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Jack Reakoff, Interview 2, Part 1
Jack Reakoff

Jack Reakoff was interviewed on November 16, 2006 by Marie Mitchell at his house in Wiseman, Alaska. In this first part of a two part interview, Jack talks about the changing lifestyle of Wiseman as a result of the Haul Road, the history and culture of Wiseman, his involvement in tourism as a result of the Dalton Highway, how technology has influenced his lifestyle, and his views on subsistence living, commercial development along the Haul Road, and management of natural resources. He also reflects on the past, present and future of Wiseman and living there.

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


1) Jack's father coming to Alaska and his early years of learning to trap from Alaska Natives

2) His father Rick Reakoff's background

3) His father becoming a pilot and moving the family to Wiseman

4) Alaska Natives settling in villages

5) Diversity of Wiseman

6) History of Wiseman

7) Jack's personal background and growing up

8) Jack choosing the subsistence lifestyle

9) Learning to hunt and live off the land

10) Subsistence lifestyle

11) Wildlife population

12) Construction of the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline and the Haul Road

13) Construction of the Hickel Highway

14) Opposition to the Haul Road, and implementation of hunting regulations

15) Hunting and firearm regulations

16) Wildlife management

17) Politics of management

18) Management of wolves, moose, and All-Terrain Vehicle use

19) Subsistence management

20) Haul Road construction

21) Haul Road and pipeline surveys, and acceptance of the Haul Road

22) Impacts to Wiseman from construction of the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline and job opportunities for local residents

23) Impacts of the Haul Road

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: birthdate\ Anchorage\ Reakoff, Rick -- father\ Alaska -- moving to\ trapping\ Alaska Natives -- Athabascan\ elders -- learning from\ job -- Federal Aviation Administration\ Yakutat\ Alaska Natives -- Tlingit\ Brooks Range -- moving to\ Bettles|

Section 2: Jack's mother (June Reakoff) and father (Rick Reakoff) lived in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. Rick Reakoff did not like the urban lifestyle. Rick preferred the outdoors and was interested in hunting and trapping. Rick started hunting at the age of eight. He ran away from home, but a truant officer brought him back. He joined the Army, and fought in the Korean War. After military service, he moved to Alaska.
Reakoff, June -- mother\ Reakoff, Rick -- father\ childhood -- father\ Detroit, Michigan\ Reakoff, Rick -- interests\ outdoor\ hunting\ trapping\ Reakoff, Rick -- story\ home -- ran away from\ Army -- served in\ Korean War\ Alaska -- relocated to|

Section 3: Rick Reakoff learned to fly on the G.I. Bill (the Service Members' Readjustment Act of 1944). Rick purchased a plane in 1963. He learned about Wiseman when he hunted with Andy Anderson, and liked it. He moved the family to Wiseman. Rick visited and talked with the elders, gold miners and Eskimos about the past way of life. He became a guide soon after he earned his hunting guide license.
Reakoff, Rick -- pilot\ G.I. Bill -- description of\ Reakoff, Rick -- airplane\ airplane -- purchase of\ Wiseman -- hunting area\ Anderson, Andy -- friend\ influence\ Wiseman -- relocated to\ elder\ gold miners\ Eskimos\ stories -- lifestyle\ hunting guide -- licensed|

Section 4: Most Alaskan Natives were nomadic. The primary villages where people aggregated were selected for resources (salmon, caribou). As western culture arrived, people harvested from the primary village areas.
Alaskan Natives -- past\ nomadic\ village -- explanation of\ primary\ secondary\ village -- changes in|

Section 5: Wiseman had a mixed ethnic community -- Alaska Natives and White miners. The Pioneers of Alaska Hall was a facility in Wiseman that housed people who visited. Pioneers of Alaska was a benevolent organization, and acted as the local government in pre-territorial days. The Reakoff family stayed in the hall when they visited Wiseman.
Wiseman -- community\ diverse\ non-Native\ Alaska Native\ miners\ Eskimos\ Pioneers of Alaska Hall -- quarters\ Wiseman\ Pioneer of Alaska -- organization\ description|

Section 6: In the early 1960's, Wiseman was a supply point for gold mining activity at Nolan Creek and the surrounding area. Around 350 people mined, and 100 people lived in Wiseman. When World War II started, gold mining was non-essential to the war effort. This negatively impacted the Wiseman economy. Wiseman went from 100 people to 30 people. In the 1960's, the population decreased to 15 or so year-round residents, mainly elderly mining residents. Most of the cabins were burned in the post-war era for fuel. People who remained in Wiseman grew gardens, mined, hunted, and survived a subsistence lifestyle.
Wiseman -- history of\ gold mining -- Wiseman\ gold mining -- changes in\ pre World War II -- gold mining\ gold mining -- productive\ Wiseman -- population\ World War II -- effect of\ gold mining -- halted\ Wiseman -- negative impact\ population\ cabins -- wood fuel\ Wiseman -- subsistence|

Section 7: The Reakoff family purchased cabins in 1966. Jack's parents bought three cabins: a cabin built by the Stanish brothers, who were miners; the teachers' quarters; and the old school house. In 1971, the Reakoff's moved to Wiseman from Chandalar Lake. There was no economy in Wiseman, except for guiding. Rick Reakoff became a hunting guide, and the family traveled to Bristol Bay to commercial fish in the summers. His parents rented an apartment in Fairbanks so the kids could attend school. His father continued trapping, while his mom stayed in Fairbanks during the winter season. When Jack finished school in Fairbanks, the family moved to Wiseman permanently. Jack was home schooled at Chandalar Lake and various village schools. The family lived in Bettles, King Salmon, and Galena before settling in Wiseman.
Reakoff, Rick -- family\ Wiseman -- cabins\ cabins -- purchase of\ cabins -- description of\ Reakoff family\ Wiseman -- home base\ Wiseman -- limitations\ income\ Reakoff, Rick -- hunting guide\ family -- employment\ employment -- commercial fish\ children -- schooling\ schooling -- location\ Fairbanks\ Reakoff, Jack -- childhood\ schooling\ home base|

Section 8: In 1971, Jack's primary home was Wiseman. The family traveled seasonally to hunt, trap, and fish. Many Wiseman residents traveled to other areas for similar reasons. In 1976, his parents lived year-round in Wiseman. Heidi, his younger sister, was home schooled from first grade to 12th grade. Jack enjoys the lifestyle of subsistence living. When he visited the Lower-48 as a child, he did not like the pollution and over-population. He lived in Anchorage, and did not like the urban lifestyle. Urban lifestyle was too distant from the natural eco-lifestyle, and too repetitive. The lifestyle in Wiseman is more annual, seasonal, cyclic, and natural.
Wiseman -- primary home\ travel -- seasonally\ seasonal -- hunt\ trap\ fish\ parents -- home base\ Wiseman\ Schoppenhorst, Heidi -- home schooled\ Wiseman -- enjoyment of\ subsistence -- lifestyle\ preference\ urban lifestyle -- dislike in\ pollution\ over-population\ urban lifestyle -- not natural\ repetitive\ subsistence -- natural\ seasonal\ cyclic|

Section 9: Jack started hunting at the age of 18 months with his father. He remembers being carried on his dad's shoulders while his father hunted ducks. Hunting was a continuous training process, from small game (ducks and grouse) to large game (bears, Dall sheep, moose). When his dad was a guide, Jack's training continued. Jack also learned from people who lived a traditional lifestyle before western influence.
Reakoff, Jack -- hunting\ hunting -- age of\ father -- hunted with\ animals -- types of\ small game -- ducks\ fowl\ large game -- bears\ Dall sheep\ moose\ traditions -- influenced by|

Section 10: Subsistence lifestyle is not sport hunting. In the Lower-48 states, hunting is hunting clubs and sport hunting, with restrictive hunting regulations due to limited resources. In Alaska, there is a subsistence priority for hunting. Subsistence has an economic value. Subsistence lifestyle means working individually, which has a value ("you are producing your own food"). Jack sits on the Western Interior Advisory Council to the Federal Subsistence Board to advocate for subsistence living and proper management of resources. He explains the value of subsistence, "For example in rural stores, it costs $5 to $18 dollars a pound for meat. If you kill a moose, that moose should be considered of similar value". In Wiseman, jobs are seasonal (and scarce), so subsistence is important.
subsistence lifestyle -- description of\ sport hunting -- comparison\ hunting clubs -- restrictive\ sport hunting -- restrictive\ Lower-48 -- limited resources\ Alaska -- subsistence priority\ subsistence -- value of\ individualistic\ Western Interior Advisory Council -- purpose of\ served on\ Federal Subsistence Board -- purpose of\ subsistence -- economic value\ reasons for|

Section 11: The perception that wildlife is vast is falsely promoted by the media. The media shows animals in concentrated groups, which gives the perception there is a lot of wildlife. This is the Arctic. The further north you go, the less the density. Five square miles produce one moose in the northern regions. Caribou use one to three square miles throughout their migration range. Caribou are an aggregating species that migrate to specific areas. As such, the perception is that there are thousands of animals everywhere at once.
wildlife -- perception\ media -- influences of\ misperception -- wildlife\ arctic region -- limited resources\ moose -- population of\ caribou -- population of\ caribou -- description migratory\ aggregating|

Section 12: In 1970, Rick Reakoff flew from Galena to give moose meat to Florence Jonas in mid-February. On that flight he saw lights from construction vehicles and traffic of the Hickel Highway. He immediately flew to Fairbanks and contacted a newspaper journalist. The journalist reported the oil companies who were building a winter haul road. This road was routed illegally into Coldfoot and into the Dietrich Valley. The oil companies built an illegal campsite at Dietrich Valley, leaving Catepillars (CATS) and other machinery. An injunction was filed against the construction of this winter haul road, which delayed the TAPS project and the Haul Road until 1973. The oil companies legally could use existing trails, but the route proposed was illegal since there were no existing trails. This illegal route did not coincide with the Hickel Highway. The mining district ends at Gold Creek, and north of Gold Creek there was no trail system. The oil companies also did not have permits for camps, and the construction crew hit a graveyard site at Coldfoot.
Haul Road -- story of\ Reakoff, Rick -- traveling\ moose meat -- delivery of\ Galena -- traveled from\ Wiseman -- traveled to\ Wiseman -- construction\ traffic\ Hickel Highway -- active\ newspaper -- reporting to\ newspaper article -- publication\ headline -- illegal highway\ Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) -- illegal construction\ winter haul road -- halting of\ injunction\ injunction -- reasons for\ route -- different from\ Hickel Highway\ route -- illegal\ permits -- none|

Section 13: The Hickel Highway was approved by Walter Hickel. He wanted the proposed Haul Road to follow this same route. Instead, the oil companies proposed a different route. In February 1970, TAPS started the construction of a winter haul road. The State tried to locate winter trails to build the winter haul road. Crews constructing the new route were directed to build camps along the route to store machinery (for the Haul Road and pipeline). The winter haul road was held up in court since it started illegally, and quietly. The injunction brought the whole TAPS to a halt. Vice President Spiro Agnew cast the deciding vote for the proposed route, which is now the Haul Road and pipeline. TAPS also wanted to bury the pipeline. Environmentalists and consulting engineers wanted the pipeline elevated due to the frozen permafrost ground. In the spring of 1974, Alyeska, an entity of TAPS, began construction on the Haul Road. The Haul Road was surveyed following the TAPS route. The purpose of the Haul Road was to service the pipeline.
Hickel Highway -- story of\ Hickel, Walter -- Interior Secretary\ Hickel Highway -- purpose of\ \ Hickel Highway -- route\ route -- advocating for\ Haul Road -- proposed route\ route -- differences in\ winter trails -- upgrades\ winter haul road -- winter trails\ route -- proposed\ winter trails -- lack of\ camps -- illegal\ purpose of\ winter haul road -- injunction\ injunction -- lifted\ Agnew, Spiro -- U.S. Vice President\ Haul Road -- approval of\ TAPS -- pipeline\ pipeline -- burial of\ elevation of\ elevation -- benefits of\ Haul Road -- surveying\ route --TAPS\ Haul Road -- purpose of|

Section 14: After the injunction was lifted in 1973, the proposed TAPS route was officially surveyed. The demeanor of the people in Wiseman was in opposition because of the previous illegal routing. The Wiseman community was concerned about changes to the country, litter, and impact to the game resources. Due to the North Slope Borough's concerns, the State closed the area to hunting without concern for subsistence hunters. Five miles around each side of the Haul Road were closed to hunting. Wiseman was affected by this since it is next to the Haul Road. The State also enacted firearm restrictions. The closure and regulations were ordered to deal with the thousands of construction workers that could impact the natural resources. The State re-opened hunting with bow and arrow in 1982, because of the firearm statute. Hunters can not hunt with firearms from the Yukon River to Prudhoe Bay within the five mile corridor from the Haul Road.
injunction -- lifted\ Haul Road -- route\ route -- surveyed\ approved\ Wiseman -- opposition to\ opposition -- reasons for\ Haul Road -- illegal routing\ community -- concerns\ North Slope Borough -- concerns\ hunting -- restrictions\ Haul Road -- regulations\ firearm -- new restrictions\ Wiseman -- impact of\ regulations -- reasons for\ bow and arrow -- permits|

Section 15: Bow and arrow hunting is not a viable means for consistent harvesting. Wiseman community proposed firearm usage for the people in Wiseman. State regulations have hunting with bow and arrow only. In 1992, the federal government began managing subsistence in Alaska. Wiseman community requested firearm use for a reasonable harvest, or allow trapping and snaring of big game animals. The federal government now allows firearms with a special federal permit for harvesting animals. There was a 12-year period when people who relied on subsistence hunted illegally.
bow and arrow hunting -- not viable\ Wiseman -- firearm proposal\ proposal -- firearm usage\ federal government -- management of\ wildlife\ firearm usage -- request\ permits\ people -- relied on subsistence\ hunted illegally|

Section 16: Jack works toward keeping all harvests within sustained yields. He sits on the Koyukuk River Advisory Committee, Western Interior Regional Council, and Subsistence Resource Commission, which deal with game management. Arctic populations are low density, so resources are constantly adjusting to seasons and sustainability. Sport management goes toward maximum sustained yields. Subsistence users do not push the animal population to the edge. Urban sport users are nomadic. If they shoot out an area, they will travel elsewhere. Jack has spent his time and money to protect wildlife and to allow harvesting that is sustainable.
harvests -- natural resources\ harvesting -- sustained yields\ Koyukuk River Advisory Committee\ Western Interior Regional Council\ Subsistence Resource Commission\ game management -- concerns with\ Arctic -- wildlife\ wildlife -- low density\ sport management -- negative impact\ subsistence management -- sustainable\ urban hunters -- opinion of\ subsistence hunters -- opinion of|

Section 17: Game management is a political arena. Senate Bill 85 (Senator Ralph Seekins' bill) would open Wiseman area to all-terrain vehicle (ATV) usage. Wiseman residents are opposed. ATVs would negatively impact the terrain. This area is open country and permafrost land, not thick brush. Vehicles would melt the permafrost, creating mud holes. ATVs affect the land. Notice how the Alaska Range area, Denali Highway, and Copper River country have been scarred by ATV use.
game management -- political\ public agencies -- number of\ Senate Bill 85 -- description of\ removal of\ Senate Bill 85 -- opposition to\ Wiseman -- opposition to\ all-terrain vehicle (ATV) -- negative impact\ permafrost land -- Alaska\ common\ challenging\ permafrost -- melting of\ effects of\ permafrost -- stories\ Alaska Range area\ Denali Highway\ Copper River country|

Section 18: The wolf control project is a response to over-harvesting the moose. You need 30 bulls to 100 cows. Game management shoots the moose down to a dozen bulls for 100 cows. Predator problems are due to the mismanagement of sport hunting. Wiseman is against all-terrain vehicle (ATV) use in the area because they want to maintain the wildlife populations and the natural terrain. This area is pristine. There are no scars from ATV vehicle use. We can utilize snow machines for subsistence hunting, cutting wood, and trapping. We cannot use a ground contact off-road vehicle (ORV). There is a misperception that subsistence users can use ATVs in this area. Using ATVs would be in violation of federal subsistence regulations. There is no ground contact ORV use for subsistence in this area. If we hunt big game, we pack it out by foot.
wolf control project -- reasons for\ ineffective\ wolf control project -- opinion of\ predator problems -- problems with\ reasons for\ sport hunting\ Wiseman -- opposition with\ all-terrain vehicle (ATV)\ ATV -- effects of\ Wiseman -- natural\ pristine\ unscarred\ ATV -- natural damages to\ subsistence users -- misperception\ ATVs usage -- in violation with\ federal subsistence regulations|

Section 19: Subsistence is faceless (and colorless). In 1980, the United States Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) that provides subsistence for Native and non-Native rural residents on federal lands.
subsistence -- faceless\ colorless\ Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) -- passage of\ purpose of\ Wiseman -- ORVs\ ORVs -- opposition|

Section 20: When the TAPS Bill was passed by the US Senate (Vice-President Spiro Agnew cast the deciding vote over the Senate's 50-50 split) to have the pipeline and the road, the Wiseman community was angry. In June 1974, you could hear the chainsaws cutting the trees for the Haul Road route and later for the pipeline pad. You could see and hear the scrapers, Cats, and trucks hauling gravel from Wiseman.
TAPS Bill -- passage of\ pipeline -- haul road\ Wiseman community -- opposition\ haul road -- construction of\ date -- June 1974\ equipment -- scrappers\ Cats\ trucks -- hauling gravel from Wiseman|

Section 21: When the oil companies started building the winter haul road, there were survey crews from TAPS that entered the Wiseman area and collected artifacts from the community. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) talked to TAPS about removing the artifacts from Wiseman. During the injunction that halted construction, the camps that were built had minimal activity. Helicopter activity continued at the Dietrich River camp. One Wiseman elder shot at a pilot who damaged his antennae. Due to the removal of the artifacts and helicopter pilots, Wiseman community was drawn as a red-zone, a no-fly zone area. TAPS workers were not allowed to enter Wiseman. The perception of Wiseman was that the community was hostile to oil and pipeline crews. The road is here, the pipeline is here. Wiseman is not hostile.
Haul Road -- background\ Haul Road -- construction\ crews -- type of\ survey\ pilots\ laborers\ survey crew -- story of\ Wiseman -- winter haul road\ survey crews -- TAPS\ survey crew -- theft\ artifacts -- stealing of\ Bureau of Land Management (BLM) -- notification of\ TAPS\ helicopter -- traffic\ helicopters pilots -- rudeness of\ vandalism\ elder -- story\ helicopter -- shooting of\ Wiseman community -- red-zone\ no fly zone\ TAPS crews -- limited access to\ Wiseman\ Wiseman -- perception of\ Haul Road -- acceptance of\ Wiseman -- opinion of

Section 22: Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline -- construction\ impacts -- lack of\ business -- local\ bar\ construction workers\ Wiseman -- opposition\ Wiseman -- impacts to\ jobs\ Trans-Alaska Pipeline -- work\ Dietrich Camp\ cook\ Hearing, Peggy\ Esquilie, Pete\ cabins -- rental\ residents -- local|

Section 23: People were solemn when the Haul Road and pipeline were constructed. Jack's father saw it as the "beginning of the end." There are impacts from the Haul Road. Jack has tried to maintain sustainable harvests. Thirty two years later, the impacts are here. The dust on the roads thawed the terrain, resulting in more shrubbery and brush. There are negative impacts from traffic. A positive thing, the average person can afford to travel and see the various terrains along the Dalton Highway. Dalton Highway is linear north and south from Livengood to Prudhoe Bay (500 miles). People can drive through an arctic ecosystem, and see migratory birds and pristine terrain. There is an arctic research center located at Toolik Lake. The road facilitates access to see the northern region country. The average person would typically not have that opportunity. With tourism, Jack has become an interpretive specialist. He tells people about the area. This is a historic mining community. This place locks into the tourist's image of a frontier place. Jack meets visitors with preconceived ideas who depart with tears in their eyes, because people are still connected to nature.
Haul Road -- impression of\ Wiseman -- Haul Road\ Reakoff, Rick -- opinion of\ Haul road -- impact of\ impact -- negative\ description of\ Haul Road -- positive impact\ Dalton Highway -- description of\ Dalton Highway -- route\ opportunities with\ Dalton Highway -- arctic ecosystem\ migratory birds\ pristine terrain\ Toolik Lake Field Station -- description\ Dalton Highway -- benefits of\ travel -- public access\ tourism -- opportunity in\ Reakoff, Jack -- interpreter\ Wiseman -- historic mining community\ Wiseman -- frontier like\ natural\ real\ tourists -- preconceived ideas\ Wiseman -- affect of|