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Karen Kallen-Brown, Part 1
Karen Kallen-Brown

Karen Kallen-Brown was interviewed by Dan O'Neill on October 29, 1991 in the audio studio at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Fairbanks, Alaska. She mentioned her hope that the oral history project would not overlook the "woman's perspective," and she suggested several names of women who lived subsistence lifestyles in the area. Some of the women she suggested had already been interviewed, or had been scheduled for interviews, but some names were new to the interviewers and they were added to the list. In this first part of a two part interview, Karen talks about coming to Alaska to be a teacher and living a subsistence lifestyle, with her husband Randy Brown, in a remote cabin on the Kandik River in the area of Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. She discusses their seasonal lifestyle, building a cabin, raising children, the gender-based division of labor, her love of the country, and their decision to leave the area and move into Fairbanks.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 91-22-48

Project: Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve
Date of Interview: Oct 29, 1991
Narrator(s): Karen Kallen-Brown
Interviewer(s): Dan O'Neill
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.

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1) Personal background, and the trip down the Kobuk River which inspired her decision to teach school in rural Alaska

2) Teaching in Akiak, Alaska

3) Lining a canoe up the Kandik River, and remembering their wedding at Dave Evans and Sage Patton's fish camp

4) Moving out to the Kandik River

5) Feelings about the cabin site;, and the construction of the "Canyon Cabin"

6) Planning for children, teaching in Chevak, Alaska, and balancing her profession as a teacher and needing to pay off school debt with the desire to live out on the Kandik River

7) Raising the roof on the Kandik cabin, providing room for adults and children, and daily life and chores

8) Working out the division of labor in the chores

9) Level of technology, and gender roles on camping trips and at the cabins

10) More about gender roles

11) The primary things that kept her "in the woods" were not the physical challenges and outdoor experiences sought by other men and women on the river

12) Reasons for living out in the country

13) Working out with her husband, Randy, what opportunities and preparation they would offer their boys, and her philosophy on educating children to function in various "worlds"

14) Balancing "bush" and "town" opportunities

15) Leaving the Yukon-Charley Rivers country and the subsistence lifestyle

16) Moving to Fairbanks

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: Kallen-Brown, Karen\ Berkshire Mountains\ Kobuk\ Akiak\ Brown, Randy\ Bethel\ Eagle\ Evans, Dave\ Patton, Sage|

Section 2: Kallen-Brown, Karen\ Akiak - teacher housing\ Brown, Randy\ Lynch, Mark\ Akiak - jail\ village life\ Alaska Natives - culture\ cross-cultural communication\ rural Alaska - preparation for\ bush living - aesthetics\ wood getting - Akiak\ travel - Akiak|

Section 3: Kandik River\ Kallen-Brown, Karen\ Brown, Randy\ Nation River - fish camp\ summer travel - lining canoes\ cabins - Kandik River\ moose - story\ weddings - visiting\ river people - gatherings\ Snow, Brad\ "Mother Earth Church"\ river people - spirituality\ wedding gifts\ river people - attitudes\ Ulvi, Steve\ Roberts, Lynette\ Evans, Dave\ Patton, Sage\ Snow, Brad\ Allen, Lily\ Wilson, Errol\ Wilson, Barb\ Wilson, Willow\ Able, Jan\ Able, Seymour\ Traynor, Jean\ Traynor, Jane\ Boone, Margaret\ Roy, Dave\ homebrew|

Section 4: cabins - Kandik River\ Kandik River - cabins\ cabins - "Gate Estate"\ cabins - Indian Grave Creek\ gear - "miscellaneous nonsense"\ Kallen-Brown, Karen\ Brown, Randy\ cabins - site selection\ cabins - "Canyon Cabin"\ "Honeymoon House"\ cabins - Grinnell, Willard "Sleepy"\ Grinnell, Willard\ Shore, Evelyn\ Born on Snowshoes\ Grinnell, Dickie\ cabins - map|

Section 5: Kallen-Brown, Karen\ cabins - Kandik River\ cabin construction - "standing dead"\ cabin construction - log peeling\ cabin construction - hand tools\ cabins - dimensions\ Kallen-Brown, Jed\ cabins - "Canyon Cabin"\ cabins - interior appointments\ loom\ spinning wheel\ ham radio|

Section 6: bush living - income\ bush living - logistics\ Kallen-Brown, Karen\ Chevak\ Nondalton\ Kandik River - summer\ river people - economics\ lifestyle - changing\ bush living - children\ Eagle\ bush living - infants\ river travel - life vests\ canoes - freighting\ lining canoes\ summer travel - insect protection|

Section 7: cabins - Kandik River\ "Canyon Cabin" - remodeling\ Kallen-Brown, Jed\ Kallen-Brown, Gabriel\ cabin construction - hand tools\ children\ Brown, Randy|

Section 8: travel - dogs\ trapping - division of labor\ women with children - travel\ dog food - salmon\ dog teams - size\ dog food - hauling\ dog food - economics\ airplanes - supply hauling\ travel - Kandik River\ tent-camping - division of labor\ tent-camping - gear|

Section 9: stoves - homemade\ gear - hauling\ toboggans - capacity\ Yukon stove - efficiency\ firewood\ petroleum fuels versus firewood\ wall tents - advantages\ wall tents - sleeping arrangement\ dog teams - hauling capacity\ gender roles - decisions\ river people - gender agreements\ bush living - infants\ chores - division of labor\ wood cutting\ water getting\ building\ meat processing - butchering\ hunting\ fish processing\ Brown, Randy|

Section 10: Brown, Randy\ river people - gender roles\ canoes - lining\ Kallen-Brown, Karen - values\ cooking\ cleaning kitchen items\ household chores - prioritizing\ bush living - priorities\ travel - prioritizing gear\ bush living - communication between partners\ gear - double-standard|

Section 11: Kallen-Brown, Karen\ gender roles - pressure from women\ river people - women\ women - gender roles\ bush living - physical requirements|

Section 12: river people - philosophy of\ Brown, Randy\ Kallen-Brown, Karen\ "back-to-the-woods"\ exploration\ independence\ wilderness - aesthetics\ "peace and quiet"\ bush living - shared values\ solitary versus shared experiences|

Section 13: Kallen-Brown, Karen\ bush living - education\ children - opportunities\ bush context versus urban context\ University of Alaska Fairbanks - registration procedure\ Kallen-Brown, Jed\ concept of tools\ generators\ computers|

Section 14: bush living - social opportunities\ Little League\ Eagle - children's activities\ child rearing - sports\ river people - visiting|

Section 15: trapping - economics\ bush living - income\ subsistence lifestyle - rigidity of routine\ seasonal round - necessity of wholeness\ river people - attrition\ self-sufficiency - economic|

Section 16: bush living - income\ Brown, Randy\ river people - income\ nutrition - importance\ educational materials - cost\ Doyon Corporation\ land status - "Canyon Cabin"\ land status - Kandik River\ cabins - Eagle\ wooden boat building\ resource management|