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Jack Reakoff, Interview 1
Jack Reakoff 1992

Jack Reakoff was interviewed by Bill Schneider, Dave Krupa and Carol Scott on October 14, 1992 in Wiseman, Alaska at an historic cabin that had been occupied by old-timer Charlie Breck prior to his death in 1991. Today the cabin is owned by Jack's parents Rick and June. Accompanying Jack were his children Jesse and Michelle, who were eager to hear their father discuss the history of their home. Jack is an important personality in Wiseman. In recent years prior to this interview, an entire generation of Wiseman old-timers had passed away, leaving Jack, at 35, the oldest of Wiseman's longtime residents. Jack's parents moved to Wiseman in 1971, and Jack has been living there on and off since. He has a great deal of respect and concern for local history, and he spent a lot of time listening to the old ones and in some cases following their example. He is perhaps the most active, and certainly most experienced, local resident involved in a mixed subsistence life, which includes hunting, trapping, gardening, and commercial fishing. At the time of the interview, Jack was busily engaged in the fall hunt, a hunt that had thus far yielded no meat. His wife Roma put in extra effort to take care of chores at home so that Jack could go out with one or two of his children twice daily in an extended search for moose. During the interview, Jack speaks eloquently about the importance of subsistence to the people of Wiseman, and shares his many carefully reasoned perspectives on game laws, federal and state agencies, and the bewildering issues surrounding land and resource management. This interview offers both a highly personal perspective on a unique and compelling life based out on the land, and a detailed discussion of the actual effects of management policies on rural residents of the Brooks Range. Jack's perspectives include a number of surprising conclusions and important challenges to common understanding of sensitive subsistence issues.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 93-15-44

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Oct 14, 1992
Narrator(s): Jack Reakoff
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, David Krupa, Carol Scott
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

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


1) His family background and recollections of Wiseman old-timers

2) His father's involvement in foiling the then illegal extension of the Haul Road

3) His father's involvement with guiding

4) His views on unwise changes in the state's approach to game regulation

5) Effect of Haul Road on subsistence hunting

6) Use of aircraft and Jack's perspectives on its use

7) His own personal background

8) A typical yearly cycle for his family

9) Changes in Wiseman and the stresses of this lifeway

10) Hopes for his family and the future of Wiseman

11) What visitors and new park managers need to know

12) The future of federal lands

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: Breck, Charlie\ Wilcox, Ace\ Brockman, Ross\ Ulen, Tishu\ Jones, Bobby\ Allen, Jess\ Jonas, Jacob\ Jonas, Mrs. -- death\ Bettles\ dad -- flying\ Kantishna River\ Yakutat\ Brooks Range\ McConnell, Mac\ Wiseman\ Arctic John\ Leonard, Harry\ Shappell, Oliver\ Nowler, Vincent\ Standish, Sam & Obrin\ Anaktuvuk Pass\ hunting -- expert at sitting\ encampment\ Nolan Road -- sheep\ wolf -- Arctic John; hunting\ cabin -- schoolteacher's, purchased in 1967\ Ulen, Tishu -- owner\ Galena\ Pioneer Hall -- staying at\ Standish brothers -- Sam, Obrin; Yugoslavians\ cabin -- $430, firm\ Athabaskan Indians\ Chandalar Lake\ Adnee, Red -- outfit for sale\ misfortune -- father injured back after purchase, lost place\ schoolhouse\ residence -- Wiseman, 1971|

Section 2: oil companies\ Hickel Highway\ John River\ Atigun Pass\ Adnee, Red\ father -- flying from Galena to Chandalar Lake\ trailblazing -- night, D-8, D-9's blading north\ Fairbanks\ LaRocka, Joe\ Fairbanks Daily News-Miner\ pipeline -- halted for years\ environmentalists\ Agnew, Spiro\ Linda Creek\ Dietrich River\ Prudhoe Bay\ route -- oil interests reselected their own route\ Stevens Village\ Kanuti Flats\ Hamlin River\ construction -- spring, 1970\ residents -- Wiseman, opposed pipeline\ pipeline corridor -- hunting closed\ Arctic John\ Fish and Game\ Haul Road -- construction "like burying one of your relatives"\ wilderness -- fight for\ Bureau of Land Management -- pavements and parking lots|

Section 3: guiding -- often wrongly conjured; small supplement to income, taking out three to four hunters per year\ trapping\ hunting\ Breck, Charlie\ guiding -- early, had specific areas for each guide\ Dietrich River\ Chandalar River\ Adnee, Red\ ethics -- guiding ethic deteriorated in 1970's\ guiding areas -- were a good thing\ McDowell Decision -- ended guiding areas several years ago|

Section 4: oil revenue -- began declining\ State of Alaska -- decided to sell animals\ guides -- increase pressure\ non-resident tags\ insurance -- high price, guides need to take more hunters\ recommendation -- some areas, no guiding; no non-residents on the Haul Road\ subsistence\ bowhunt -- inefficient\ wound loss|

Section 5: subsistence -- wise use\ bowhunters -- high wound loss; primitive means\ Fish and Game\ wound loss\ Wyoming -- bow hunt ratios|

Section 6: aircraft -- basic transportation for difficult terrain\ fall -- hunting access\ park -- cannot access from Wiseman in fall when snowpack not formed\ fall hunt -- precluded in park by access regulations\ access to park -- boat or walk\ wolverine\ marten\ black bear\ sheep\ caches\ game -- thicker now\ history -- market hunters\ canned meat|

Section 7: Wiseman\ school\ Lathrop High School -- three years\ commercial fish\ dad -- trap\ pipeline -- 1975; screwed up everything\ Washington -- learning to fly\ Anchorage -- 1976; no place for me\ Yukon Flats -- canoe; muskrat hunting; trapping\ wife -- Roma; met in 1976; Bristol Bay\ Kantishna -- trapping, two winters\ Wiseman -- 1978, moved back\ Park -- 1980; enforcement oriented\ fall hunt -- park affect on\ access -- cut off\ Bristol Bay\ King Salmon\ commercial fishing\ set netting\ income -- firefighting; commercial fishing, etc.|

Section 8: summer\ commercial fishing\ salmon\ gardening\ fall\ hunting -- sheep; caribou; black bear; moose\ wood cutting -- September and October\ trapping -- November 1; lynx; wolverine; wolf; fox; marten; beaver\ waste -- lack of; eat or dog food\ wood cutting -- April\ spring\ hunting -- black bear; grizzly bear\ gardening -- May\ Bristol Bay -- June\ crafts -- beading; carving\ tourism\ subsistence -- takes up some slack for low income; less than half the poverty line|

Section 9: cabin fever\ sun -- lack of\ tension\ stress -- getting meat\ animals -- living with them\ animals -- respect for\ Alaska Department of Fish and Game -- teaching them things they don't know due to lack of field experience\ lynx -- females stop producing kittens before rabbit cycle crashes\ Alaska Department of Fish and Game -- too much coffee in Fairbanks\ caribou -- extreme decline 1970s; emergency closure; not predicted, poorly handled|

Section 10: subsistence -- retain its integrity and country will always support\ corridor -- subsistence hunt only\ Bureau of Land Management -- development plans unwise\ Dalton Highway\ knowledge -- learned, not instinctive, and must be passed on\ Itkillik River\ lifestyle -- learned, must want to do it\ subsistence lifestyle -- opportunities\ residence zone status -- NPS\ Wrangell-St. Elias National Park\ park -- usage by locals\ newcomers -- not a problem, Wiseman population actually has fallen|

Section 11: park -- number of people who use\ park usage -- old-timers use\ wilderness\ Wiseman -- new residents\ subsistence -- people from Wiseman involved have been doing so for years\ park access -- now very limited, hence no concern\ Catch 22 -- park worries over too high a kill, then says we don't use resource enough to justify a resident zone\ visitors -- see country but don't develop or disturb\ trails -- don't build\ visitors -- drive game away\ corridor -- management regime should be more like the park\ values -- preserve integrity; self reliance\ park management -- learning\ recommendation|

Section 12: management -- properly done, can last\ Leonard, Harry -- "real nice country for a long time"\ visitor use\ subsistence use\ environment -- unique, transition for interior to Arctic\ Wiseman -- rich history|