Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ruby Tuesday

last week, Lisa Kangas, intern extraordinaire, and i traveled out to the village of Ruby along the middle Yukon River that cuts through interior Alaska. We were doing fieldwork, conducting interviews with Ruby elders and fishermen about their local knowledge about non-salmon fish species like pike, whitefish, grayling sheefish, and others. i've been doing this kind of work for the AK Dept of Fish & Game for a little while now, and it's the best part of my job! Lisa came along to help out because not only is she super-duper cool, but she's also from Ruby. so, we got to visit with her dad as well as her aunties, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, cousins, and friends. very cool.

this is the village of Ruby as seen from the bluff just down-river of the village. Ruby is a community of about 200 people with a pretty diverse of history of gold mining and subsistence hunting and fishing. the little white things closer to the bottom of the frame is left-over ice from the river break-up a few weeks ago. the river is mostly clear of debris this year and the water is really low, which is unusal at this time of year.

most of the work we did consisted of interviewing elders and fishermen and mapping significant fishing areas, habitats, and placenames. whiel i've been working with interior folks fro a long time now, i'm always excited by these conversations - it's so cool to learn about an area from the people who've lived there for their entire lives and have some intimate experiences with the land.

mapping old spring, summer, and fall subsistence camps

that's Lisa with elder Zeta Cleaver, showing us a fish netting needle made by her mom, probably back in the 1930s.

while we mostly worked, we did have time for some fun:

checking out the budding leaves of a birch tree (I get sucked into spring everywhere around AK!)

tooling around Ruby on a 4-wheeler:

where we saw bear tracks and so went the other way...

then found a much less scary fishwheel just waiting for the summer season. these are neat contraptions - they are put in the water close to the river bank where the baskets are spun around by the river current scooping up fish along the way. they were introduced to the river way back in the early 1900s.

and finally, Lisa's dad took us for a ride up the Poor Man Road, an old 42 mile mining road that ends near the Sulatna River. PoorMan offers access to some of Ruby's richest mining histories - and we heard about 4 hours of old mining stories from Lisa's dad - he had us in stitches the whole time! this is a picture of one of the placer mining spots he worked as a younger man:

on that trip, we stopped at Long Creek, where Lisa remembers spending time with her family as a kid. these guys came out to greet us:

see how these two beavers seem to be swimming in opposite directions? they're actually swimming in a zigzag pattern towards us - curious llittle guys!

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