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Richard Smith and Paul Nathaniel
Richard Smith

Richard Smith and Paul Nathaniel were interviewed on August 4, 1991 by Dan O'Neill at their cabin site, known locally as Forty Mile, on the Yukon River, Alaska. Forty Mile is a reference to its distance up river from the community of Circle, Alaska. It is not to be confused with the historic settlement of the same name located at the mouth of the Fortymile River in Canada. The interview was conducted in the old cabin, which had been washed out into the Yukon River at break-up. When the high water receded, the cabin was sitting on ice blocks out in the channel. But the water rose again and floated the cabin back onto Richard's land and set it down within forty feet of its former foundation. It will become Richard's shop; he is building a new cabin for his residence. Paul participated in the interview for a while, then went outside. In this interview, Richard talks about living a subsistence-based lifestyle focused on trapping and fishing, working at the Coal Creek mine, and using dog teams and snowmachines for traveling in the backcountry. He also talks about the effect of the establishment of Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, conflicts over land use and ownership, and the history of the cabin site. Finally, he tells a story about a particularly serious bear encounter he had.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 91-22-09

Project: Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve
Date of Interview: Aug 4, 1991
Narrator(s): Richard Smith, Paul Nathaniel
Interviewer(s): Dan O'Neill
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
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1)  Richard and Paul's personal backgrounds

2) Trapping and traplines

3) Old timers who lived and trapped in the area, and what it was like to grow up in the bush

4) Working on the Coal Creek dredge in the late 1970s

5) Using dog teams for trapping, traveling and racing

6) Switching from using dogs to snowmachines

7) Continues to talk about trapping with snowmachines and dogs

8) Effect of the development of the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve

9) Succession of land use on his cabin site, and how he had to sign over his interest in the land and the buildings to the National Park Service

10) Bear encounter

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Section 1: Grand Rapids, Michigan\ Central\ Bertoson, Gordon\ cabin - Smith\ fishing - subsistence\ fishing - commercial\ trapping\ Woodchopper Creek\ Vogler, Joe\ Nathaniel, Paul\ trapping|

Section 2: traplines\ Straub, Bill\ Dill, Doug\ Twentyone Mile - trapping\ traplines - selling\ Woodchopper - trapping\ Eureka Creek - trapping\ Little Black River - trapping|

Section 3: seasonal lifestyle\ Bell, Ray\ Bertoson, Gordon\ trapping\ bush living - correspondence school\ bush living - mail\ dog teams\ Bell, Arlene\ Central - Birch Hill\ Woodchopper Creek\ Coal Creek - dredge\ Kidd, Charlie|

Section 4: Coal Creek - dredge\ Coal Creek - employees\ mining camp - lifestyle|

Section 5: trapping - dogs\ dog teams\ trapping - snowmachine\ dog racing\ Two Rivers Trek Race\ Squib, Amy\ dog race - story\ sleds - toboggan\ Pierson, Dan\ Gelvin, Ed\ Kidd, Charlie\ dogs - breeding\ McKenzie River Huskies\ Dill, Doug|

Section 6: trapping - snowmachine\ "sno-go"|

Section 7: trapping - snowmachine\ fishing - dog food\ dogs - nutrition\ dogs - traditional knowledge\ bush living|

Section 8: cabins - permits\ Yukon-Charley - impact\ trapping\ fishing\ permits - logs\ permits - lifetime\ permits - limited|

Section 9: old timers\ cabins - permits\ Yukon-Charley - impact\ permits - controversy\ land ownership\ river people - philosophy\ Smith, Richard\ Yukon-Charley - management\ subsistence - perpetuation|

Section 10: river people - visiting\ grizzly - mauling story\ bush living - bears\ Chamberlain, Faye\ Dawson - medical facilities\ grizzly bears - encounters\ bears - safety\ camping - bears\ Fifteen Mile River|