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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
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Honoring Alaska's Indigenous Literature

Margie Karasti
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 Smith.

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 Anchorage, Alaska.

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.

Page 1

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 Alaskan Natives.

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 lifetime.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Last modified August 14, 2006