Evelyn Alexander / Athabascan from Minto, Alaska
Evelyn Alexander grew up when dog sleds were the only mode of transportation and there were no televisions, radios, or white people. Her people still went to hunting and fishing camps on a seasonal basis to gather food for the coming year.
Social dances and the potlatch were the framework of life in this remote Athabascan village. Like many of the elder women, she wears dresses and prefers to sit on the floor rather than a chair. Evelyn is an Athabascan elder (in her early 80's) from Minto. She has a quick tongue and an even quicker mind. Evelyn is well respected and loved.
To reach Evelyn we traveled from South Dakota into Anchorage, changed planes, flew into Fairbanks, rented a car, and finally drove several hours through lonely lands to a small Athabascan village that sits above the beautiful Minto Flats. In Minto, Alaska the houses sit on stilts to keep them above the permafrost and many have sled dogs chained nearby. The Minto Lodge serves as a hotel, school cafeteria, office space, conference room and elders lunch program. There are few jobs in Minto and their lifestyle still depends upon subsistence living for survival. Milt and I got to participate in a bear sausage making party with the community. What an event!
The Athabascan natives are not Eskimos. They have occupied the interior lands of Alaska between the Brooks Range on the north and the Alaska Range on the south for thousands of years. Only one of the Athabascan groups (the Tanaina) live by the ocean.
For more information about the Athatbascans of Minto, Alaska, click here.
Another great site: Alaska Native Heritage Center
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This is a birch bark basket made by Evelyn Alexander.