Honoring Alaska's Indigenous Literature
Book Review 3
Neeluk An Eskimo Boy in the Days of the Whaling Ships
Stories by Frances Kittredge
Illustrations by Howard "Weyahok" Rock
Alaska Northwest Books
This book is in memory of the Kingikniut of Wales and their
descendents in Wales, Nome, Anchorage, Eagle River, Buckland, or
wherever they may be; and in memory of my grandparents, Ellen and
William Thomas Lopp, and Frances Kittredge, quotes Kathleen Lopp
Alaska Northwest Books, Frances Kittredge text in 2001, Kathleen
Lopp Smith, Howard "Weyahok" Rock line illustrations - 2001, and
photos - Lopp Smith collection, completed this book in 2001. Rock's
paintings were borrowed from the private collection of various
descendants, of the Lopp-Kittredge families and are used with their
permission, all paintings are oil on laminated paperboard, a portion
of originating Editors proceeds from sales of this book will benefit
Wales Health Clinic project in Wales, Alaska and the Howard Rock
Scholarship Program, administered by the CIRI Foundation in
This book has three editors: the originating editor; Kathleen Lopp
Smith, Project Editor; Tricia Brown, Editor; Linda Gunnar, the
designer; Paulette Livers Lambrett, mapmaker- Gary Mouse Graphics,
the cover illustrator [inset]- Howard "Weyahok" Rock, cover
map- prepared for the U.S. Bureau of Education by the U.S. Coast
& Geodetic Survey to accompany Reindeer Report by Sheldon Jackson
D.D., U.S. General of Education in AK. 1894. President/publisher is
Charles D. Hopkins, a total of seven people on the Editorial staff,
and published Alaska Northwest Books.
There are a full section of acknowledgements; Kathleen Lopp Smith
thanks Jean and Robert Poulin, Mary and Roy Bordner, Margie and Rick
Anderson, Gordon and Irene Dick, Tom G. Lopp, Catherine Kittredge
Ford, Diana Kronquist Johnson and family. She also thanks her Aunt
Weyana Lopp Schaal, who was born in Wales in 1899 for her interest in
This book is unique in that the chapters are by months and in each
chapter contains the Inupiat subsistence activities of that region.
In the beginning of the book there is an 1894 map of Alaska, which
was created by the U.S. Coast Guard and Geodetic Survey. The
following four pages contain information of the Creation of Neeluk,
where the project editor compiles all the factual information of who
contributed to the creation of this book and when. It contains much
historical information of the original author, Frances Kittredge and
the illustrator, Howard "Weyahok" Rock.
Frances Kittredge, a Minnesota Native first arrives in Wales in
1900 until 1902 to join her sister and brother-in-law, Ellen and
Thomas "Tom" Lopp, teachers for the U.S. Bureau of Education, who
were among the first non-Natives to settle in Wales. They had lived
there for ten years and five of their eight children had been born
there. The Lopps were sent there to teach and learned much from the
local people their way of life.
Frances took notes as she talked with people about their way of
life, hoping to write about it someday. In the late 1930's, Tom and
Ellen Lopp retired in Seattle, Washington. Frances had then reviewed
her written manuscript, a simple story illustrating everyday life in
Wales, month by month, as seen through the eyes a fictional Inupiat
child named Neeluk. She borrowed his name from a valley located
northwest of Wales, where villagers had gathered wild greens.
In 1939 after Tom Lopp reviewed the notes, Frances started writing
her story. She had Howard "Weyahok" Rock illustrate paintings for her
story, all of which Howard was familiar with his way of life, since
he is Inupiat from Pt. Hope, Alaska. At birth, a shaman predicted
Howard's life- "he may never be a hunter, but he would one day become
a great man." At the time, Howard was living with the Lopp family in
Seattle, while attending University of Washington as an art student.
That's where he met Frances Kittredge, who commissioned him to paint
and sketch a series of culturally and historically accurate
illustrations for her story collection. He signed all his paintings
with his family name "Weyahok" which means, "rock" in Inupiat.
Howard Rock's career became well known throughout the Pacific
Northwest for his painting, sculpture, pencil sketches. He also
helped formed the Institute of Alaska Native Arts in the mid 1970's.
In the late 1950's, he advocated for his people since the government
was trying to use an atomic blast to excavate a harbor near Pt. Hope.
He was called into leadership in 1971 for ANSCA settlement and
founded the "Tundra Times" newspaper, which was a strong voice for
1974, Howard was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters
degree from UAF, and a year later; "The Tundra Times" was nominated
for a Pulitzer Prize. So says the Shaman of 1911, all became true;
"Weyahok" became a great man.
Before 1900, the days of whaling ships ended and in Neeluk, the
Natives of Wales looked forward to the first ships of the year with
eagerness to barter for goods. Late in the 1840's, up to 300 New
England whalers were slaughtering whales illegally in Alaska waters,
which at the time Alaska was under the Russian Empire.
American captains had a reputation of being cruel that no seamen
would voluntarily sign on. Their crew was consisted of victims,
kidnapped American farm boys, immigrants, or men who were captured
from South Pacific ports as ships sailed around Cape Horn.
Neeluk's stories are those of an innocent little boy, who is
thrilled when his father returns from the whaling ships with gifts
for the family. It contains historical events of the presence of
foreigners, explorers, whalers, missionaries, government agents, and
settlers and how it changed forever how Alaskan Natives provided for
and perceived them.
The Neeluk stories and illustrations capture a moment in Eskimo
time and record the joys and struggles of subsisting in the Arctic.
To the Natives of Wales today, they are valued as echoes of oral
history that were lost in 1918, when the worldwide Spanish Influenza
epidemic swept across Alaska taking the lives of so many elders who
held a wealth of traditional knowledge.
1940, Frances Kittredge died, leaving her unpublished Neeluk
stories and the Howard Rock paintings to family members, who had
tucked them away for safekeeping for several decades. In April of
1976, Howard "Weyahok" Rock passed away, a "Champion of his people to
his last day". His valuable paintings, sculptures, and sketches
rocketed in value; yet contributed as a Native Leader and journalist
may have been of greater consequence during a time of tremendous
social and political change.
1980's, a granddaughter of Tom and Ellen Lopp, Kathleen Lopp
Smith, received the Lopp-Kittredge Alaska archives from various
families and elders and then begun to create "Neeluk". She learned
how to use the computer so she could transcribe and compile the
letters, journals, and stories, of her grandmother, as well as those
of her great-aunt, Frances Kittredge, Native friends, and Alaskan
historians who urged her to publish the story.
Finally with assistance form many other members of the
Lopp-Kittredge family, "Neeluk" stories and Howard Rock's paintings
were published for everyone to read. This book contains history, art,
and adventure for those who enjoy reading informational books.
I recommend readers of all ages to read this book, it is an
excellence supplementary book for teaching Alaska History and for
Alaska Geography/Social Studies content areas, and would be suitable
for 4th through 7th grade. The art work
expresses the true life of the Inupiats of Wales during their
The book reviews are a result of students enrolling in special topics course
Ed 493 Examining Alaska Children's Literature taught by Esther A. Ilutsik
in the Spring of 2004.
The book reviews are written by the students and are a reflection of their
own analysis of the books and have not been altered in any way. The reviewers
have given permission to share the book reviews on the HAIL website.