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Jack Reakoff, Interview 2, Part 2
Jack Reakoff

This is the continuation of an interview with Jack Reakoff on November 16, 2006 by Marie Mitchell at Jack's home in Wiseman, Alaska. In this second part of a two part interview, Jack continues to talk about the subsistence lifestyle in Wiseman and the effects of construction of the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline and Haul Road (Dalton Highway). He also shares his views on differences between rural and urban Alaskans, the high cost of living in rural Alaska, the population of caribou in the Brooks Range, impacts to wildlife from the road, and his role in tourism.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2006-28-03_PT.2

Project: Dalton Highway Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Nov 16, 2006
Narrator(s): Jack Reakoff
Interviewer(s): Marie Mitchell
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
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1) Equal access to use of public lands, and subsistence management

2) Importance of the subsistence lifestyle

3) Views about rural and urban Alaskans

4) Interacting with tourists in Wiseman

5) Types of visitors that stay at the Coldfoot Truck Stop

6) Coldfoot Truck Stop, and changes in the population at Wiseman

7) Benefits of the Dalton Highway

8) Economics and hard work of the subsistence lifestyle

9) Spending time with family, old stories, and changes in technology

10) Modern amenities in Wiseman

11) An unforgettable hunting trip with his sister, Heidi Schoppenhorst

12) Weather and environmental conditions in the area, and local hiking opportunities

13) Winter conditions, bears, and mosquitoes

14) Caribou in the area and their migration

15) Impact of the Haul Road on caribou

16) Wildlife adaptation to the Haul Road

17) Getting married

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Section 1: Haul Road\ land use\ public lands\ federal government\ regulations\ management -- sustained yield\ subsistence\ U.S. Congress\ Alaska Natives\ subsistence lifestyle\ cultural values\ hunting\ land -- access to|

Section 2: People have an emotional attachment to this area because they see a place where people can live off the land. The subsistence lifestyle is valued. Subsistence is not an exclusive use. These resources are away from the road system and are highly valuable. In rural areas, where it is $6 per gallon for gas and $5 - 20 dollars a pound for meat, the natural resources become very valuable. People could not afford to live without harvesting the resources. America is founded on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. People like to live the subsistence lifestyle, and not the 9-5 job. To make people live a certain way is unconstitutional.
people -- emotional attachment\ nostalgic\ subsistence lifestyle -- valued\ subsistence -- nonexclusive use\ urban areas -- cost comparison\ rural -- harvesting\ harvest -- necessity\ America -- founded on\ "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness"\ subsistence lifestyle -- a choice|

Section 3: residents\ taxes -- property\ Fairbanks\ taxes -- oil\ taxes -- rural\ gas -- price of\ tax -- income\ state government\ fur -- sales of\ residents -- rural\ residents -- urban\ moose\ Huslia\ wildlife management -- attitudes\ hunting -- rural preference\ hunting\ sustainability\ visitors\ country -- protection\ future\ All-Terrain vehicles\ hunting -- caribou\ Steese Highway\ resources -- protection\ minority\ opinions

Section 4: tourism\ Wiseman -- tour\ guiding\ visitor\ Coldfoot\ van\ Wiseman -- history\ natural history\ aurora borealis\ tour group -- size of\ visitors -- interest level\ lifestyle\ summer\ winter\ trapping\ visitors -- excitement\ visitor -- expectations\ wilderness\ education|

Section 5: Coldfoot Truck Stop -- facilities\ television\ accommodations\ tourism\ visitors -- type of|

Section 6: The Coldfoot Truck Stop provides the truckers with, fuel and food services. Coldfoot is a different entity from Wiseman. Wiseman residents purchase fuel, get their mail, and work in Coldfoot. Wiseman's population is in decline. When Jack's family moved to Wiseman, the population was on the upswing. In the 1980s, gold and fur prices fell, while the cost of living increased and income decreased. Now, the population is down to thirteen. Wiseman is very expensive. Private land with a cabin from 1910 averages between $35,000 to $110,0000. Land is ten times higher for the same quality of land in Fairbanks. There are a very few people who want to live this close to nature without having the city infrastructure.
Coldfoot Truck Stop -- services\ trucking\ fuel\ repair\ food\ Coldfoot -- differences with\ comparison with\ Wiseman residents -- Coldfoot connection\ Wiseman -- population\ population -- decline\ population -- influenced by\ Wiseman -- cost of living\ expensive\ property -- expensive\ land -- expensive\ people -- expectations\ amenities\ nature|

Section 7: Access to the Dalton Highway has brought the fuel prices down ($3.75/gallon). Whereas other rural communities pay $4 - 6 dollars per gallon. It is 285 miles from Fox to Wiseman. To shop in town makes for a three day trip: one-day drive to Fairbanks, one day in town to shop, and a one-day trip back to Wiseman. There are economic constraints when living in Wiseman.
Dalton Highway -- benefits of\ fuel -- prices\ rural communities -- higher cost of living\ shopping -- story of\ travel -- over 285 miles\ travel -- Wiseman to Fairbanks\ shopping trip -- duration\ shopping -- three days\ Wiseman -- economic constraints with|

Section 8: People who live in rural Alaska work seasonal jobs and that means no health insurance. Living this subsistence lifestyle is not easy. It requires a lot of hard work and commitment. The population of people doing it is declining.
subsistence -- economics\ cash -- need for\ economics -- rural lifestyle\ expenses\ subsistence lifestyle -- requirements\ population -- declining\ allotments\ land -- use|

Section 9: stories\ memorable\ Reakoff, June\ mother\ Coldfoot\ sister\ family\ events -- current\ conversation\ stories -- flying\ old-timers -- visiting\ stories -- old\ stories -- starvation\ miners\ gold mining\ gold -- discovery\ family -- togetherness\ fishing -- Bristol Bay\ hunting -- camp\ stories -- sharing\ lifestyle -- difference\ change\ telephone -- arrival of\ \ radio -- broadband\ Bettles\ Internet\ technology -- changes in\ satellite\ television\ electricity\ solar\ lanterns -- kerosene\ propane\ fumes\ battery\ generator\ technology -- use of|

Section 10: electricity\ solar\ cabins\ hunting\ lifestyle -- contrasts\ lifestyle -- modern\ technology -- changes in\ plumbing -- indoor\ visitors\ facilities -- importance of|

Section 11: hunting\ moose\ bears\ sheep\ Schoppenhorst, Heidi\ Dietrich River\ darkness\ mountain\ cold\ overnight\ storm\ weather -- bad\ pack -- heavy\ river crossing -- raft\ raft -- full of water\ meat -- quality of|

Section 12: environment\ weather\ weather -- changing\ snow\ snow -- time of year\ snow -- amount of\ summer -- shortness of\ seasonal change -- timing of\ gardening\ Brooks Range\ garden\ hiking\ Gates of the Arctic National Park\ people -- number of|

Section 13: The winter season is brutal. People need excellent winter gear. There are very few services on the road from Fairbanks to Coldfoot, and no services in the winter. Winter temperatures in Wiseman can reach minus 65 degrees. In the summer time, there is a high density of mosquitoes, and low density of bears. Bears have a reputation from the media as being dangerous, even though 100,000 people encounter bears with few incidents. Jack recalls a story of a lady hitch-hiking on the Dalton Highway; he thought she should be more concerned with humans than with bears. The mosquitoes are annoying, but not dangerous. Jack hit 77 mosquitoes with one hit on his arm by the Yukon River. Along the coastal plain, there are more mosquitoes.
Dalton Highway -- seasonally\ winter season -- challenges with\ weather conditions -- extreme\ winter -- gear\ services -- minimal\ summer season -- mosquitoes\ bears -- reputation\ media -- influence of\ story -- hitchhiker\ Dalton Highway -- hitchhiking\ humans -- concerns with\ dangerous\ Wiseman -- benefits of\ insects -- none\ poisonous plants -- minimal\ mosquitoes -- swatting of\ story -- mosquitoes count\ 77 mosquitoes -- arm|

Section 14: Caribou generally migrate in long lines. The Western Brooks Range Porcupine Caribou Herd will calf on the coastal plain. Bugs are so bad that they group together. Over 120,000 will pack together due to the insect harassment. The cows will lead the migrations to find resources, and hundreds follow in a specific direction. Caribou are migratory and nomadic. Annual variances affect their migrations (food, forest fires, temperature, winds). Elders predicted the area would not have caribou for 20 to 30 years and then they would return for 20 to 30 years. From 1972 to 1997, there were no caribou in the Middle Fork Valley of the Koyukuk River. The elders were right.
caribou -- migration patterns\ Western Brooks Range Porcupine Caribou -- herd name\ coastal plane -- calving\ mosquitoes -- annoyance\ black flies -- annoyance\ caribou -- aggregation of\ caribou -- number of\ cow -- leads the migrations\ caribou -- nomadic\ variances -- annual\ variance -- affect on migrations (food, forest fires, temperature, winds)\ elders -- prediction of\ prediction -- accurate\ caribou -- disappearance of|

Section 15: Caribou do not like traffic along the Haul Road, especially in the upper drainage area along Chandalar Shelf and Atigun Pass. They use routes that are historical migration routes. When the caribou herd traveled off the shelf and toward the Dietrich Creek bottom, they encountered the Haul Road. In 1991, the Central Arctic Herd tried to follow their historic migratory route, and reached the creek bottom where there was traffic on the Haul Road. They could not cross the road because they did not like the traffic or the headlights. The caribou tried to figure a different route. When caribou are confined, they feel trapped. The Central Herd changed their route and traveled east toward the Middle Fork of the Chandalar River. A few Western herds did not like the Haul Road. In 1998, the Western Herd was startled by the headlights. The herd would not cross the road for three months. The perception is that the road does not bother the caribou, though it has.
caribou -- characteristics\ caribou -- historical migration routes\ caribou herd -- story of\ Haul Road -- influence\ location -- Dietrich Creek\ traffic -- effects of\ Haul Road -- dislike in\ Haul Road -- interference with\ migratory route\ Haul Road -- perception with\ harmless\ Central Herd -- affected by\ Western Herd -- affected by\ traffic -- headlights\ Western Herd -- immobile\ Haul Road -- perception\ perception -- minimal impact to herd|

Section 16: Sheep use the road for defense from the wolves. Bears and wolves are afraid of the road. Moose and sheep use the road as an offense. Now many moose and calf stay near the road. Predators do not like the road. The road has various effects on wildlife.
wildlife -- adaptation to\ Haul Road -- influences\ wildlife usage\ sheep -- a defensive tool\ bears -- afraid of\ wolves -- afraid of\ Haul Road -- an offensive tool\ sheep\ moose\ predators -- preferences in\ Haul Road -- various effects on wildlife|

Section 17: Jack met his wife, Kristin, in Coldfoot in the summer of 2005 and she moved to Wiseman in the winter of 2006. They got married on June 21, 2006 in the Wiseman Chapel. She has worked at the Visitor Center in Coldfoot, for Northern Alaska Tour Company, and at the Coldfoot Post Office. They will do winter tour groups together. Kristin has been adapting to subsistence living, hunting and eating wild meat, which is a new lifestyle for her.
Reakoff, Kristin -- wife\ wife -- meeting of\ Coldfoot\ marriage -- location\ Wiseman Chapel\ Kristin -- employment location\ worked with\ subsistence lifestyle -- new experience\ Wiseman --- relocation to|