveling, and in September 1948 was brought back to Skagway, Alaska where the family was living. All of his siblings were born in Skagway, as was his father. Stan's grandfather, originally from Norway, was one of the first barbers in Skagway, and ran the movie theater, played in the town band, and was mayor. Stan's mother, originally from Minnesota, came to Alaska to be a nurse, and in 1945 she got a job at the White Pass... Read More
Originally from Rhode Island, Gay Sheffield came to Alaska in 1988 with a bachelor’s of science degree in environmental conservation from the University of New Hampshire and worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service studying walrus at Cape Pierce near Dillingham. She earned a master’s degree in marine biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks focused on studying walrus diet, worked as a marine mammal biologist for the State of Alaska Arctic Marine Mammal Program, and currently is an... Read More
Originally from Illinois and Minnesota, David "Dave" Swanson studied geology, soil science, and plant ecology in Colorado, and earned a PhD in soil science from the University of Minnesota. He moved to Alaska in 1989 to work as a soil scientist for the Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resource Conservation Service), where he was in charge of all soil mapping investigations in central and northern Alaska. In the early 2000’s, Dave moved to Oregon where he worked as a plant ecologist... Read More
Originally from Wisconsin, Emily Willis came to Skagway, Alaska in 2002 to work seasonally. She ended up staying and worked at Jewell Gardens from 2002 to 2008. Feeling connected to plants, both wild and domestic, she began to learn about their traditional and medicinal uses through coursework at the Australasian College of Health Services, by attending workshops by Beverly Gray in the Yukon, and Robert Rogers, and by self-study. In 2010, she established her business, "... Read More