Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Project Jukebox Survey

Help us redesign the Project Jukebox website by taking a very short survey!

Dave Schmitz

This recording with Dave Schmitz was made at the National Park Service office in Bettles, Alaska where Dave is a seasonal employee. The interview was conducted on October 9, 1992 by Bill Schneider. Dave has lived in the area for many years. He arrived before Gates of the Arctic National Park was established and has run trapline and guiding operations so he knows the perspectives of these different interest groups as well as those of the park. He also traveled with John Kauffmann who did the initial planning for the area. At the time of the interview, Dave was at a crossroads in his life. He and his wife BJ have a baby and he would like the security of health benefits for his family. If he goes back out trapping this winter he won't be able to provide that; if he gets on full-time with a job that provides benefits then he doesn't have the chance to continue his life out in the woods. He speaks with candor about the trade-offs of National Park Service management and of his personal choices.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 93-15-17

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Oct 9, 1992
Narrator(s): Dave Schmitz
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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


1) His background and how he came up to Alaska

2) An opportunity to try trapping with a friend

3) Life on the trapline

4) Making a living outdoors

5) Guiding experience in Alaska

6) Impact of park on guiding

7) When the changes occurred

8) Guiding with early park planners

9) The nature of provisions for past users

10) Philosophy about Brooks Range and its future

11) Reasons for becoming a park ranger

12) Recent experiences with the National Park Service

13) Old-timers past and present

14) What people should understand about the 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: Ohio\ Hiram College -- graduated in 1972\ University of Alaska Fairbanks -- sought a graduate degree in ecology\ Brooks Range -- quit school after one semester to go there|

Section 2: trapping -- Brooks Range, 1973\ Alatna River\ Alaska -- like the West in the 1840's\ opportunity -- abandoned cabin in central Brooks\ experience -- "green"\ F-27\ Bettles Lodge\ Coser, Jerry -- Frontier Flying\ supplies -- too much, too little\ hunting -- inexperience with caribou|

Section 3: snowshoes\ trapline -- short, few links\ ice falling through\ cutting wood -- hand saws\ isolation\ Schwarber, Jim -- nearest neighbor\ trapping -- continuing\ sacrifices -- isolation, cabin fever|

Section 4: John River\ Crevice Creek\ jobs -- variety, seasonal\ Bettles\ Fairbanks -- pig farm\ Bureau of Land Management -- bomber fire retardant site\ Sourdough Outfitters\ dog sledding\ guide experience -- early\ YMCA\ Northwest Territories -- Ft. Smith to Hudson Bay\ kids -- teenagers|

Section 5: Ketscher, Dave\ Sourdough Outfitters\ Arrigetch Peaks -- 1974\ Red Star Lake -- solo exploration\ John River\ Noatak River\ trip -- winter dog sled, 1976|

Section 6: subsistence -- prior to park, more people living off country\ restrictions -- formerly few, no permits, liability insurance\ park -- bridling a horse\ Brooks Range Wilderness Trips -- sold operation two years ago\ regulations -- made guiding too difficult\ insurance\ lawyers\ cost\ air travel -- increased dramatically with park formation\ change -- fewer living out on land, more flying over it|

Section 7: Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act\ agencies -- proliferation\ Evansville Inc.\ Doyon\ State of Alaska\ Bureau of Land Management\ pipeline corridor\ National Park Service\ Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge\ paperwork -- need a sherpa\ commercial use licenses\ regulations -- some difficult; firewood; cabins; spruce boughs\ conflict -- preservation versus loss of freedom\ restrictions -- reluctantly favor|

Section 8: Porchot, Pat -- then Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, now state senator\ John River\ Noatak\ Kauffmann, John\ National Geographic -- trip chronicled\ Kauffmann -- got out in country; had public means to do so\ Kauffmann -- enjoyable, preservation oriented\ differences -- Schmitz favors consumptive use with control\ Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act -- concessions to past users|

Section 9: Native people -- laws designed for\ subsistence -- some people legally defined out of business\ Anaktuvuk Pass\ non-Natives -- pasted in at the end\ Ambler River\ Wild River\ Walker Lake\ Kogoluktuk River -- staking land\ copper companies\ Mauneluk River\ Kobuk\ Wild Lake\ Schwarber, Jim -- stayed on through eighties\ change -- philosophical; fewer likely to go out these days|

Section 10: future -- wild\ land -- not enough in private hands\ development -- no provisions for minor impacts\ wilderness -- can defeat the purpose if humans are kept out\ controlled use -- renewable resources\ oil -- non-renewable, more damaging\ trapping -- if managed, can be done forever\ roads -- destroying habitat\ philosophy -- problems not from taking of game, but rather destroying habitat|

Section 11: influence\ credibility -- with local people\ superintendent -- has mellowed views\ advice -- don't make people an endangered species\ newcomers -- "good luck"\ nomadism\ resident zone community\ lifestyle -- struggle, not private land in Bettles\ wife -- Betty Jo\ daughter -- Christi\ responsibility\ needs -- changing; health care; stability|

Section 12: Kobuk river -- patrol; natural history; archaeology\ Tobuk, Dora -- visiting her old cabin\ Reed River\ Killik -- points dated to six to eight thousand years\ subsistence division\ resident zone communities -- visiting\ Nunamiut -- Anaktuvuk Pass\ Wiseman\ difficulties -- personal; resident and ranger|

Section 13: Johnson, Ernie -- not enough credit\ Marshall, Bob -- insensitive\ Moses, Johnson -- Allakaket\ Tickett, Daisy and Wilson -- Kobuk\ crafts -- bowl carving\ Brockman, Ross -- Wiseman\ Reakoff, Jack -- now old timer at age thirty-five|

Section 14: Ohio\ Hiram College -- graduated in 1972\ University of Alaska Fairbanks -- sought a graduate degree in ecology\ Brooks Range -- quit school after one semester to go there|