Clarence Summers was interviewed on January 27, 2106 by Rachel Mason and Karen Brewster at the offices of the National Park Service in Anchorage, Alaska. In this first part of a two part interview, Clarence talks about being the first district ranger stationed in Yakutat, developing a relationship with the local community, and his law enforcement and permit issuing duties. He also talks about subsistence use in the parks, and making patrols into areas of Glacier Bay and Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks and Preserves.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Date of Interview: Jan 27, 2016
Narrator(s): Clarence Summers
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster, Rachel Mason
Transcriber: Sue Beck
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Coming to Alaska
First working at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Becoming district ranger for Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve stationed in Yakutat, Alaska
First arriving in Yakutat and doing a survey for Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Finding a place to live in Yakutat after becoming district ranger
Byron Mallot's testimony about Yakutat residents' subsistence use of park lands
Location of Park Service office in Yakutat, and equipment used for patrols
Representative for Glacier Bay and Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks and Preserves
Law enforcement and administering permits
Search and rescue, and climbing expeditions with Kluane National Park wardens
River management of the Alsek Tatshenshini River system, and float trips on the river
Park Service employees in Yakutat
The relationship between the community of Yakutat and the Park Service
Gaining acceptance in the community
Negative feelings towards the Park Service
Change in attitudes, and continued access to traditional hunting areas
Communicating the message about subsistence use of the park
Hunting guides, and patrolling and surveying the area
Cabin inventory and permitted and non-permitted uses
Seasonal round of activities and patrols
Hubbard Glacier surge event
Subsistence use of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park near Yakutat
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KAREN BREWSTER: This is Karen Brewster, and today is January 27, 2016. And I’m here in Anchorage, Alaska at the National Park Service regional office with Clarence Summers. And Rachel Mason is also here.
And this is for the Wrangell–St. Elias National Park Project. And we’re going to talk about Clarence’s experiences working down in Yakutat.
Thank you, Clarence, for agreeing to do this.
CLARENCE SUMMERS: My pleasure. I’ll start by saying my given name is Clarence Raymond Summers III. And I’m a descendant of John Summers and John Bell.
There’s a publication for Fairfax County, Virginia produced for the four-hundredth anniversary of Jamestown settlement of -- and it’s Stories of Fairfax. And it captures my family history.
Like I said, I’m a descendant of John Summers. He was a Quaker who had property and a plantation in Virginia in the 1700s. And then the other descendant is John Bell, another grandfather.
RACHEL MASON: Which one of them is John Summers?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Well, this -- in this -- in this book it shows -- I’m Clarence Raymond Summers III. This is Clarence Raymond Summers Sr., my grandfather, who I remember.
And he was born -- he was actually the first freeborn person -- Clarence in our family. He arrived right after the Civil War in the 1800s.
And then my father, Clarence Raymond Summers Jr., depicted here in a photograph with his siblings and mom. My dad grew up in Fairfax County, of course, with his family.
And like I said, we’ve got this long history from -- on my dad’s side of John Summers and his grandmother’s side of John Bell, who were longtime residents of Fairfax County.
I just thought I’d start with that, and I grew up in Virginia in Fairfax in the ‘50s. Of course, before integration, and so I’ve got this -- Well, it wasn’t until what ’63 or ‘62 with the civil rights bill when you got your rights, so I was a teenager.
But I grew up in segregated schools and integrated schools in Fairfax County and went to J.E.B. Stuart High School and went to the University of Maryland. I was a student there.
I came to Alaska for the first time in 1972 to work at Glacier Bay as a -- I think it was at that time called a park technician. And I worked there starting in, like I said, 1972. That was my first experience in Southeast Alaska.
And then subsequent years after college when I graduated, I got lucky and applied for the Park Service, and had my first assignment in Florida at Canaveral National Seashore.
Prior to that, though, let me sort of fill in the blank here. I worked seasonally at Glacier Bay. I worked as a seasonal in the Everglades, Biscayne National Park, Haleakala National Park, and -- yeah, those were the major places where I was fortunate enough to get a job as a park ranger.
But when I started in Glacier Bay in ‘72, I worked for a gentleman, Don -- In ’72, I worked -- and in years thereafter as a park ranger, backcountry ranger, assigned to duties with law enforcement responsibilities.
I was a boat ranger. I lived in the backcountry. I acquired a commission as a law enforcement officer for the National Park Service, went to FLETC, and ---
KAREN BREWSTER: What’s FLETC? CLARENCE SUMMERS: FLETC’s the federal law enforcement training center.
I worked for a gentleman by the name of Don Chase. He was the chief ranger. I want to say it was in the late ‘70s. Don’s depicted here. He’s one of my close friends.
RACHEL MASON: Was that at Glacier Bay?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: This is at Glacier Bay. And Don Chase was at that time the chief ranger and I was a backcountry supervisor for the National Park Service.
KAREN BREWSTER: And he’s the one holding -- with the canoe paddle?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: He’s the guy with the canoe paddle. This is a picture taken a few years -- just a few years ago. There're a collection of close friends that I’ve worked with over the years, while in Yakutat actually.
The gentleman on -- this -- this is Lloyd Freese. He was a Kluane warden as a ranger at Glacier Bay. It’s got an area now that’s assigned as a national preserve. Glacier Bay National Preserve.
But in 1978, I patrolled an area -- ’79. I patrolled an area on assignment with -- for the Park Service to identify ANILCA lands. This was prior to passage of ANILCA, and the goal was to determine where this -- where we would have a national preserve or where the boundaries should be designated in this area.
And so I flew to Yakutat -- to Yakutat for the first time, I want to say in ‘79 as a -- like I said, a Park Service employee, and then we flew down to what’s now known as the Glacier Bay National Preserve. I did a survey with park rangers from Glacier Bay on both sides of the Alsek River.
And about a year later after ANILCA was passed, about -- I think it was 1981. I applied for a position and started in Yakutat. I want to say in 1971. That was my first year as a district park ranger. That was my title.
Gentleman depicted here, Jim Hannah, I met him in Yakutat in 1971 for the first time. Chuck Budge was our superintendent. And he and I took a walk through town. Jim became the -- was assigned as the -- hired and assigned as the district ranger for the Chitina district.
And so that’s my first memory of meeting a Park person and being officially with Wrangell–St. Elias National Park.
KAREN BREWSTER: Now you said “district ranger in Yakutat.” Was that 1981? CLARENCE SUMMERS: That was 1981.
KAREN BREWSTER: ‘Cause you said ’71. CLARENCE SUMMERS: Did I say ’71? I’m sorry. It was 1981, after ANILCA, which passed in ’80. So now I jumped ahead a bit here.
But the point I want to make is Jim Hannah, one of the first park rangers assigned to Wrangells, 1981, working for Chuck Budge, superintendent at the time.
I think there were -- let’s see, Jim Paleck -- Bill Paleck was the chief ranger and -- Yeah, we were known as "Chuck’s Huskies."
That was a little -- it’s a -- was just glancing in -- they had a National Geographic. They did an article on new parks in Alaska in 1981. New park areas established by ANILCA. And in this article it referred to Chuck Budge and his rangers, ‘cause it seemed like we were all big guys. But we were dubbed Chuck’s Huskies. But you -- you have a question.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah, I just had a question. CLARENCE SUMMERS: Sure. RACHEL MASON: I just wanted to clarify, what was the year that you first came to Yakutat?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: First time was as an employee at Glacier Bay, but on this assignment to go to Yakutat. That’s a staging area if you’re going to fly in to -- it’s a hub community adjacent to the preserve at Dry Bay on the Alsek.
So I flew there. At the time I was the Glacier Bay backcountry supervisor working for Don Chase.
And the superintendent tagged me because I was backcountry supervisor, very familiar with the outer coast at Glacier Bay and there, and -- and had the necessary skills to do a survey.
And so I -- my partner at the time that first trip, I think it was Rick Caulfield, who’s now the chancellor at the University of Alaska at Southeast. Rick and I flew -- and we’re going -- this is before 1980.
KAREN BREWSTER: But you said ‘79.
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Yeah. Something like that. It was before the passage of ANILCA.
But we flew there and he and I did this survey on the north shore, and then we did a survey -- Well, I did a survey with rangers from Glacier Bay on the south shore.
We were trying to determine where the -- where best to place the boundary. And I guess, as it turned out, it was -- we used the southern, I guess, shoreline as, you know, the final boundary, the downriver boundary from Alsek Lake. But additional questions before -- ? Sure.
RACHEL MASON: Where did you stay when you first went to Yakutat?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Well, when I -- when we arrived that first day, I met Jim at the airport. The Park Service had secured a trailer next to the grocery store Monti Bay in the center of town, across the street from the post office.
It was a rental unit last occupied by a schoolteacher at the Yakutat school. I took a look at the place and it -- I just thought I could do better in town. So I’ll move on to say that ---
KAREN BREWSTER: This is when you became the ranger?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Yeah, I’m district ranger. It’s what -- ’81? And I needed a place to stay. I wanted a better place. So I met --
Well, first I’ll start with the community. I met with the mayor at the time, Larry Powell.
This is a planning document that I worked on with -- well, actually when I arrived, this was in place and we worked on a new -- the updated version of this planning document for the city.
I walked in and introduced myself as the new park district ranger for both Glacier Bay and Wrangell–St. Elias. Met the mayor at the time, Larry Powell, who happened to be the brother-in-law of Byron Mallott.
Met Byron Mallott through Larry Powell, the mayor. Met Byron’s sister, Caroline Powell. And Byron, I guess he’s the youngest mayor.
This is a photo from our -- from our -- this is -- is it Morse? Frank Morse? Norris. He did a subsistence history for the Park Service.
And there’s a picture of Chuck Budge, by the way. First superintendent, my first boss. Right?
And then there’s a picture in the fold here of Byron Mallott. I think he was what twenty-two elected mayor in Yakutat? Youngest mayor.
RACHEL MASON: That’s a very young picture.
CLARENCE SUMMERS: So, yeah, I met him and his wife Caroline, and we struck up a deal. The mayor and Byron, who was at the time working for Sealaska.
He said, “I’ll rent you my house. I’ve got a house, a cabin next to mine, and we’d like to have good relations with the Park Service.”
I know in the D-2 hearings, Byron was a player in negotiating special provisions and conditions for Yakutat residents. I know subsistence users used this new park, Wrangell–St. Elias, which was across the bay from Yakutat, and historically they accessed it using boats and airplanes.
And Byron stepped in and had a public meeting and made a point that we want to continue this aircraft access. And that translated to a special exception in our regulations in 1981. Just as a sidebar.
So we were -- at least I and the Park Service had a friend in our first attempt to, you know, establish an office or base in Yakutat for both parks.
I do know that my first office, though, was in City Hall. Larry Powell, the mayor, made available, you know, a corner in City Hall where I could -- had a desk and a point of contact.
And after that I negotiated through our lands office here, a use -- a lease of a -- an office downtown next to the bank. I think it was one of the KeyBank. I forget the name of the bank, but it was a local bank in Yakutat.
And so we had a prefabricated building, half of it designated as the Yakutat district office. That was my first office in Yakutat. Second site in Yakutat. The first site was my desk at City Hall.
That -- I think this -- I’d have to look at the records, but it took about a year to get that. Maybe by ’72 or ’73 we negotiated the lease. Had the use of this office adjacent to the bank, centrally located -- central location next to the bank.
We also leased a hangar out at the airport, where we could keep riverboat equipment and -- and I think, yeah, shortly thereafter we acquired a patrol boat, the Anita P, and it was about, I don’t know twenty-three-, twenty-four-foot boat, aluminum hull.
We arranged through the city office, space and moorage at the Yakutat harbor, so that gave us access up Yakutat Bay to visit parklands within Wrangell–St. Elias, Hubbard Glacier and the Malaspina adjacent to that.
And so I used that patrol boat along with the aluminum one, along with -- I believe it was a Zodiac, maybe twenty-foot Zodiac. And that was the other patrol boat that we used to access the Park.
RACHEL MASON: What were your duties as a ranger when you were there?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: As the district Park manager, both superintendents, Glacier Bay and Wrangell–St. Elias, got together and we signed an agreement that I would be the point of contact for the Park Service.
In this comprehensive plan there’s a section on government relations. The short of it is we --they identified in their planning document that they wanted one point of contact to simplify management of federal lands for Park Service in the area.
There was a lot of fear in the beginning that -- the Forest Service was there before us, and they managed, let’s say, the Glacier Bay portion of it, which became Glacier Bay Preserve.
And then BLM had lands over on the Malaspina forelands. But this was the first time that the Park Service came into the community with a goal and objective of establishing some type of administrative office and public visitor contact station.
And so in this planning document, the city planner at a public meeting -- he, you know, used, I guess, the arrival of, I guess, the Park Service as an example of -- to use in his presentation.
And he wanted feedback from the local people on how the Park Service -- What do you want? What do you want us to -- at least, what terms and conditions do you want the Park Service to follow to make community relations better or to, you know, establish a good working relationship? Could you identify, you know, several things.
And this one high priority was that there be one -- one office and one ranger who could speak for both parks in terms of permits and any, I guess, administrative actions passed down from superintendents.
And so, in this agreement between the two superintendents that was, I think -- I forget how many terms and conditions. But anyway, the bottom line is --
I want to say, Chuck Budge and -- oh boy, here we go, I’m trying to think. His name’s not going to pop. (John Chapman was superintendent at Glacier Bay from 1980-83.) But the superintendent at Glacier Bay signed an agreement.
We established our office, and with that came funds to have seasonal employees and VIPs (Volunteer in the Park) to start, you know, providing services to the public in the way of interpretive --
Your question was, "What are your -- my responsibilities? RACHEL MASON: Yep.
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Law enforcement. I had a law enforcement ranger and access to law enforcement rangers at Glacier Bay.
In the summer, I employed two seasonal rangers. Well, I started out with one and later we got funding for two.
But, yeah, law enforcement, interpretation, and then administrating permits, such as cabin permits, subsistence permits, access permits.
In our new regulations of 1981 regulations there were a number of requirements that the superintendent -- at least, authorities passed on to the superintendent for permitting.
And as the site manager, I was in a key position to -- to expedite permit requests by receiving -- having a point of -- an office to receive the request, and then staff to do what needed to -- to do the necessary inspections if it required site inspections so that these permits could be issued in a timely manner.
An example would be, at Glacier Bay there were a number of commercial fishing camps that we inherited from the Forest Service managers. So we had to put them under our special-use permit authorizations.
And so that meant a number of trips to Glacier Bay and inventory there to better manage and to make contact with over -- I want to say at the time there were at least -- at least thirty permits, permitees -- fifty permits on site or sixty -- fifty or sixty.
There was at least two lodges that I can recall on site under special-use permits. So I worked closely with -- at that time the superintendent and Kevin Apgar, concessions manager.
And a similar scenario at Wrangells. We had a number of fish camps. Not as many, but a number under permit -- special permit for occupancy and use during the commercial seasons. And there was some subsistence use occurring in both areas.
Search and rescue was a major part of my responsibility. I was certified for search and rescue and I worked closely with the Canadian Park Service.
This gentleman, Lloyd Freese, was the climbing ranger at Kluane National Park, and on several occasions starting in, I want to say in ’81, he flew over with teams and we trained in the Bagley Icefield, a glacier of Wrangell–St. Elias.
And we summited a number of peaks, 15,000-foot peaks. Mount Alverstone is a boundary peak, so I went on an expedition and we made summit. I also attempted Mount Logan, which is in Kluane and that’s the -- what the second-highest in North America at 19,000’. We got to 17,000’ with a group on an expedition.
I also -- let’s see -- I want to say, yeah, Mount Steele, another peak -- seven -- I want to say it’s 14,000’. It’s a boundary peak between Wrangells.
The point is, annually -- there was an annual -- between 1982 to about ’88, I made trips into the Saint Elias Range for search and rescue, working with the Kluane wardens and their helicopters. That was the upside.
We had helicopters in Yakutat, but they had a team also at Haines Junction, and on occasion they would fly over to Yakutat, pick me up, and there were several search and rescue actions that occurred on St. Elias and/or on adjacent peaks in that area.
We also annually -- I wanna say starting in -- about ’81, I made my first trip on the Alsek. Another responsibility was river boat patrol or river management of the Alsek Tatshenshini River.
We had a designation as a World Heritage area from the UN for this, for both Glacier Bay, Kluane, and Wrangells. And this river patrol responsibility involved again training with the Canadian wardens, because the Alsek River flows out of Kluane and it joins on the Canadian side just -- just before entering as -- it joins the Tatshenshini in Glacier Bay, and it flows and becomes the Alsek. The Tatshenshini becomes the Alsek as it flows into Glacier Bay.
And so I wanna say between ‘82 and about ’88, I floated the Alsek -- I mean the Tatshenshini Alsek, as a required boat-patrol responsibility to contact commercial operators. We had a number of commercial operators during the summer season.
We normally floated during a period when we had commercial traffic on the river. Quite a few private groups were floating at that time. This is before the management plan, which now limits, I think, commercial operation. And permits the river.
KAREN BREWSTER: So by commercial operation you mean guided trips?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Guided river trips, right. So we would start at Dalton Post, usually two boats.
I think the first time I did it I floated with Ken Schoenberg and we followed a group. But I flew with Ken Schoenberg, an anthropologist from our office here in Anchorage. He -- the plan was to -- I think he was doing a 106 survey for the plan or the river plan or some compliance work.
But I put together the trip and he -- he brought along one other anthropologist. I can’t remember her name. But Ken and I, good friends.
This trip was from the US border. We flew with Gulf Air taxi, landed on the border, did his -- I think a 106 survey for a plan or -- and on the way we -- we hauled out at -- in the Preserve at Dry Bay, as an example.
But in years thereafter it was normally two boats, not one, that floated. And we normally invited the Canadians along.
I can think of one trip where we left Dalton Post, and I think there’s a document -- article to document this in the Anchorage Daily News, where we came upon a gentleman, Lenny Savic (sp?), who waved us down.
This is an international patrol. We had at least two or three boats. And he said, “Hey! I’ve been here for a week. Thank God for saving me.” And “My group left me behind.”
To make a long story short, we caught up with the group at Dry Bay using a helicopter. Lenny was fine. I think he later went on the Letterman show to talk about being saved by park wardens and park rangers on the Alsek River, and there was a bit of notoriety.
But I think Mike Doogan wrote an article and he talked -- I think, I made first contact with Lenny. He said, “You’re here to save me!” And I said, “I’m a park ranger. I’m here to help,” or something to that effect. Anyway, it's just a sidebar tale.
But, yeah, river responsibilities and interpretation, providing information about Park Service, our role and function to the community of Yakutat. I’ve given programs in Cordova and small communities on the coast. I’ve been to Pelican and some of the satellite communities on the outer coast of Glacier Bay. Hoonah is an example.
But anyway, yeah, getting back to the role and function in Yakutat. Primary function was administrative. It’s an administrative site for the superintendent. Law enforcement responsibilities. Interpretive responsibilities, so that’s visitor service.
RACHEL MASON: Were there other Park Service employees stationed in Yakutat or just you?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Well, I was the senior employee. We later had, like I said, two law enforcement seasonals come in annually.
And then I hired, I think Mary Anne Porter, who later became a Park employee and worked for -- I believe she worked out of Kotzebue as an interpreter, as the lead interpreter.
But, yeah, we normally had -- at least my model was to have at least two law enforcement rangers, a person in the office, and that was Mary Anne Porter. And then we had a number of VIPs that worked, including Marcy and Geoff Larson, who later established Alaska Brewery, the beer place (Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau).
Anyway, they were at Glacier Bay. I think Marcy was the night auditor at the Park and her husband was a brewmaster.
But anyway, I’m just making the point that I had a number of -- of VIPs that worked for me over the years, and they did things like build wall tents.
We had backcountry cabins, workstations for rangers and for field operations, both at Glacier Bay National Preserve and at the Malaspina forelands. And so on occasion -- well we used Marcy and Geoff at Dry Bay in the Preserve to build the cabins -- to build wall tents, as an example.
But, yeah, a number of VIPs came through over the years.
KAREN BREWSTER: And when you say VIP, is that Volunteers in the Park?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Volunteer in the Park. Correct. Volunteer in the Park. It's a program. Anyone can sign up and, depending on your skill, the Park Service puts you in the appropriate place to help support our -- our mission and effort.
RACHEL MASON: Well, how would you describe the community’s relationship with the Park Service in that period?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Well, when I first arrived there was a mixed emotion about the arrival of the Park Service. The Forest Service, like I said, that was in place.
John Glasier (sp?) was the Park district ranger and he had a history of -- at least, well, I would call it baggage of dealing with cabins and permit requests. And so, when we arrived, we had a clean slate.
I think I went out of my way -- my personal view of this -- to let the people know that we were here to stay, that we were here to support the interpretive part of the community as in the fabric of the Tlingit people, you know, in our story. You know, we wanted to include that.
It’s not just the Park’s closed and it’s only open to, you know, to tourists. But, you know, local people have a role and a place, and that’s why I used our VIP system to bring people on board to work with me, so that they could see the day-to-day and then go back and report.
I used -- this office site, by the way, was -- our office site next to the bank in this prefab building was owned by the Yakutat Kwaan. I worked with Lowell Peterson. At the time he was the, I guess, the president or the lead person at the Yak-tat Kwaan, which is the local IRA -- yeah, visitor -- IRA native group there.
And Lowell Peterson, I want to say -- I’m trying to look here -- yeah, Lowell. Hank Porter was another person, very helpful person, on the Yakutat Council.
Ted Valle, another very knowledgeable and a supporter of the Park.
Like I said, Caroline Powell. She was Yakutat planning and zoning commission chief. Byron Mallott’s sister. Very helpful.
I got lucky and I hit the jackpot because I went right to the administrative -- at least a government -- small government. I want to say when I moved to Yakutat there were about five-, six-hundred people living there, maybe five-fifty, you know, full-time residents. Rest of the people came in commercial fishing.
You know it’s a hub for commercial fishing both on -- in Yakutat Bay and offshore waters. There was a fish processing plant there, so they brought in employees to work there. And summertime, a lot of transient fishermen in and out.
But how were the people? I got lucky. The city fathers took me in. I also went out of my way -- having worked as a park ranger at Glacier Bay, and when I worked at Biscayne National Park, I worked as a park interpreter.
And I also worked at Everglades as an interpreter. At Biscayne National Park, this is the ‘70s, ’76.
I have a commercial operator’s license to take people out on commercial boats if I -- but I used the skill -- the boat operations skill, for the Park Service to operate a glass-bottom boat.
And so we would go out in Biscayne Bay. I know I’m shifting gears talking about Florida. But I’d go out on the water, give these presentations or Park evening programs talking about the marine environment on the water there.
So I -- I think I developed the skill to at least communicate the message, and I took that to Yakutat and used those interpretive skills.
Like I said, I worked at Everglades. I used to work with the chief of interpretation, and he would bring groups in from the inner city of Miami and they’d go into the Everglades in boat and canoes, and usually camp overnight.
Most of those kids were African-Americans or Latin Americans, but minority students, and so it was fun. You know, I had this ability to communicate and to share and to communicate the Park message.
So when I arrived in Yakutat, I used those skills to go into the -- example, public school in Yakutat and give programs and to meet with youth groups. And so, yeah, that was at least, you know, something that gave me fulfillment and hopefully assisted the Park in delivering the mission.
At the same time, I was a commissioned law enforcement officer, so I could issue citations, and I did that over the years during my tenure there.
On occasion we had law enforcement actions involving wildlife violations, and there were a few permit violations.
So it’s, you know, it’s a tough sell at the time. I think the early rangers in those years wore all the hats because we were -- the first people in were interdisciplinary in that they had different skills that they -- including law enforcement, and so it was -- you know, that was a benefit, I think, for the Park Service.
And it made it easier to have, let’s say, a central point of contact. I think it was similar in a few other communities where there’s a central point of contact where the Park -- where community people could come to -- to, let’s say, one office and get the information or to meet whatever -- or get the necessary information for permits or public information for visiting the park area. Another question?
KAREN BREWSTER: Before you -- I'm wishing to take a little pause, break here.
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Right. Yeah, let’s see. I can think of another way that I -- another method of socialization, if you want to call it that, for me to get to know people and to be accepted.
Through the -- Larry Powell, the mayor, and a number of community leaders on the city council, we had a weekly get-together. There was normally a council meeting once a month. a city council meeting. And I’d go to that.
Then after that, on occasion we’d have dinner parties where we’d go house to house and have a movable feast. And that was very helpful because, you know, you’re on the job in uniform. And I wore a uniform at that time. And then I would normally socialize with the local people, like I said, through these little events, such as this movable -- you know, these dinner get-togethers where we’d talk about issues, problems.
On occasion, we would solve some of the use issues dealing with permits. It was very helpful to have access to the community council folks and the people from the Native corporation there on an informal basis to sort of work through some of the concerns that people had at that time about government.
I can only think of one occasion where we had our Park plane -- and that’s documented in Frank Norris’s book -- where somebody painted a swastika on the plane.
I leased a hangar out at the airport so that the Park plane at Wrangell–St. Elias -- Bill Paleck, chief ranger, pilot, would fly in on occasion for inspections, and we’d do patrols using our Park plane from Wrangells.
But we had an event where somebody put a swastika on it. But we got through that. And I’m just saying in the beginning it was a little dicey, because some of the guides -- I’ll just say that -- that some of the guides were concerned that we were going to come in -- they’d lost guide area in the National Park, which was now open to subsistence but not to guided hunting. Preserves were open.
The Federal lands, Forest Service lands were open to guiding, but not the Park. The Park at Wrangell–St. Elias was now open to subsistence use by local residents. So that was a sore point for some of the guides.
RACHEL MASON: Was that a change that occurred while you were there?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: That -- well, when I first arrived, yeah, that -- that swastika was within the first year. It was in the first year.
At one point, when I first arrived, we had a problem with the vendor there not wanting to sell gasoline to the Park Service, the Chevron dealer. He later became a friend and -- yeah, but relations in the beginning -- there were a lot of unknowns.
And I think this was a statewide thing. I know at Wrangells there were a number of events where people were just not happy to see Park Service, and there were a number of little episodes.
But over time there was a tremendous improvement, I thought. And a lot of the fears just, in my opinion, went away. Because they saw that they could continue to use their traditional hunting areas within both Wrangell–St. Elias and the Preserve portion of Glacier Bay.
And I had an extra challenge -- while I’m on this thought of use of lands for subsistence and hunting. You know, Glacier Bay added a half million acres, and that half million acres from Cape Fairweather along the Alsek corridor closed to taking wildlife, closed to subsistence.
That’s a tough sell for the Yakutat guy. For me. Because, you know, historically there are Native people. They have tribal lands at Dry Bay.
And I think, you know, the Park’s done a tremendous job -- today at least, making connection to have people go back to capture that history.
But when I arrived in ’80, yeah, there was -- that added to the drama, trying to explain why at Wrangells in the Park it’s open to subsistence. This is for the local person. And open in the Preserve for subsistence -- open in the Preserve for taking wildlife at Dry Bay and subsistence, but not the Park. That’s a tough sell.
And it’s just the fact. Congress didn’t authorize it. And I guess people adjusted. You know, people adjusted and we got along.
RACHEL MASON: Do you remember any specific incidents or experiences where you talked to local people about that?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Oh, yeah. I can think of one instance where, when I first arrived I had a -- an event where a gentleman approached me. And this was the first two months in Yakutat. I’m going to back it up here to ’81.
I’m alone and it was -- he approached me and he said, “You know, having you in our community is the equivalent of me turning on the television and having the man on the tele --” this is an elder. He said, “You’re the guy when I turn on the TV who’s talking to me, telling me what I can do in my own house and my own land.”
And that was the point. I don’t know if I’m not making it -- I’m not doing a great job here trying to explain.
But he said, “You’re like the guy on television that’s telling me the weather and what it’s gonna be, and he’s always wrong. He’s just never right." Or, you know, the news guy telling me what the -- what’s been, you know, authoriz -- what's authorized and what’s not authorized.
"But, you know, people are just gonna subsist and use the land. We’ve been doing this.”
And I’ll never forget that, because I was walking home, going back to my cabin, which was on the waterfront. It was a -- several -- I don’t know -- about a quarter-mile from downtown.
But anyway, I was walking along and this elder caught up with me and we just talked and he said, “You know, I’m glad you’re the guy that’s here.” That’s what he kept saying.
“We can -- " 'cause he -- I’d been there little while and he’d heard me in a couple public meetings. I used to go to the Alaska Native -- what is it? ANB Hall there.
And to some of the meetings and give a little spiel on what’s up with the Park Service. What’s new. Who’s coming to town. What public meetings. What EA or EIS. What river plan.
And so I developed my own style for delivery. But this elder said, you know, “Better you than somebody else, but when you first arrived I didn’t know how to take it. It was like a new channel. And what’s this guy gonna do?”
And, you know, he says, “It’s getting better now. I can watch it. It’s okay.” But he compared me to -- you know.
RACHEL MASON: Well, was it primarily a Native community?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Yes. Yakutat at that time for the hard-core people that are there -- I forget the percentage. I want to say -- I don’t know. I’d hate to use statistics. I better use my book.
But, yeah, the majority of people were Tlingit descendants. Descendants of or a mixture, and a lot of interracial marriage in years. So, yeah, majority of folks were Tlingit.
And there was a small portion of folks who came into the community either for education, or fishing-related, or hunting, or if they were guiding, and they stayed. They liked it. They stayed.
A lot of the commercial fishermen -- not a lot, but the summer fishermen would leave and go south.
At Glacier Bay, of all the permittees -- I don’t know, forty permits? The majority of people went south and a few went back to Yakutat.
The Yakutat fishermen historically would take their boats in for summer fishing and live in tents and then come back to town.
But the people in the cabins, who were under permit from the Forest Service, were normally from the Outside and they would leave. And so that was -- that was at least the pattern of use for visitation.
KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned the hunting guides. So, were most of them living in Yakutat and guiding up into the Malaspina forelands or some lived out?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Sure. There was only one or two people. This gentleman who wouldn’t sell us gas, Arnie (Arnold) Israelson, became a good friend.
When the Park Service first arrived he ran the airport. He said, “I’m not selling you gas. Go away.” And over the years I got to know him. He had a cabin in a lodge at Dry Bay and good guy.
And Arnie Israelson, a long-time resident, master guide, all the skills, perfect gentleman. Just a little concerned about big government and change, and so -- but he adapted.
And I think Gary Gray took over his guide business after that. And Gary’s here, I think, today. He’s a good friend.
But, yeah, my goal and contacts -- you know, if I’m the landlord -- if you want to call me the landlord of the Park or the representative, you want to know who’s in your park.
So I made a point of, with my patrol boat the Anita P, my Zodiac -- I’ll use Wrangell–St. Elias as an example. Of starting at the Hubbard Glacier and actually going up into the variegated glacier, eastern area along the coast.
But I patrol -- I either boated or walked the entire coast within the Park in segments. And I’ve -- the Preserve was directly across from Yakutat. Like I said, we used the Zodiac. I did to cross into the inlet into the lakes that were established through the retreat of the Malaspina Glacier.
I brought in Austin Post from USGS. He was a well-known geologist, glaciologist, who monitored glacial retreat, and would annually do a flyover from Southeast Alaska up into the interior coastal areas. Yakutat -- one of his favorite sites.
We became close friends. On another event of surveying and getting out and knowing your district, he brought a boat in, a USGS boat, the Growler.
We went into Icy Bay as the glaciers were retreating. We did some of the first mapping. I stayed on the boat for at least two weeks and -- as a Park Service representative.
And, of course, this was a USGS -- Austin Post worked for USGS. And I want to say there was a NOAA connection with the boat. But anyway, the bottom line is I spent a little time in remote areas in here and Icy Bay.
And, like I said earlier, I did expeditions. I’ve skied the portion of the Bagley (Icefield) from the east of the base of Mount Logan -- this is in Kluane Park actually, on the Bagley -- to the east. It was west to east trip. About a week’s -- maybe eight-day trip, skiing. And like I said, we -- I did a trip attempting Logan and -- yeah.
RACHEL MASON: Did you do the law enforcement?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: But getting to know the Park. And that’s what I wanted to say. So I’ve walked this. I even have a map. I couldn’t bring it today, where I’ve --
I mapped cabins, historic sites, Native allotments. I wanted to know my district so that I could better represent my superintendent in meetings, because there were a number of Native allotments and transfers.
We were in the process of transferring lands selected and so, yeah. I wanted to know who was there and what were the current conditions.
And there was a cabin inventory, I think mandated by the Park Service. An administrative one for land managers, so I made a map for both Glacier Bay and for Wrangell–Saint Elias.
And in the process, you get to know who was -- hopefully -- who was last there and who’s there today. And in the process we ran into hunting guides -- getting back to that. And we had cabins and facilities under permit.
And one of the new jobs -- one of my jobs when I first arrived was to take all the Forest Service permits that were documented and to go to the sites and to transfer them over to our formatting and permit condition requirements.
And meet the new owner. And take some that were no longer -- some were on paper, but there was nobody there or the people were long gone, so -- these were commercial operators. Question?
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, but those hunting guides who had cabins and things, once it became a park, they had to stop using that area, correct?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Absolutely. They were no longer allowed to conduct operations.
And the good news for me, at least on the Malaspina forelands, the guides were -- operate -- their bases of operation were in our Preserve zone. So that was okay.
And I can think of Dick Cox as an example. A guide who annually would show up. He had his cabin at Esker Stream, and he used that. We put it under permit. And then he also had a floating cabin on the Forest Service side.
KAREN BREWSTER: And that was in the Preserve?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: That’s in the Preserve in Wrangell–St. Elias. This Mr. Dick Cox. And he operated in our National Preserve area.
The majority of people had gotten the word -- the guides, and relocated their field operations to either BLM lands, State lands, or in our Preserve. They stayed -- or the Forest Service lands. You know, so they were -- they were set up.
And I didn’t have a problem. I guess the big concern was keeping an eye on the area closed to commercial use and sport use -- commercial guided use for hunting. And that’s the Park lands.
And so we'd make these patrols. We used our aircraft out of Glennallen for the Malaspina side, and then I used a local operator for Glacier Bay to fly and to make patrols for the Glacier Bay area.
RACHEL MASON: That was my question -- is how you got around for patrols as far as --
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Well, I had a schedule and it had a lot to do with the weather. I’ll start with my season coming out of winter.
I would in the spring annually do a trip for mountaineering for Wrangell–St. Elias, because that was one of my responsibilities to patrol the Bagley Icefield area. So we would normally do flyovers.
And then I normally -- starting, let’s say in about ‘83 on up until ‘88, I annually went to Icy Bay. And we would normally get a fly-in to the Chaix Hills. And we would ski on to the Malaspina Glacier and go into an area near Libbey Glacier and Agassiz (Glacier) to the base of St. Elias.
And depending on snow conditions, I think we made at least, during that period, maybe four or five trips. And most were successful.
And normally go with four people. Volunteers, mountaineers, friends I’d invite up. And that goal was just to get a feel for conditions.
And then the climbing season would start, and the Kluane rangers would fly over in their helicopter and we’d normally do a tour.
We would plan a trip. So we did an annual trip somewhere with them. And during this time if we were out, there'd maybe be a call for a rescue. That was the plan to be in the area. We planned this normally, I want to say April was the climbing season there.
And, you know, it’s a tough place. Coastal weather. The reason we didn’t make Logan and got stormed in at 17,000-something was because of the weather. And we stayed in the tent for three, four days.
I think all of our trips are documented in the national -- what is it? The Alpine Journal? There’s a national publication. Anyway, all our trips with the Canadian wardens are documented.
But getting back to role and responsibility, yeah. That was the spring, and then that would transition to spring hunters coming in for bear hunting.
And so, I normally was the first guy in, if I tried. I wanted to see the conditions before the guides arrived, and they would normally show up for spring bear hunt and stay with an operation through the fall for the fall hunting.
They normally leave in November, after the last moose season in October, something like that. But the goal was to get out early.
And then we would do the mountaineering search and rescue and then we’d -- the hunters would come in to hunt, and that’s both in the Preserve lands in -- on the Malaspina forelands and at Dry Bay.
And the next -- the fisherman would show up for their commercial use. When I was at Dry Bay, or at Yakutat, Dry Bay was a big deal. We had a run of salmon. A gillnet fishery.
A lot of people, a lot of controversy. People competing for -- for salmon, using gill nets in our Preserve.
All -- people on both the Forest Service lands and in Preserve lands under permit worked closely with the Department of Fish and Game. We shared equipment. And they had ATVs at Dry Bay, we didn’t have any. And I bought gas -- that type of thing.
But close relations with commercial fish, com-fish, for management purposes, dealing with commercial fishing. And then sports fishermen would come next.
And then it’s -- the hikers would show up. Most of the folks in my area -- because I think back -- one of the backcountry magazines called this "The Lost Coast," and there was a big emphasis on that.
And then we had another plug for surfing. That became popular in the late ‘70s, and now it’s really -- there’s a bus, I think, in Yakutat.
I was just there two years ago to walk this boundary at Glacier Bay with Chuck Gilbert, our Lands person. Because there was a dispute on where’s the boundary. They said, “Get Clarence. He’ll go there and he’ll walk the boundary.”
So they used my memory, if there is one, of operations at the time and what we considered the boundary to be to sort of --
Well, they reached agreement. The Forest Service and Chuck gave me a thank-you letter for doing that. But I got to go back. That was about two, three years ago with Chuck Gilbert. Anyway, sidebar story.
RACHEL MASON: Did you do any patrolling or law enforcement at Dry Bay?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Oh, yes. I was, like I said, the first law enforcement person officially, when the Preserve was established, to administer law enforcement.
And I can think of the first patrols. I just had one other backup seasonal who was a commissioned officer, but I always did my law enforcement two people, you know.
And I never had any serious problems, no fatalities. But we wrote tickets and there were actions taken. We had some hunting violations on occasion but, yeah, we did -- conducted law enforcement.
Whenever I went to the Park, I was -- I’m the law enforcement guy, I'm the commissioned guy, so I can’t look the other way.
But you gotta, you know, use common sense and know when and where and like we did, I thought. And we were safe and professional and --
You can check with Chris Bachman, our retired attorney for the justice, and -- I don’t know, he’ll have something to say, but I think we did the right thing most of the time -- all of the time. I know we did.
RACHEL MASON: Was Chris Bachman involved in some of these cases?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Well, yeah. He was always around, and there was also an office in Juneau with a number of people. I can think of cases that went that way. But, yeah, Chris was around as our advisor for law enforcement.
I think Steve Shackleton, one of the -- comes to mind as the chief ranger that I used to check in with on occasion if we had law enforcement, or --
We had fatalities also with fishing -- fisherman. We had a couple big rescues or -- yeah. And on St. Elias, and then fishing episodes where people got in trouble on marine -- on the marine waters there.
But, yeah, law enforcement -- I’ll do this quick seasonal thing. So it went from then the tourists would come. We’d get hikers and visitors.
And then this one year we had this big event, and that’s when the glacier -- I want to say it was ’86. This is my little “Thank you, Clarence” from Boyd Evison. And it’s a nice -- And I think I made the CBS News.
It's an international event where the Hubbard Glacier advanced. The Hubbard Glacier, largest tidewater glacier in this area, advanced to the point of land on the Forest Service side. But our Park boundary is the face of the glacier, thanks to Dick Stenmark, our lands person. Anyway, Dick --
Anyway, this glacier advanced and it cut off the inlet, and there’s a fjord that’s at least seven miles. The water filling in from melting glaciers rose to over a hundred-plus feet, and I was there during that event, and it brought in National Geographic, Jacques Cousteau, the Sierra Club.
The concern was for marine life, seals in particular, trapped in the freshwater lens as this thing filled. But as Mother Nature would -- is known to take care of itself --
This event occurred, I want to say in ’86, and then in summer of ‘86 -- and then in the fall, I want to say in the fall, September, October, the ice-face broke. The fjord drained.
We did a survey after that. It took away a portion of an island that eroded away, and there were icebergs in the trees in the forest along the shoreline, which was an odd sight.
But, yeah. The marine life, that was fine. But that’s just a little reminder of summertime and events.
We have a lot of kayakers on marine waters. Like I mentioned some of the river-running activity, commercial activity at -- on the Tatshenshini Alsek.
But, yeah, the cycle would then go from the summer hikers and backcountry visitors. We had a few groups coming in commercially for backcountry hikes. Glacier Bay had a Alaska Discovery outer-coast hikes.
There were a few people operating on the forelands coming in, and like I said, into Icy Bay. Popular area.
And then we’d transition into fall hunting. And then we’d go from hunting, with hunters in the Preserves and subsistence users in the Park, back to our winter months. Go ahead?
RACHEL MASON: What were the main subsistence uses of that part of Wrangell–St. Elias?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: I would say the majority of product was fish. Because Yakutat, coastal village, Tlingit people. You know, village by the sea.
People would get in boats, go to tributaries in both places, and take salmon. That was the big draw for nutrition for the village to take back.
Summer camps would pop up, and these camps -- historical -- you know, they were documented now in some of our recent -- most recent anthropological publications of use in parks.
But, yeah, these summer camps along the coast were very popular. We got Native allotments, too, that people return to their family lands to engage in the feast of fishing with nets.
And then you’ve got all the berries and other byproducts, and you’ve got wildlife to take and opportunities to take wildlife, ‘cause there’s some year-round seasons -- and waterfowl.
We’re on the flyway by the way. I can think of a project with the US Fish and Wildlife Service where had a station on the Malaspina for the flyway, working with Ted Swem.
He set up a camp and we were looking at falcons, and he was -- he had a capture program and, yeah.
But anyway, we’re on the flyway, so waterfowl, big deal in this whole area for Yakutat on the forelands.
Moose, popular species, probably the -- one of them for -- if you’re going to take an animal, it’s usually a moose. Season that’s popular, subsistence season, and goats. Mountain goats, popular subsistence food.
And then just spruce product, you know, for baskets and other making of crafts. Because you’ve got spruce -- you know, hemlock and spruce forest and this coastal forest, so yeah.
In the spring, it’s net fishery for the first run of what? Herring and these candlefish. So yeah, it’s a very bountiful, plentiful place for subsistence resource and use.
RACHEL MASON: Do you remember any particular subsistence controversies that took place during the time you were there?
CLARENCE SUMMERS: Well, just the storytelling, I think, because it’s been -- I think (Frederica) de Laguna, one of the well-known anthropologists to document use.
There’s always the story from the clan and protecting it and getting it told correctly. That was a controversy just -- for just the story of Yakutat.
And there’s a lot of different -- like we had the Department of Fish and Game people doing community harvest surveys. Getting “What do you use? When did you use it? Where did you use it?”
And then, I think Dave Mills came in, and he worked at -- it was a project. He was there with Ann Furman. They did a community survey.
And it always stirs things up. Because people don’t like talking, I don’t think, where they’re getting, you know, their subsistence product from, and how much and where and when. And you want to give it to the government and let them publish it? And it, you know -- But anyway, yeah, so that’s always a sensitive area.
And the other piece had to do with people coming in and using what’s considered the traditional lands, be it sport hunters coming in trying to set up a camp, trying to figure out where to camp, or sport fisherman coming in trying to decide where to fish.
And I think at Dry Bay it was a little better because we had the two lodges there left from -- established by the Forest Service. Israelson’s Lodge and Lowenstein’s Lodge.
So you had some people on site to sort of guide people around. And Schumacher had a lodge. There were at least three lodges down there to guide people around to the right spots. And then, of course, the Glacier Bay area was closed.
But getting back to subsistence controversy, yeah, we had one event that occurred at Dry Bay dealing with the management of the redfish fishery, with a fish manager. A state biologist, I believe.
And it was just very controversial. I think something happened where some administrative reports, the community thought that some of the information there was a little sensitive and all that.
And maybe it could have been done a little more professional manner anyway, to make a sidebar.
To answer your question, yeah, just people telling the story of Yakutat, it’s people, its resources, and how people receive that. It was a sensitive point.
We had a moment when I arrived where oil exploration was -- they put a rig offshore. There was some concern about oil exploration and what to do with these people on the rig offshore, and how would it affect fisheries.
And so the community worked -- and I know the Park Service, it worked closely with the local land managers to better manage our lands and to protect our lands, and so, yeah.
But that was a concern for a while in, I want to say in the ‘80s while I was here, this oil exploration. It finally -- I think the company pulled its rig and left.
And so, but it was a period of time where it was sensitive with people coming and going in the community, and then some wanting to recreate and not knowing, you know, that this was a -- at least the outsiders not knowing the sensitivity for subsistence use in the region.