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William "Bill" Brown
Born in Seattle in 1930, Bill Brown was a long-time employee of the National Park Service, working in park planning, publication writing and editing, park management, and as regional historian. He came to Alaska in 1975 and was a member of the Park Service's Alaska Task Force that conducted research and worked with local people around Alaska to better understand the areas that were to become new national parks. He played an important role in planning for Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, worked in the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska, and completed key historic resource studies for Gates of the Arctic and Denali National Parks. In the 1980s, he was Park Historian for Gates of the Arctic National Park and produced the book The History of the Central Brooks Range: Gaunt Beauty, Tenuous Life, which is a historical narrative of human occupation of the area and a survey of historic sites. This richly detailed history of the region goes a long way toward demonstrating just how long and varied human occupation and use of the Brooks Range and surrounding areas have been. The book makes extensive use of primary sources, including the travel diaries of explorers, prospectors, trappers, and missionaries. It strongly relies upon first-person accounts and oral history accounts from Native elders. Bill Brown retired from the Park Service in the early 1990s and lived in Gustavus, Alaska. He passed away in 2016.
Interviews with Bill appear in the Gates of the Arctic National Park Project Jukebox and the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve Project Jukebox, and he was the interviewer for many of the interviews in the Denali Mountaineering Project Jukebox.
|Interview Title||Abstract||Archive #: Oral History||Project||Date of Interview|
|Bill Brown, Interview 1, Part 1||
Bill Brown was interviewed on May 7, 1991 by William Schneider in front of Bill's house in Gustavus, Alaska. Bill was relaxed, but had a lot of things on his mind. He was watching his two boys, Zack who was 6 and Danny who was 10. Bill had just retired from the National Park Service and he and his family recently arrived in Gustavus and were trying to establish themselves there. Their home was half finished and Bill was concerned about making ends meet. In this first part of a two part interview, Bill talks about his career as a historian with the National Park Service both in Alaska and in the Southwest region. He talks about projects he worked on, people who were his mentors, his publications, and the importance of historic site preservation.
|91-22-03||Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve||May 7, 1991|
|Bill Brown, Interview 1, Part 2||
This is the continuation of an interview with Bill Brown on May 7, 1991 by William Schneider in front of Bill's house in Gustavus, Alaska. In this second part of a two part interview, Bill continues to talk about his work as a historian with the National Park Service in Alaska. He discusses historic preservation and research projects he worked on at Sitka National Historical Park, in villages in northern Alaska, and at Denali National Park and Preserve. He mentions the life of people, like his son Randy Brown, living a subsistence-based lifestyle in the area of Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. And finally, he reflects on his career and his concerns about the state of the world and the future of the National Park Service.
|91-22-04||Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve||May 7, 1991|
|Bill Brown, Interview 2, Part 1||
Bill Brown was interviewed on October 22, 1992 by David Krupa at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Bill was visiting Fairbanks from his home in Gustavus, Alaska to finish work on Denali Mountaineering Project Jukebox where, instead of being the interviewee, he did the interviewing. In this first part of a two part interview, Bill gives a brief summary of his career in the National Park Service, then goes on to detail the process of defining and protecting historic sites as part of the National Park Service's mission along the Koyukuk River and in the Central Brooks Range. Bill shares the perspective of a historian as he discusses the long history of Native presence in the area and the successive waves of European interest and occupation based primarily on mining, and more recently, oil development on the North Slope. He discusses how the relative isolation of the Brooks Range and the fragility of the environment affected its frontier development. He goes on to chronicle Native involvement and reaction to Western encroachment, and concludes with a brief overview of Alaska's land and resource history and its impact on national parks in Alaska.
|93-15-01||Gates of the Arctic National Park||Oct 22, 1992|
|Bill Brown, Interview 2, Part 2||
This is the continuation of an interview with Bill Brown on October 22, 1992 by David Krupa at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In this second part of a two part interview, Bill talks about the formation of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, and some of the land management issues that the new park had to deal with.
|93-15-02||Gates of the Arctic National Park||Oct 22, 1992|
|Bob Howe and Bill Brown, Part 1||
Bob Howe and Bill Brown were interviewed on May 6, 1991 by William Schneider at Bob's house on the Salmon River in Gustavus, Alaska. This was a small log cabin set in a field abutting a cow pasture. The living room looked out on the river. Bookshelves were numerous and contained such titles as, Does One Way of Life Have to Die So Another Can Live, Barry Lopez's new book Crossing Open Ground, and Walden II. Directly in back of where Bob and Bill were seated hung a picture of a Russian Orthodox Church. Over the door was a pair of snowshoes. A radio tuned to marine weather, binoculars, and a bird identification book on the table pointed to Bob's orientation as an outdoorsman. In this first part of a two part interview, Bob and Bill talk about their experiences working for the National Park Service in Alaska where they worked together on park planning related to new conservation units established by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980. They focus on their experiences with Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. They discuss relationships with the local people in the Yukon-Charley area, doing field work to survey the area, and working with National Park Service employees and politicians. They also talk about changes to park units in Alaska and trying to work with or change existing National Park Service policies and regulations.
|91-22-01||Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve||May 6, 1991|
|Bob Howe and Bill Brown, Part 2||
This is the continuation of an interview with Bob Howe and Bill Brown on May 6, 1991 by William Schneider at Bob's house on the Salmon River in Gustavus, Alaska. In this second part of a two part interview, Bob and Bill continue to talk about their experiences working for the National Park Service as new park units were being established after passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in 1980. Specifically, they discuss working in the Yukon-Charley Rivers area where they tried to establish good relationships with the local people who were concerned about preserving their subsistence-based lifestyles and historic cabins in the area, and getting the National Park Service to incorporate this local knowledge into their planning process.
|91-22-02||Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve||May 6, 1991|
|Interview Title||Archive #: Oral History||Project||Abstract|
|Russell Berry||93-02-01||Denali Mountaineering||
Russell Berry was interviewed on March 5, 1992 by Bill Brown in Russ Berry's office at Denali National Park Headquarters in Denali Park, Alaska. In this interview, Russ talks about the issues he faces as the park's superintendent in terms of managing climbing on Denali. He discusses access and transportation, rescues, overcrowding on the mountain, regulating guiding, and possible impacts from development on the south side of the Alaska Range.
|Doug Geeting||93-02-02||Denali Mountaineering||
Doug Geeting was interviewed on February 27, 1992 by Bill Brown in the Doug Geeting Aviation office at the airport in Talkeetna, Alaska. Doug is a big, energetic man, and was busy that day taking phone call bookings for the upcoming climbing season on Denali. In this interview, Doug provides detailed and colorful descriptions of mountain flying, rescues, and his own motivations as a glacier pilot. He also talks about the beauty of the mountains, the attitudes of climbers, and how the National Park Service is managing climbers on Denali.
|Taras Genet||93-02-03||Denali Mountaineering||
Taras Genet was interviewed on February 29, 1992 by Bill Brown at the National Park Service residence dormitory in Talkeetna, Alaska. In this interview, Taras talks about his 1991 climb of Denali, when at age twelve he was the youngest climber to summit the mountain. He discusses the preparations for the climb, the climb itself, how he dealt with the altitude, and his impressions of the climb and being at the summit.
|Cliff Hudson||93-02-04/05||Denali Mountaineering||
Cliff Hudson was interviewed on February 28, 1992 by Bill Brown in Cliff Hudson's living room in Talkeetna, Alaska. It was a busy place with family, friends, and dogs dropping in or running through the room. In this interview, Cliff talks about his experiences as an air-taxi pilot flying in the Denali National Park area. He discusses the challenges of high-altitude flying, glacier landings, dealing with bad weather, and participating in rescue operations. He also provides advice to climbers and shared his thoughts about the role of the National Park Service on Denali.
|Ken Kehrer||93-02-01||Denali Mountaineering||
Ken Kehrer was interviewed on March 5, 1992 by Bill Brown at National Park Service Headquarters at Denali National Park and Preserve in Denali Park, Alaska. In this interview, Ken talks about his work as a ranger at Denali, including his duties overseeing mountaineering, rescue operations, and management of the climbing program. He also discusses dealing with the climbers, the various philosphies of climbing that different people have, and airplanes landing on the glaciers.
|Ann Mackovjak||93-02-06||Denali Mountaineering||
Ann "Cricket" Mackovjak was on interviewed on April 4, 1992 by Bill Brown at the Mackovjak home in Gustavus, Alaska. In this interview, Ann talks about her experiences climbing Denali and working for well-known mountaineer and guide, Ray Genet. She discusses guiding procedures, effect of air access to the mountain, rescues, and the role of women in climbing.
|Jim Okonek||93-02-08/09||Denali Mountaineering||
Jim Okonek was interviewed on February 26 and February 27, 1992 by Bill Brown in Talkeetna, Alaska. The first interview was in Jim's K2 Aviation office at the Talkeetna airport, and the second was at the K2 Aviation bunkhouse in downtown Talkeetna. The first interview was going along fine until Bill realized that the tape was not winding. So in the second part of the interview, they went back over the missing topics and continued to the end of the interview. Jim was able to repeat the lost discussions almost word for word as Bill had first heard and noted them. In this interview, Jim talks about his experience as a pilot around Denali, flying climbers to and from the mountain, and landing on glaciers. He also discusses the challenges of mountain flying, being involved with rescues on the mountain and the high cost of such operations, and flightseeing around Denali.
|Kathy Sullivan||93-02-07||Denali Mountaineering||
Kathy Sullivan was interviewed on February 28, 1992 by Bill Brown at Kathy's office in the National Park Service Ranger Station and District Office in Talkeetna, Alaska. In this interview, Kathy talks about climbing and guiding in the Denali area, management of climbers on the mountain, and her connections to Denali. At the time of the interview, some particularly convoluted fiscal, personnel, and procurement needs of the District caused her to reflect on high adventures of the past. Also, her love and pride for her two sons comes forth in the interview.
|J.D. Swed and Daryl Miller||93-02-07||Denali Mountaineering||
J.D. Swed and Daryl Miller were interviewed on February 27, 1992 by Bill Brown in the unheated National Park Service Ranger Station in downtown Talkeetna, Alaska. At the time of the interview, J.D. Swed was the newly arrived South District Ranger and Darly Miller was an experienced mountaineering ranger having served in the position since 1989. In this interview, they discuss issues related to management of climbing on Denali and how best to serve the climbing community.
|Roberta Sheldon||93-02-04||Denali Mountaineering||
Roberta Sheldon was interviewed on February 28, 1992 by Bill Brown at her home in Talkeetna, Alaska. In this interview, Roberta concentrates on her partnership role in running Talkeetna Air Taxi with her husband, Don Sheldon, before his death in 1975. She also discusses the history of the community of Talkeetna and how the area has changed. In the background, you will hear music from a radio as well as birds outside, which gives you a sense of the setting where the interview took place. This interview with Roberta Sheldon is not available on-line. It can only be accessed through the Oral History office at the Elmer Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.