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Steve and Kay Grubis

Steve and Kay Grubis were interviewed on September 26, 2003 by Bill Schneider and David Krupa (cultural anthropologist for Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve) at Pat Dubbs' house in Fairbanks, Alaska. They were in town to house-sit for the winter. Most winters they are up at their remote cabin in the Brooks Range, so they were just getting adjusted to being in town. Bill Schneider and Steve Grubis know each other from the years when Steve worked at the university. The Grubises were selected for this project because of their wilderness lifestyle, and their willingness to talk about how life within the Gates of the Arctic National Park area has changed over the years. In the interview, they emphasize how important knowledge of place is, and how observing the little things over days and weeks in the same place gives them a special perspective.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2002-27-12

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Sep 26, 2003
Narrator(s): Steve Grubis, Kay Grubis
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, David Krupa
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) Steve and Kay's personal backgrounds

2) Being teachers in rural Alaska, and life at a remote cabin

3) Life at a remote cabin

4) Perspectives on the remote lifestyle they have chosen

5) Animal life

6) History of the people and their use of the land and resources in the Gates of the Arctic National Park area

7) Perspectives on their own aging and being able to continue their active lifestyle

8) Reflections on the National Park Service and their dealings with human interactions within the Park

9) Changes in the environment and animal populations they have observed after having been in one place for so long

10) Visitor impacts that they have observed within the Park area

11) Talking about some photos of their cabin and the surrounding area

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: birthplace -- Kay\ Illinois\ education -- University of Washington\ job -- teacher\ Metlakatla and Point Hope, Alaska\ Fairbanks\ teaching -- bush\ Grubis, Steve -- meeting\ birthplace -- Steve\ Boston\ education -- college\ North Dakota -- Indian reservation\ Aleutian Islands\ Alaska -- arrival\ work -- education\ Canada\ parents -- Kay\ ultra-conservative\ midwest\ farm\ Illinois\ farmers -- German\ childhood\ West Coast\ lifestyle\ California\ Washington\ Kay -- siblings\ Steve -- influences\ Steve -- parents deceased\ peer group\ childhood\ society -- urban blue collar\ society -- immigrant families\ neighborhood -- nature of\ ethnic\ Alaska -- interest in\ work -- teaching\ unemployed\ Indians\ Bureau of Indian Affairs\ Indian reservation\ Akutan\ wife -- first\ subsistence\ electricity -- lack of\ volcano\ languages -- Aleut, Russian, English\ society -- structure|

Section 2: college -- degree\ education -- western\ indigenous people\ mistakes\ knowledge\ information -- sharing\ education -- University\ education -- teacher training\ Alaska\ school -- principal\ Point Hope\ elders\ curriculum\ Native knowledge\ North Slope Borough\ school -- structure \ involvement -- community\ educational leadership\ forestry\ Brooks Range\ Arrigetch Peaks\ Alatna River\ cabin -- abandoned\ Helmericks, Bud\ guiding -- business\ land use -- seasons of\ cabin -- move to\ trade\ money -- lack of\ winter\ snow -- depth of\ temperature\ cabin life -- adapting to\ survival -- learning\ Everts Air\ snow -- drifts\ civilization\ nature -- pleasures of\ nature -- attuned to\ communication\ health\ safety|

Section 3: seasons -- importance of\ seasons -- focus on\ wood -- collecting\ water -- collection\ chores -- labor intensive\ electricity -- solar power\ pump\ ice -- drilling\ wood -- cutting\ snowshoes\ sunlight -- lack of\ skiing\ activities -- exploration\ animal tracks\ snow machine\ National Public Radio\ sauna\ amenities\ lifestyle -- pace of\ winter\ spring\ avalanche\ spring -- break-up\ caribou -- migration\ grizzly bears -- presence of|

Section 4: life -- reflection on\ natural occurrences\ activities -- hiking\ activities -- canoeing\ benefits -- clear mind\ natural setting\ relaxation\ animals\ Helmericks, Bud\ guiding business\ rafting\ fishing\ visitors -- length of stay\ experience\ lifestyle -- contemplative\ mountains\ lake\ wildlife\ Helmericks, Bud -- vision for the place\ lake\ Alatna River\ caribou\ bears\ activities -- wilderness\ summer -- conditions\ national parks\ wolves\ moose\ caribou -- migration\ Natives -- relation to animals\ raven\ wolf\ bear|

Section 5: species -- equality\ nature -- roles in\ animals -- stereotypes of\ caribou\ vole\ animals -- views on\ animals -- interactions with\ territorial rights\ planet -- contribution to\ vole -- activity\ bird\ squirrel|

Section 6: Eskimo\ cabin -- use of\ people -- nomadic\ hunting -- sheep\ hunting -- buffer zone\ land -- use of\ Athabascan\ Inupiaq\ cabin -- modern living\ food -- collecting\ food -- caring for\ frozen\ fish\ berries\ guides -- hunting guides\ meat -- caribou\ camp restrictions -- cooking\ camp restrictions -- clean camp\ hunting|

Section 7: aging\ lifestyle -- physical\ lifestyle -- keeping active\ body -- changes\ agility\ activity level -- pace of\ winter\ snow -- shoveling\ healing\ thoughtfulness\ changes -- external\ attitudes\ seasons\ grizzly bear -- damage by\ grizzly bear -- occupation patterns|

Section 8: Gates of the Arctic National Park\ land -- management\ park -- positive aspects\ neighbors\ visits\ helpful\ environment\ human interaction\ visitors -- numbers of\ visitors -- appreciation of\ visitors -- impact of\ cabin -- future of\ health\ cabin -- time to leave\ natural experiences|

Section 9: resources\ observation -- long-term\ change -- environmental\ change -- animal populations\ wolves\ moose\ black bears\ grizzly bears\ animals -- cycles\ experiences -- personal\ change -- vegetation patterns\ trees\ spruce bark beetle\ change -- temperature\ change -- insects\ worms\ change -- plants\ fireweed\ red currents\ rosehips\ plants -- defoliation\ change -- birds\ ducks\ loons\ ravens\ falcons\ golden eagles\ animals -- cycles|

Section 10: visitors -- number of\ visitors -- impact of\ visitors -- increase in\ Europeans\ Swiss\ Germans\ use area -- expansion of\ Noatak River\ users -- rock climbers\ users -- hikers\ visitors -- decline\ park management\ backcountry\ wilderness\ land use -- politics\ land -- values\ advice\ National Park Service\ land use -- popular areas\ people -- congestion\ wilderness -- experience of\ people -- control of\ people -- contact\ crowds\ travel -- cost of\ flying\ visitors -- elite\ travel -- type of\ travel -- adventure\ Park -- open to everyone\ Brooks Range\ visitors -- appreciation\ visitor -- experiences\ wild country -- nature of\ wildness -- overwhelming\ wildness -- untamed\ trips -- guided\ ethics\ knowledge\ education\ fire\ orientation\ trails -- lack of\ mosquitoes\ wild country -- comprehension of|

Section 11: Takahula Lake\ cabin\ Takahula Mountain\ Alatna River\ Sheep Spirit Mountain\ place -- favorite\ ashes -- dispersal of\ Takahula River\ hike\ dog -- Khan\ Arrigetch Peaks\ scenery\ cabin -- location\ cabin -- construction\ cabin -- history of\ cabin -- renovation\ Helmericks, Bud\ furniture\ outhouse\ sauna\ sauna -- construction\ logs\ scrap lumber\ guide service -- clients\ Australia\ Death Valley\ clients -- aging\ animals -- moose\ animals -- "Jake the Moose"\ scenery -- seasonal change\ firewood -- hauling\ transportation -- walking\ electricity -- solar panel\ solar power -- access to\ transportation -- snow machine\ snow -- depth of\ cabin -- buried\ fishing -- ice\ water -- hauling\ dog -- Hannibal\ dog -- puppy\ Grubis, Steve\ ice -- lake\ scenery -- views of\ Takahula Lake -- size of\ airplanes -- air taxi\ ice hole\ cabin -- interior\ kitchen\ stove\ interior -- design of\ doors -- size of\ insulation -- perma-chinking|