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 home >> folklife in your state >> national sampler >> alaska selections menu >> audio and video

National Sampler:
Alaska Audio and Video Samples and Notes

Track 1. Lonesome Pete. "Calling by Ole Bull." Amos Burg Collection of Alaskan Recordings. 1941. [AFC 1942/017: AFS 6335] select to play[mp3]

Amos Burg (1901-1986) was an adventurer, documentary photographer, and filmmaker. In the 1920s, he parlayed his fame as the first person to travel the entire length of the Columbia River by canoe into a successful career as an explorer and public lecturer. He visited, documented, and lectured on other parts of the American West, as well as wilderness areas in Central and South America, Europe, and Asia. He pioneered the use of inflatable rubber rafts on white-water rivers, and his 1939 documentary about this, Conquering the Colorado, was nominated for an Academy Award. His travels and voyages, including sailing a small boat around Cape Horn, captured the public's imagination.

Man panning for gold in Alaska
Unidentified man panning for gold, Gilpatrick Claims, Moose Pass, Alaska. Photo by L.H. Pedersen, 1911. Prints and Photographs Division, call number LOT 8749 [item]

In the 1950s, Burg settled in Alaska and began working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. From 1955 until 1974, he worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, where he established the department's Information and Education Section. Burg was one of the first researchers to make field recordings in Alaska. In 1941, he borrowed a Presto Y recording machine from the Library of Congress and recorded twenty-six disks of narratives, songs, and interviews in various parts of Alaska — including this example of "Lonesome Pete."

Arnt Pedersen, or "Lonesome Pete," was a singer, guitarist, and storyteller who lived off the land in Meyers Chuck in southeastern Alaska. Although Pedersen cherished his independence, he was widely known for his hospitality and humor. In 1941, Burg hauled his borrowed recording equipment about 40 miles northwest of Ketchikan to record Lonesome Pete. "Pete" performed several songs and guitar tunes for Burg, and then played this harmonica solo, "Calling," which he said was composed by the famous Norwegian violin virtuoso Ole Bull (1810-1880). Used by permission of Dr. Barry H. Rodrigue. Rights and permissions.

Track 2. Charles W. Carter "Pioneer of Alaska." Amos Berg Collection of Alaskan Recordings. 1941. [AFC 1942/017: AFS 6225] select to play[mp3]

In this 1941 excerpt, Charles W. Carter recounts the wanderlust that led him to Alaska during the Gold Rush era, and the colorful life he found when arrived. His story of a shady local Skagway character named Soapy Smith, and the fake fifty-foot "telegraph wire " he set up to separate miners from their money, is a classic. Not included in this excerpt are Carter's descriptions of Soapy's later adventures, and of the gunfight that ended his dubious career. Rights and permissions.

Track 3. Paul Satko. "Interview." Amos Burg Collection of Alaskan Recordings. 1944. [AFC 1942/017: AFS 6349] select to play[mp3]

In 1938, Paul Satko's journey to Alaska was the talk of the nation. Satko, who had lost his small farm and gas station in Richmond, Virginia, because of the Great Depression, decided to pursue a government-sponsored resettlement project in Alaska's Matanuska Valley. To get there, he built a forty-foot-long boat on a truck chassis, and announced that he planned to drive to the Pacific Northwest and, from there, sail to Juneau with his pregnant wife and seven children.

After an adventurous journey across the U.S. — closely covered by the news media, which dubbed his homemade contraption an "Ark" — Satko arrived in Tacoma, Washington, where he spent a year preparing for his voyage. More adventures followed, including run-ins with child welfare and maritime officials concerned about the vessel's seaworthiness, but in 1940, the "Ark of Juneau" sailed, and, after a harrowing voyage, arrived in the Ketchikan Peninsula.

The Satkos established a homestead near Juneau, where Amos Burg conducted this interview in 1944. The family's attempt at homesteading was not a total success. In 1946, Satko and most of his family returned to Virginia, where he remained until his death in 1995. Used by permission of Mr. Paul Satko. Rights and permissions.

Hoonah Tlingit woman paddling a dugout canoe
Unidentified Hoonah Tlingit woman in a dugout canoe, Alaska. Photo by Frank La Roche, c. 1903. Prints and Photographs Division, call number LOT 12989 [item].

Track 4. Billy Jones. "How Angoon was destroyed in 1882." Frederica de Laguna and Catherine McClellan / Tlingit Recordings. 1950. [AFC 1952/004: AFS 14373] select to play[mp3]

Frederica de Laguna (1904-2004) was among the first anthropologists to document Alaskan native peoples. She is best known for her anthropological and archeological work with the Alaskan Tlingit and Athabascan communities. This oral history, told in Tlingit, is excerpted from one of several recordings she made in Angoon, Alaska, on June 21 and 22, 1950. She was accompanied by graduate student Catharine McClellan, who later became a prominent scholar of Yukon cultures in her own right.

In the later half of the nineteenth century, the Northwest Trading Company operated a trading post and whaling station that employed many Kootznoowoo Tlingit, who lived in the village of Angoon on nearby on Admiralty Island. In this narrative, Angoon resident Billy Jones recounts an 1882 incident that led to the bombing of Angoon. Jones tells how a Tlingit medicine man, employed by the trading company, was killed accidently by an exploding harpoon gun. As compensation, the Tlingit demanded a payment of two hundred blankets as well as the customary three days off to mourn their leader. The trading company's white manager panicked and called upon the United States Navy in Sitka for help. Without investigation, the cutter Thomas Corwin shelled and destroyed the Tlingit village and nearby summer camps. It took until 1973 for Angoon to receive a $90,000 settlement from the U.S. Government for this destruction. Rights and permissions.

Track 5. Mt. Edgecumbe School Boys Chorus. "Tlingit Rowing Song." 1950. Willard Rhodes / American Indian Recordings. June 1951-July 1952. [AFS 14618B] Also published on "Indian Songs of Today" [AFS L36] select to play[mp3]

This Tlingit rowing song, also referred to as the "Paddling Song," was arranged and recorded in 1950 by choral director Michael O. Ossorgin; it is sung by the Mt. Edgecumbe School Boys Chorus in Sitka, Alaska. Ossorgin had heard, recorded, and transcribed the song in Sitka, and then sent it to the renowned ethnomusicologist Willard Rhodes. In 1954, Rhodes included it on the album Folk Music of the United States from the Archive of Folk Song, Indian Songs of Today [AFS L36], part of a ten-record series that he compiled for the Library of Congress from the holdings of the American Folklife Center's archive. Although undeniably beautiful, the harmonies in this performance are unlike anything else recorded by traditional Tlingit performers, which seems to indicate that the piece was arranged according to principles other than those typically used by Tlingit singers. Ossorgin stated that he had heard the song sung with these harmonies in certain Tlingit communities where the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church was particularly strong. Rights and permissions.

Track 6. John Panamarkoff. "Alaskan Promyshlenniki." John Panamarkoff Alaskan Promyshlenniki Recordings. c. 1958. [AFC 1962/008: AFS 11919] select to play[mp3]

Russia was the first European power to colonize Alaska, establishing settlements there as early as 1733. In 1867, Russia sold Alaska to the U.S. for $7.2 million – or approximately two cents per acre! In addition to a vast amount of land, the U.S. acquired a small but hardy population of Russian-Alaskans, who remain proud of their unique history.

This is an excerpt from a twenty-five-verse narrative ballad, sung and recorded circa 1958 by John Panamarkoff (1892-1964), an Alaskan of Russian decent. It tells the story of some early Russian colonists or Promyshlenniki. From the lyrics, it seems the settlers in the ballad came to Alaska from Arkhangel'sk on the White Sea around 1808, during the reign of Emperor Alexander I. The song tells of their hardships, their first encounters with native peoples, and their settlement in their new home. Информация об этой записи доступен на русском языке. Rights and permissions.

Track 7. Paul Roseland. "Lament of the Old Sourdough." Alaska Folk and Popular Songs Collection. 1974. [AFC 1975/054: AFS 17980] select to play[mp3]

Norwegian-Alaskan Paul Roseland (1928- ) from Girdwood has long been a main stay in the Alaskan folk music scene. As "The Singing Sourdough" he performs concerts and festivals throughout the state and collects Alaskan folklore. He has released several commercial recordings, and authored the compilation Alaska Sourdough Ballads and Folk Songs (1969). This song, "Lament of the Old Sourdough," is from a set of Alaskan folksongs he performed, recorded, and donated to the American Folklife Center archive in 1975. The song is an Alaska adaptation of the widespread "Old Settler's Song," or "Acres of Clams." Set to the traditional tune "Rosin the Bow," it complains about the harsh conditions faced by prospectors during the Alaska gold rush. Roseland recalls that the song was written by "a man named Duncan," but the lyrics were published by Sam C. Dunham in 1901 in The Goldsmith of Nome. Rights and permissions.

Track 8. Connie Goldman and Estelle Oozevaseuk. "Interview." Connie Goldman/ "Horizons: The Grand Generation Collection.” 1984. [AFS 23719]select to play[mp3]

In this segment, Estelle Oozevaseuk, a Yup'ik Eskimo elder and storyteller from St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, is interviewed by producer Connie Goldman for National Public Radio's "Horizons: The Grand Generation" program. The interview took place in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian Institution Festival of American Folklife (now the Smithsonian Folklife Festival) in July, 1984. Ms. Oozevaseuk talks about growing up in a family of traditional storytellers and singers and the important role of storytelling in Alaska's native cultures. Used by permission of Ms. Estelle Oozevaseuk. Rights and permissions.

Brenda Wong Aoki
Yup'ik performer during the presentation by Chuna McIntyre and the Nunamata Yup'ik Eskimo Dancers at the Library of Congress. Photo by Jim Hardin, November 12, 2003. AFC 2003/049: p 24.

Track 9. Chuna McIntyre and the Nunamta Yup'ik Eskimo Dancers. Homegrown Concert Series. 2003. [AFC 2003/049: SR01] select to play[mp3]

As part of the American Folklife Center's Homegrown Concert Series, Chuna McIntyre and the Nunamta Yup'ik Eskimo Dancers came to the Library in 2003 to perform traditional Yup'ik songs, stories, and dances from the Kuskokwim delta region of southwestern Alaska. Chuna McIntyre was born and raised in the Kuskokwim village of Eek. He learned the ancient traditions and language of the Yup'ik from his grandmother.

In this segment, he sings a song commemorating the vision of the Yup'ik medicine man who predicted the arrival of Europeans and their ships. According to the story, the British explorer Captain James Cook arrived in 1778, exactly one year to the day after the vision. Used by permission of Mr. Chuna McIntyre. Rights and permissions.

Track 10. Wassilisa Bennis. "Interview." StoryCorps Collection. 2009. [AKA 000020] select to play[mp3]

The American Folklife Center is proud to be the repository for the StoryCorps Collection of oral history interviews. Since its founding in 2003, the non-profit, New York-based StoryCorps organization has documented more than thirty thousand interviews. Using specially designed recording booths and two specially outfitted mobile recording trailers that travel to cities and towns throughout the United States, StoryCorps invites pairs of people, usually family members or lifelong friends, to interview each other and tell stories about their lives and experiences.

In this excerpt from a 2009 interview recorded in Dillingham, Alaska, Wassilisa Bennis talks with Tom Tilden about how supportive her long-time employer, the Bristol Bay Native Association (BBNA), has been in accommodating traditional tribal and family lifestyles. She also talks about living off the land in Ekuk, Alaska, with her family during the summer months.

These oral history interviews are recorded as part of StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is "to provide Americans of all background and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives." Excerpts were selected and produced by the staff of the American Folklife Center. Rights and permissions.

Track 11. Mary Louise Rasmuson. "Interview." Veterans History Project, Mary Louise Rasmuson Collection. 2003. [AFC/2001/001/8151] (This link goes to the Veteran's History Project page for Mrs. Rasmuson. Select the link on that page to view the video.)

In October, 2000, the U.S. Congress passed a law directing the American Folklife Center to collect and preserve oral histories of America's wartime veterans. With this mandate, the AFC's Veterans History Project (VHP) enlisted the efforts of volunteers throughout the nation to interview veterans according to AFC guidelines, and then submit their recorded interviews to the Library for preservation. To date, VHP volunteers have conducted over seventy thousand interviews.

This interview features Alaskan Mary Louise Milligan Rasmuson, who in 1942 was among the first recruits of the newly established Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) [renamed the Women's Army Corps (WAC) in 1943]. After WWII, she remained in the army, obtained the rank of Colonel, and served as the director of the WAC from 1957-1962.

In this 52-minute interview, conducted by Dr. James H. Billington, The Librarian of Congress, on October 1, 2003, Rasmuson talks about her life-long commitment to ensuring a place for women in the army and other branches of the military. Among other topics, she describes her initial training, her service, and her valiant efforts — including meetings with politicians to make sure that the Women's Army Corps was not disbanded at the end of WWII. In 1961, Colonel Milligan married Elmer Rasmuson, who served as Mayor of Anchorage from 1964 to 1967. Used by permission of Mrs. Mary Louise Rasmuson. Rights and permissions.


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   May 15, 2015
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