This leisurely travel-book-cum-ethnography grew from a two-year assignment for the Anchorage Daily News in which Kizzia, a white journalist, poked around in places "I couldn't drive to from Anchorage," trying to find out whether Native Alaskan culture still flourishes in a world of satellite dishes and snowmobiles. For the most part, Kizzia visits remote villages—Eskimo, Aleut, and Indian—where whites are sometimes not welcome. Ethnic tensions run high; at one point, he receives barbed threats from a Native who mistakes him for an ivory-poacher. Nonetheless, Kizzia finds the inua (spirit) of the land still intact, whether visiting an isolated fishing camp, sweating in a maqi (native steambath), or tracking walruses on a remote island. Native Alaska, he discovers, is a land of iron-spirted individualists, where memories of the old days—including fascinating accounts of early white explorers—remain strong. At times it seems a world created for dreamers, such as the Apache who is trying to teach Eskimos traditional reindeer-herding techniques; at times a moral battleground, epitomized by Kizzia's own mixed feelings about a beluga whale hunt. A broad canvas—Kizzia covers everything from Orthodox church services to a dinner of moose shoulder—and an unsentimental perspective make this a sturdy introduction to America's last frontier.
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