In Villagers author Claire Fejes embarks on an extended voyage up the Tanana and Yukon rivers to visit Native Athabascan villages along the way—New Minto, Galena, Koyukuk, Fort Yukon, Nenana, Ka
In Villagers author Claire Fejes embarks on an extended voyage up the Tanana and Yukon rivers to visit Native Athabascan villages along the way—New Minto, Galena, Koyukuk, Fort Yukon, Nenana, Kaltag, Rampart. She faithfully records in paintings and drawings, but above all in the words of the villagers themselves. The men, women, and children trusted Claire, and spoke candidly of their life, past and present, and their prospects for the future.
The Natives of Alaska, the Athabaskan Indians, are facing a momentous crisis. Hunting pressures have reduced the moose and caribou populations so central to their livelihood. Unable to provide for themselves, many must leave their native villages to look for work in the cities. Traditional practical skills are vanishing. Welfare ranks are swelling. The new generation finds itself in a dilemma: to remain true to ancestral ways or to adopt urban values. Few can speak Athabaskan; it was once illegal to teach the language in the schools. Faced with the intrusion of outside values and their own misfortunes, many have grown bitter and resentful—and hopeless. The incidence of suicide and alcoholic addiction in some villages is alarming. Recently, however, there has been a resurgence of ethnic pride among the Athabascan. They are becoming infused with a new and deep respect for tradition. Hope for the survival of the dené—the People—exists.
View Biographical note
The late Claire Fejes is considered to be one of Alaska's finest artists. She made a name for herself by traveling to the Arctic to paint Eskimo whaling camps, and to the Yukon River to paint Indian life. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries in Europe, North America, and Asia. She also was a writer and was author of Cold Starry Night: An Artist's Memoir and the northern best-seller, People of the Noatak.