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Susan Will, Part 1
Susan Will

Susan "Sue" Will was interviewed on November 20, 2006 by Marie Mitchell at Sue's office at the Bureau of Land Management in Fairbanks, Alaska. In this first part of a two part interview, Sue talks about her archeological field work on the Haul Road and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAPS) project, her interest in mining history (particularly with Wiseman, Coldfoot and Hammond River area), her feelings about being the first woman recruited to work with TAPS, and the role of archeology in relation to TAPS and the Arctic. She also talks about the changes in the landscape along the Haul Road and TAPS after the discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay, her opinion about the intent of the Haul Road as a trucking route to haul materials north, and a brief history of Wiseman, Alaska. Sue's educational and professional background has ranged from archeology to mining compliance to resource management, giving her a unique perspective in how to manage the land and resources for the future.

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Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2006-28-06_PT.1

Project: Dalton Highway
Date of Interview: Nov 20, 2006
Narrator(s): Susan "Sue" Will
Interviewer(s): Marie Mitchell
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
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1) Personal background and becoming an archeologist

2) Grandfather's influence on becoming an archeologist

3) Coming to Alaska and getting the Haul Road archeology job

4) Working at the Atigun Pass archeological site

5) Working at different sites along the Haul Road

6) Wiseman area history

7) Historic structure documentation

8) Changes in Wiseman and impacts of the Haul Road

9) Purpose of the Haul Road/Dalton Highway

10) Analysis of archeological findings

11) Value of pipeline archeology

12) BLM's archeology management program, and success of TAPS archeology

13) What can be learned from pipeline archeology

14) Associate District Manager job duties

15) History of mining in the Hammond River area

16) Impact of the Haul Road on villages

17) Being one of the first female archeologists

18) Adventure of the job

19) Salvage archeology and loss of archeological sites

20) Environmental changes from oil exploration and development

21) Changes from the Haul Road, and names residents of Wiseman in the 1970s and 1980s

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Section 1: personal background\ Bismark, North Dakota\ education\ college\ University of North Dakota\ geology\ art\ archeology\ grandfather -- influence of\ archeology -- Plains\ outdoors -- love of\ history -- interest in\ fieldwork\ Montana\ Wyoming\ crew - kicked off of\ Alaska -- coming to\ Alaska -- recommended by professor|

Section 2: archeology\ Missiouri River\ Bismark, North Dakota\ grandfather\ grandfather -- influence of\ mentor\ Indian archeological sites\ archeological excavation\ historical society\ Indian language\ Will, George F.|

Section 3: Sue enrolled at University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in the fall of 1973. She met John Cook, Chairman of the Anthropology Department. Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) had just started (US President Richard Nixon signed the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act into law on November 16, 1973, which authorized the construction of the pipeline). John Cook needed an archeological crew to excavate sites along the Haul Road - TAPS route. She volunteered to be part of the archeological team -- but women were not permitted anywhere along the TAPS route during construction. John Cook recruited an archeological team to work the Atigun Site near Galbraith Lake. There was no road access. The Hickel Highway was to the west. Ruth Croxton and Sue were the only females on the crew. Sue remembers a TAPS official asking John Cook why he recruited women for this project. John Cook told him, "This is the crew, take them or leave them." That was the first time woman who worked out in the field on a TAPS related project. Sue was 20 years old. Ruth Croxton was 21 years old.
birthplace -- name of\ colleges -- attended\ interests -- art\ University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) -- attended\ Cook, John -- Chairman of the Anthroology Department\ meeting of\ Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) -- beginning of\ Cook, John -- recruitment\ archeologists\ TAPS archeology\ Haul Road -- excavate sites\ Atigun Pass -- first site\ field work\ TAPS -- women not recruited\ Galbraith Lake campsite -- recruitment of\ archeologists\ women\ Cook, John\ archeologist -- first women recruited\ Will, Sue -- age\ Croxton, Ruth -- age|

Section 4: The Atigun Pass archeological site was related to the Haul Road project. The Haul Road route crosses the Atigun River, which goes through an area that resembles sand dunes, then north to the Atigun Pass campsite. John Cook's effort was primarily public relations in order to bring archeology and archeological protection to the area. Sue remembers John Cook saying to the archeological crew, "Your not in an ivory tower academy. This is construction, and it's their world not yours." (best advice) Everything accomplished during that TAPS project relating to the archeology was due to completing the work and accommodating the construction schedule. Cook managed a big project successfully for that time.
Atigun Pass -- archeological site\ Haul Road project\ Haul Road route -- crosses Atigun River\ archeological protection -- not established\ legislation\ Cook, John\ archeological protection -- establishment of\ construction schedule -- accommodation of|

Section 5: During the summer of 1974, she worked all over the Haul Road route. She did work at Atigun Pass, then to Isabelle Pass (mile 197, Haul Road) and surveyed this site by snowshoe. She also traveled to Pump Station 4 (mile 270, Haul Road). There were not enough archeologists to do the work. John Cook pulled people from any vocation, whoever they could find during the summer of 1974. The archeological crews worked along the entire TAPS route (800 miles), which was mostly remote.
TAPS archeology -- employment\ locations\ archeologists -- recruitment of\ in need of\ TAPS archeology -- route\ 800 miles\ wilderness\ remote|

Section 6: Sue worked for BLM in the early 1980's. She was interested in Coldfoot/Wiseman area. At the time, she was doing both mining compliance work and archeology. Her main interest was in mining history. The Hammond River area is rich in mining history. She first looked at Coldfoot due to the pipeline. When BLM inherited that area, she started researching Coldfoot, which relates to Hammond River and Wiseman. She also went to Wiseman to interview residents for mining history, and to identify those buried in the Coldfoot Cemetary. During that time, Wiseman residents were trying to convey land. All of the land in Wiseman was federally owned, yet there were private properties on federal land. Wiseman had refused to be a community, so this created a complex situation (had a limited recorded history and identification of the property owners). Staff from the National Park Service (NPS), helped Sue set a HAB survey (Historic America Building Survey) as part of the Gates of the Arctic National Park research. Sue documented the properties in Wiseman. Eventually, the properties were conveyed to individuals in the community as private property.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) -- employment with\ Coldfoot -- interest in\ Wiseman -- interest in\ employment -- mining compliance\ archeology\ mining history\ Hammond River -- mining history\ Coldfoot -- involvement with\ TAPS\ BLM -- inherited Coldfoot\ Coldfoot -- research\ Hammond River\ Wiseman\ Wiseman -- mining history\ residents -- interview\ Wiseman -- conveying land\ Wiseman -- federal land\ cabins -- private\ Wiseman -- limited recorded history\ National Park Service (NPS) -- assistance\ Historic America Building Survey (HABS)\ Brown, Bill\ Gates of the Arctic National Park -- research\ Wiseman -- properties\ documented\ properties -- conveyed private|

Section 7: The goal for BLM was to have historic documentation in Wiseman, and for HABS to have a structural documentation and for the community to get their parcels conveyed to individuals. Tishu Ulen assisted Sue by giving her literature. By being involved with the TAPS pipeline - BLM - Wiseman - Coldfoot, she has gathered enough material to understand the history of the area.
BLM -- conveyance\ conveyance -- reasons for\ BLM\ historic documentation\ HABS\ structural documentation\ Wiseman community -- conveyance\ land -- conveyed to individuals\ Ulen, Tishu -- assisted\ TAPS -- pipeline\ BLM\ Wiseman\ Coldfoot\ research -- findings\ understand history of the area|

Section 8: Sue has watched how Wiseman has changed since the Haul Road. The community is changing now with road access. Who would have thought Wiseman would grow. Now, the community is much less dependent on the land and environment -- and many residents are dependent on technology, the road, and the phone. Sue is amazed at how quickly the Wiseman community has adapted to technology, and has become dependent on it.
Wiseman -- changes in\ Haul Road -- impact of\ Wiseman -- growth\ technology -- adaptation of\ subsistence -- less dependent on|

Section 9: The Dalton Highway is still called the Haul Road. The purpose of the Haul Road was to haul supplies to Prudhoe Bay - based around the pipeline. The Haul Road (Dalton Highway) was originally a hauling road. Then the Haul Road was changed to a state highway (and renamed the Dalton Highway). Sue had the luxury of seeing that country before the Haul Road. She did not agree with making the Haul Road a state highway. Bottom line, the Haul Road corridor remains a utility corridor -- which includes oil and gas -- and should not be for public access or use. People driving along the road forget that, and tourism is important to only a few. The people currently living in Wiseman and Coldfoot have not been in the area too long, except for the Reakoff family.
Dalton Highway -- Haul Road\ Haul Road -- purpose\ history\ state highway renaming of\ arctic region -- pre-Haul Road\ pristine\ travel -- construction\ exploration\ research\ Haul Road -- utility corridor\ access -- not for public\ tourism -- minimal\ communities -- new\ Wiseman\ Coldfoot|

Section 10: After the archeology for TAPS, there was not any money left to document the findings. John Cook (Project Manager for TAPS archeology) accomplished a lot. He had money to do the excavation and surveying for the first summer. During the second summer he had full crews, but there was not enough sites. The TAPS and Haul Road archeology was the first major archeological project in that area. Most of the Haul Road and TAPS tasks were figuring out the logistics. When the job was completed, there was no money to do the follow-up analysis. The archeological team was unable to fully analyze the material they had collected. Most of the materials were accessioned to the University of Alaska Museum.
TAPS Archeology -- post TAPS\ funding -- limited\ Cook, John -- TAPS Project Manager for TAPS archeology\ excavation -- funding of\ findings -- limited funding for\ TAPS -Haul Road archeology -- first major archeological project\ arctic region\ findings -- no analysis of site findings\ materials -- accessioned\ University of Alaska Museum|

Section 11: From an archeological perspective, the excavations along the TAPS and Haul Road Corridor were not based on cultures or time. The pipeline route cuts through the state, a slice of the state, so it is difficult to conclude anything from an archeological perspective except for specific analysis for each site. Some sites were completed for master's degree papers, but most sites have not been completely analyzed.
TAPS archeology -- opinion of\ cultural history -- no basis\ specific analysis -- limitations\ TAPS archeology -- part of a bigger picture|

Section 12: Archeology is about looking at the remains of past life ways and putting together the pieces. BLM currently has management of the Alyeska Archeology TAPS (from the Yukon River to the North Slope). Sue does not know how valuable the information from the TAPS - Haul Road archeology will be. The archeology completed along the Haul Road was not an entity. It was a snapshot of a situation at a specific time. The archeologists did not do a great job in excavations due to the time limitation. On the other hand, none of the archeology along the Haul Road and TAPS would have happened without John Cook.
archeology -- purpose of\ BLM -- Alyeska Archeology TAPS\ management of\ Yukon River to North Slope\ TAPS archeology -- value of\ snapshot history\ excavations -- rushed\ time -- limitation\ TAPS - Haul Road archeology -- positive outcomes|

Section 13: Alaska is a continent, the range of ecosystems and the range of latitude is large and diverse. Alaska is a huge area. It is difficult to make a timeline or analyze a slice of an area. Cultures and ecosystems in Alaska are dynamic and not absolute. When looking at the pipeline archeology, it tells only a part of a larger story that is interconnected. For example, the artifacts she found along the Haul Road are similar to artifacts found in other areas.
Alaska -- continent\ ecosystems -- diverse\ Alaska -- cultures\ dynamic\ not absolute\ pipeline archeology -- part of a story\ interconnected\ artifacts -- similarities with\ Haul Road\ other areas|

Section 14: Her job is Associate District Manager for BLM. BLM manages 55 million acres of northern Alaska. Everywhere she has worked has been BLM managed land. After the Haul Road, she worked for National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA), which is related to oil and gas exploration. She was doing similar tasks -- helicopter transportation, surface excavation, testing sites and airstrips. All her jobs relate to each other - from archeology to resource management. Her perspective is unique. As she looks into the future, she always asks about planning and managing resources at the same time. Sue has lived in one place for a long time. She has lived in Fairbanks since moving to Alaska and has always worked in the field of resource management.
job -- Associate District Manager\ positions -- current\ BLM\ BLM -- role\ land management\ fifty-five million acres -- northern Alaska\ National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA) -- employed with\ oil and gas exploration\ skills -- surface excavation, testing sites\ archeology\ resource management\ jobs -- interconnected\ interests -- planning\ resources -- managing\ Fairbanks, Alaska -- home|

Section 15: Sue is interested in the Hammond River area, a rich mining area. She is amazed to see how much effort man has taken to extract gold from the land, especially the time, thinking, and the physical labor. Mining claims were considered private property in the past. Now mining claims give you the right to mine the minerals, but without the surface rights. Sue expresses how phenomenal the pre-historic period must have been, and how the people lived. People traveled long distances throughout the seasons just to survive. Work on the Haul Road gave her a perspective on life in the area in earlier times.
Hammond River -- interest in\ mining -- history of\ interest in\ effort in\ mining claims -- changes in\ pre-historic period -- interest in\ people -- pre-historic period\ survival\ migration\ seasonal\ Haul Road -- perspective of|

Section 16: Sue talks about the villages that have been impacted by the Haul Road, particularly Stevens Village.
Haul Road -- impact of\ Stevens Village\ Barrow -- impacted\ Prudhoe Bay|

Section 17: archeology\ Haul Road\ women -- role of\ Croxton, Ruth\ fieldwork\ safety\ fear\ construction\ adventure\ job -- uncertainty\ male attention\ camp life\ building -- set-up\ showers\ creativity\ adaptation\ Kunz, Mike\ work\ fun|

Section 18: job\ archeology\ Haul Road\ challenges\ adventure\ youth\ jobs\ construction|

Section 19: archeology\ archeology -- excavation\ archeology -- salvage\ archeology -- survey\ construction\ road\ Haul Road\ heavy equipment\ archeological sites -- loss of\ excavation -- speed\ artifacts\ Anakpuk\ Gallagher Flint Station\ construction material -- source of\ site loss -- pain of|

Section 20: Sue thinks about the future plans along the Haul Road (Dalton Highway), particularly with the future gas line proposal. While at NPRA, she noticed seismic damage resulting from seismic lines and the Rollagons (low pressure vehicles that move along the tundra). This impacted the tundra, leaving deep trails. Thirteen years later she visited the area, and the damage was not noticeable. The environmental law states that land will be reclaimed, which is a complex process. Her role (at BLM) is to find out what people and public agencies need to know to manage the land and resources for the future.
gas line project -- impact of\ NPRA -- employed with\ seismic damage -- effects of\ tundra -- damage to\ recovery\ land -- reclaiming of\ process -- difficult\ role -- public awareness\ land -- management of\ natural resources -- management of|

Section 21: Sue describes the Haul Road as a utility corridor, where the land around the road is set aside for natural resources. The corridor will be used for the future gas line project, which means areas along the Haul Road will experience yet another major change. And she mentions who lived in Wiseman when she first was in the area and how things have changed since the road went in.
gas line project -- impact of\ utility corridor -- purpose of\ Haul Road -- changes in\ surrounding area\ Wiseman -- changes in\ road -- impact of\ accessibility\ Gold Creek\ Boese, Earl and Mamie\ Reakoff, Jack\ Reakoff, Rick\ Reakoff, June\ Lounsbury, George\ Leonard, Harry\ Breck, Charlie\ Brockman, Ross|