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Joe Henderson

Joe Henderson was interviewed on September 14, 1992 by Bill Schneider and David Krupa in Wiseman, Alaska at the general store that he and his wife, Sherry, recently restored and reopened. Sherry and Joe's young son, Eric, and Carol Scott also were present at the interview. Earlier in the day, Joe repaired the household water pump and shared fresh moose, a gift from a neighbor's successful hunt. The cabin radiated the warmth and coziness of a home nicely provisioned for the long Wiseman winter to come. Joe's quiet, soft-spoken manner contrasts with the strength of his convictions and views regarding development, the land "lock-up" of the National Park Service, and the seeming shortsightedness of policies that discourage the kind of tourism/guiding activities that he offers and feels could allow more people access to the park area. He is very articulate in describing the unintended effects of well-meaning policies aimed at preservation that are conceived in Washington and have little relevance to the Alaskan context. Joe also talks about his skills as a dog musher and trainer, and about his involvement with the filming of the feature film "White Fang," which made use of a number of Joe's dogs. He recalls the lessons he learned while in the midst of some of the best animal handlers in the world. Joe stresses the importance of positive feedback in training, and suggests that if a dog is making mistakes in harness, it is usually the fault of the trainer....a humble conclusion.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 93-15-18

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Sep 14, 1992
Narrator(s): Joe Henderson
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, David Krupa
People Present: Carol Scott
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) Family background and how they came to Wiseman

2) Their involvement with dog sled tours

3) Involvement with the making of the movie "White Fang"

4) Ieaching techniques acquired through the movie experience

5) Buying and fixing up the store

6) Impact of tourism

7) Impact of the Park on Wiseman

8) What makes for a good tour trip

9) A typical yearly cycle for the Hendersons

10) Dogs and his breeds

11) Hopes and plans for the future

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: logging -- Southeast Alaska\ winters -- logging season closed\ Jim River -- built trapping cabin\ Nolan -- cabin\ Wiseman -- full time for two years\ jobs -- store; bed and breakfast; campground; trapping; dog sled tours|

Section 2: Sourdough Outfitters\ trip -- Wiseman to Gates: sixty-five mile snowshoe trail\ weather -- fifty below; windy\ clients -- enjoyed experience\ advertising -- magazines\ dog mushing tours -- custom trips\ Gates of the Arctic -- trips\ accommodations -- wall tents; wood stoves\ regulations -- cabins not available to commercial ventures|

Section 3: locations manager -- looking for mix of dogs\ promotion -- sent pictures of dog lot, they approved\ Mackey, Dick -- recommendation\ Haines -- took twenty-four dogs on location\ filming -- three months, much was cut\ Claus -- doubled for\ stunts\ part -- small speaking\ training -- had to "hit the mark"; stand; growl; lay down; etc.\ work -- long and hard|

Section 4: hitting the mark -- excellent technique; complete control\ feeding\ trainers -- some of the best in the world|

Section 5: Johnson, Walter -- sold it to them\ store -- hobby, at first\ summer -- open nine to nine\ Henderson, Sherry -- wife, storekeeper\ construction -- workers stayed there\ cabins -- started building new ones\ Dalton\ Wiseman Road\ plans -- cafe; museum; log cabins\ Alaska -- keep the flavor|

Section 6: tourism -- positive; leave no mark\ community -- helps economy\ artists -- local art\ crafts for sale\ economy -- few options|

Section 7: National Park Service\ lock-up -- shame\ impact -- personal; can still hunt and fish\ impact -- commercial; hurts a lot\ regulations -- enforcement of rules discourages people from showing visitors park\ cabins\ insurance\ impact -- positives; good place for subsistence activities and dog mushing; large area\ Gates of the Arctic -- name attracts business, but can't advertise\ enforcement -- "I hardly go in anymore"\ regulations -- make difficult to keep customers happy and warm; driven away|

Section 8: customers -- warm, dry, well-fed, easy\ freedom -- to go where you want, camp where you want\ regulations -- ridiculous\ Wiseman -- history of town is the attraction\ Marshall, Robert\ visitors -- occasionally come up on way to park\ backpackers -- have little interest in Wiseman\ Oolah Pass\ Nolan\ entry points|

Section 9: spring\ summer -- work around Wiseman\ logging -- sometimes, more in past\ construction -- road\ May -- store gears up\ September -- store slows down; ready for mushing; trapping; setting up camps for trips\ mushing -- trips, March and April\ winter -- too hard on customers\ income -- small|

Section 10: dogs -- goal to have them pay for themselves\ clients -- teach them before going; slow pace\ breed -- freighting line; lots of different lines\ Leonard, Harry\ Moose -- the dog\ Holland, John -- snuck his female dog over to breed\ Bettles -- black and white breed\ Ketcher, Dave\ Leonard, Harry -- casket for his dog\ Lounsbury, Jim -- made coffin, dug hole in winter\ Arctic John -- Harry got dogs from, 1/2 wolf\ Moose -- ate at the table\ Arctic John -- buried dog in cemetery, cut trail from tombstone to cabin|

Section 11: Wiseman -- don't want to grow into big tourist trap\ history -- preserve history and culture\ antiques\ stories\ heritage\ optimism -- about unique place and attitude\ buildings -- historic|