posted: December 29th, 2013 | by:Bert
©Bert Gildart: Yesterday’s news from Gwich’in Indian friends in Alaska informed on the passing of Maggie Roberts, December 26. She was much revered and once served as a “traditional” village chief. She lived most of her life in Venetie, Alaska, one of the several villages in the Yukon Flats School district where Janie and I once taught school.
We met her in 1991 and over a period of years Maggie became one of our favorite people. Janie got to know her well, and visited her on many occasions, accompanied at times by one of her “grandchildren,” Kenneth Frank, who has remained one of our very best friends.
Maggie’s stories and words were poignant, and were particularly moving because they dated back to a time when groups were still nomadic.
Those were tough times, but she survived them all, and at times even made light of them.
“…Mostly those were really good times, “said Maggie. “But they weren’t always that way. Sometimes our dad would only come back with one squirrel. Sarah Frank would divide the meat and we’d drink the juice from the squirrel.
“And we’d look to the caribou hooves [provide sustenance when boiled.]…”
Our purpose in recording the stories and making the pictures was to draw attention to their rugged way of life, and to the importance to them of preserving the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We did so by later returning to the area as journalists and working on magazine and newspaper assignments. We count the decade as one of our most intellectually rewarding, for we learned about the mettle of a people.
L to R: Maggie Roberts prepares hide for tanning, in the old way; Kenneth Frank, a relative, continues the family’s subsistence way
of life at Old John Lake; Maggie Roberts hanging fish to be dried for later consumption.
Maggie was always willing to help. Her stories could take up much of an afternoon or evening, so for us, her narrations live on.
We’re saddened by the passing of this wise elderly lady, and wish her family and friends the very best during this very difficult time.
RECALLING THE LIVES AND ACTIVITIES OF OTHER MEMBERS OF THE GWICH’IN INDIAN COMMUNITY :
4th ed. Autographed by the Authors
Hiking Shenandoah National Park
Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.
Big Sky Country is beautiful
Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State
Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.
$16.95 + Autographed Copy
What makes Glacier, Glacier?
Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent
Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons
$16.95 + Autographed Copy