Traveling by Story Through Copper River Country
Alaska’s Copper River basin has a profound cultural history, but the last generation of Ahtna language speakers and original homesteaders is slipping away. The CRWP and partners are working to present the region’s rich history through oral histories. We are producing a series of audio collages, to be combined with still images and interpretive text, on our Tour Our Watershed web site and in the Alaska App. We hope these stories will add to the experience of visitors traveling through the region and residents in the Copper River basin.
Click here for a summary of this project. Read on and access the first of many (hopefully!) audio-collages that share the rich history of the region with listeners, uses the voices of the people from the region!
A Watershed of Stories
Copper River watershed, like its branching rivers, carries the stories of its peoples, weaving layers of memory and ways of knowing the land. Travel by a map of stories and hear an inner, unseen geography. In a wisdom born from experience, these voices connect us to place and to each other.
For thousands of years, under the light of a winter moon, Copper River’s first people, the Ahtna, have passed down ancient Stories of Creation. Sacred Stories within clans. Covenants for the next generation to live by. In more recent history, homesteaders in Slana and farmers in Kenny Lake tell tales of endurance, community, hardship, humor, and survival.
Stories of place endure. In this map of voices, stories once passed person to person reach out to you through the bright glow of the internet. Ahtna elders might advise: see with your ears, listen with your heart.
Driving past Kenny Lake’s green plateau of pastures one could imagine America’s rolling Heartland, until a brown bear walks down the road, or winter shivers in at 40 below. Long before fields and farmers, trappers and homesteaders, Ahtna people knew this land. For those who followed, Kenny Lake serves up enough environmental challenges to pull a diverse political, religious, and cultural community together. Vibrant with civic spirit, things that divide people elsewhere don’t seem to matter in Kenny Lake. Click here to listen to the Kenny Lake audio collage.