Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Bud Helmericks

Bud Helmericks was interviewed on October 24, 2003 by Karen Brewster and David Krupa conducted at his home in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska. As cultural anthropologist with Gates of the Arctic National Park, David Krupa was interested in hearing about Bud's relationship with the park. Bud was selected for this interview because of his long history as a bush pilot in northern Alaska, and because he has a home on Walker Lake within the boundaries of Gates of the Arctic National Park. Bud has many ties with the National Park Service. In this interview, Bud discusses flying in the Brooks Range in the early days, key people in the area at the time, life at Walker Lake, and how he has seen things change over the years. This interview has been edited.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2002-27-14

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Oct 24, 2003
Narrator(s): Bud Helmericks
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster, David Krupa
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
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1) Early Alaska history and his arrival and early days in Alaska

2) Life at Walker Lake and living off the land

3) Traveling around northern Alaska and learning to fly

4) Native story about Walker Lake, and the life of George Woods who lived in the Colville River delta

5) Continuation of George Woods' life history and the Helmericks' relationship with him

6) An experience with people at Chandler Lake and traditional beliefs about name reincarnation

7) Charlie and Tom Brower of Barrow, Alaska

8) Barrow history and thoughts about the Gates of the Arctic National Park land use policies

9) Land use policies and creation of Gates of the Arctic National Park

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Section 1: gold -- search\ roadhouses\ dogs -- driving\ Wien, Noel\ flying\ airplane\ prospectors\ airplane -- crash\ airplane -- repair\ Walker Lake\ Walker Lake -- first people\ arrowheads\ exploration\ early man\ Lake Peter\ Giddings, Louis\ journey -- walked\ Fairbanks\ Kotzebue\ hunting\ trapping\ travel -- river crossing\ Alaska -- arrival\ Steamship -- Yukon\ Seward\ Anchorage\ U.S. Army Signal Corps\ telephone lines\ Nome\ caribou -- wrapped in wires\ University\ Alaska -- appreciation\ land use\ raft\ Walker Lake\ land -- selection of\ Walker Lake -- living at\ land -- love of\ remote lifestyle -- benefits of\ welfare\ lifestyle -- independent\ security\ city life -- dependence|

Section 2: Walker Lake\ lifestyle -- remote\ survival\ life -- independent\ lifestyle -- schedule\ family -- enjoyment of\ people -- caring for\ city life\ lectures\ people -- meeting\ dignity\ old-timers\ Walker Lake -- current conditions\ Gates of the Arctic National Park\ animals -- changes\ park vs. wilderness\ National Park -- creation of\ President Carter\ people -- number of\ people -- attitude\ respect -- lack of\ wilderness -- protection of\ people -- change in numbers\ animal populations -- disruption of\ Brooks Range -- arrival in\ U.S. Army\ research\ Helmericks, Martha -- wife\ wilderness -- values\ wilderness -- enjoyment of\ canoe\ animals -- respect\ nature -- study of\ land -- protection\ work -- enjoyment of\ Eskimos\ Indians\ cabin\ home -- naming of|

Section 3: country -- exploring\ walking\ airplane\ invention\ reading -- impact of\ memory\ history\ hearing\ African people\ Eskimo people\ flying -- learning\ flying -- joys of\ perspective\ flying -- navigation\ money\ flying -- business\ Arctic\ north coast -- population\ making living\ lifestyle -- self-sufficient\ subsistence\ politics\ land -- knowledge of\ tools\ building\ fishing\ berry picking\ land -- living off\ childhood -- ranch\ Arizona\ Illinois\ Alaska -- arrival\ Depression\ Alaska Statehood\ Fairbanks\ state -- boundary|

Section 4: Arizona\ birthdate\ Natives\ Walker Lake -- fear of\ legend -- fish\ Walker Lake -- island\ fish -- killing of\ personal beliefs -- respect for\ miracle\ Eskimo\ Athabascan\ cabin -- building\ Lake -- stayed off\ respect\ Woods, George and Nannie\ gold rush\ Kotzebue\ Woods, George -- parents\ illness -- influenza\ death\ Kobuk River\ Norutak Lake\ placename -- meaning of\ starvation times\ survival\ trail -- code of\ fish\ prospectors\ Alatna\ boundary -- Eskimos and Indians\ mission school\ name -- meaning of\ Woods, Georgie K.|

Section 5: Woods, George\ miners\ English -- learning\ Arctic -- coast\ John River\ Anaktuvuk Pass\ Seegers, John \ prospecting\ Barter Island\ population -- coastal\ trading post\ Bureau of Indian Affairs\ children -- paid for\ marriage\ missionaries\ Woods, Nannie\ Woods, Nannie -- children\ Colville River\ neighbors\ Helmericks, Martha\ Woods, Martha\ death\ hospital -- reputation of\ name -- meaning of\ Barrow -- move to\ fuel\ exploration\ Canada\ ship -- Northstar\ Brower, Tom\ fishing -- commercial|

Section 6: story\ flying -- Brooks Range\ storm\ Chandler Lake\ visibility -- lack of\ airplane -- landing\ Paneak, Simon\ tent -- skin\ tea\ hospitality\ man -- death\ gas box\ grave\ story -- death of wife\ Bettles\ disease\ World War I\ Christianity\ burial -- pocket knife\ death -- sign of\ igloo\ storm -- listen to\ airplane -- check on\ northern lights\ baby -- crying\ reincarnation\ girl\ man -- great hunter\ name -- changing of|

Section 7: Walker Lake\ life -- changes\ fear\ flying -- beginning\ airplane -- emergency gear\ gun possession\ laws\ Canada\ Woods, George and Nannie\ North Slope\ Brower, Tom\ Brower, Charlie\ Barrow\ church\ school\ hospital\ Greist, Doctor\ beliefs -- traditional\ death -- childbirth\ death -- accidents\ church -- factions\ complaints -- missionary\ Missionary Board\ missionary -- departure\ Explorer's Club\ Browers -- entrepenuers\ family -- inheritance\ post office -- C.O.D.'s\ money\ trade -- fox skins\ mail\ jail\ assets -- seisure of\ government\ Brower, David\ assets -- sale of\ Brower, Tom -- businessman|

Section 8: Brower family\ Barrow\ North Slope Borough\ drugs\ alcohol\ death -- drinking\ drinking -- problem\ Barrow -- buildings\ Brower, Tom\ government -- agencies\ U.S. Bureau of Standards\ U. S. Weather Bureau\ agencies -- isolation\ money -- circulation of\ church\ business\ missionary\ village economics\ personal checks\ money -- collecting\ life -- change\ life -- modernization\ Walker Lake -- importance of\ balance -- need for\ President Carter\ Vietnam\ helicopters -- effects of|

Section 9: lifestyle -- freedom\ land -- ownership\ Stevens, Ted\ land use -- policy\ National Park -- boundary\ Walker Lake\ park -- protection\ park -- land use\ economics\ lifestyle -- limits of\ people -- number of\ tent\ radio -- walkie-talkie\ problems -- bear\ trail -- bear\ Alaska -- U.S government\ oil development\ Arctic National Wildlife Refuge\ lies\ polar bear -- presence of\ caribou -- presence of\ Refuge -- "Barrens"\ oil -- need for\ electricity -- generation of\ caribou -- increase in\ airplane hangar\ Arctic -- facing self\ Walker Lake -- first impression\ mountains\ water\ politicians -- respect for\ demands\ tax\ budget -- balancing|