I live and write on Lingít Aaní, and gratefully acknowledge the past, present and future caretakers of this beautiful place, the Jilkaat Kwaan and Jilkoot Kwaan.


The weather is changing, for the better it seems, as the days are still golden and mild, with no frost so far. It’s been a true autumn, so different from the snow-rain-sleet and wind-blowing- all-of-it- sideways Octobers in my memory. I wrote an obituary this week for a community elder, and heard from his adult children about a lot of changes in the community since Marvin “Squeak” Smith arrived in 1948. (Marvin’s dad nicknamed him Squeak as a baby, and it stuck.) He came here fresh from WW II where the quiet, private, eventual DOT foreman had been present at the liberation of Dachau.  His son said he wanted to get as far away from what he’d witnessed in the war as he could– and Haines was a paradise for the hunter and fisherman—and remained so, even as he evolved into a family man (five children) and gardener. In his final years Squeak made a name for himself creating birch salad bowls sold in gift shops to tourists from around the country and the world—as well as locals who bought them for wedding presents. Squeak’s wife was born in the Army hospital in Haines (now Alaska Indian Arts) and his son Big Jack – about my age– was born at their home here, with a neighbor who was also a nurse attending. Back in Squeak’s day, the DOT filled dump trucks by hand using shovels, and everyday the crew toasted sandwiches over a campfire. One old co-worker said Squeak made sure that everything they did was exactly as it always had been, including the peeled willow sticks that held the sandwiches. It’s ironic that Squeak’s obituary changed a tradition at the Chilkat Valley News, with the editor agreeing with the family that “old age” or “natural causes” would okay to say rather than a more specific reason for Squeak’s passing. It may have had more to do with Big Jack and his siblings’ persuasive powers than an evolving editorial policy, but it’s happened nonetheless and so you will no doubt be reading of a lot more people dying of natural causes around here. At our library board meeting yesterday we reviewed a section of the policy manual about the Dewey Decimal System. It didn’t seem to be up for discussion, but we had one about it anyway. Turns out many libraries are using easier, more logical ways to catalog- and especially display and locate materials– much more like bookstores do. It’s something to consider. Sticklers for tradition, don’t fear- we haven’t changed anything yet. But you know we are all very interested in the possibility, especially if the causes are most natural.