Saturday, June 11, 2011

What a whirlwind the past few weeks have been.  I have wanted to blog, but have been too busy or too exhausted.  I am sure everyone is familiar with that feeling of not enough hours in a day to get everything done that you want to do.  As such, I may be doing catch up over the next few days… we shall see how far I get tonight.

I got back from my last blog and expected to turn around in a couple days and head back on the highway.  However, I was at 80 hours in the past 8 days so I needed a few days off for my hours to decrease.   As coach drivers in Alaska we are limited to 80 hours on duty in any 8 day period.  However, when crossing the border into Canada it turns into 70 hours in 7 days.  It may sound the same, but when you are working 60+ hours in 5 days you have to take off a couple days in order for your hours to start dropping off.

That being said, I was reassigned to a tour that left on the 29th of May.  This gave me a few days off in Fairbanks that I took advantage of by touring the city and jumping on a couple excursions.  The excursions are things offered to our guests in order to drain just a little more coin out of their purses.  While burning hours I learned about the gold dredges and sluice mining, I also got the opportunity to pan for gold where I found about $16.00 of the precious yellow metal.  Later in the same day I rode a sternwheeler down the Tanana River.  This was a three hour tour that took us to a Native Alaskan village where we learned about salmon fishing and the way of life of the Alaskan natives in the interior.  One interesting fact I learned is that linguists have determined that the dialects spoken in the interior all stem from the same Athabaskan dialects that can be found along the Pacific Coast and down into the American Southwest and Northern Mexico.  A map can be found here on Wikipedia and following is a listing of the Athabaskan dialects as broken down by area:

  • Alaska: Ahtna, Deg Hit’an, Dena’ina/Tanaina, Gwich’in/Kutchin, Hän, Holikachuk, Koyukon, Lower Tanana, Tanacross, Upper Kuskokwim/Kolchan, Upper Tanana
  • Yukon Territory: Gwich'in/Kutchin, Hän, Kaska, Mountain, Tagish, Northern Tutchone, Southern Tutchone, Upper Tanana
  • Northwest Territories: Bearlake, Dëne Sųłiné/Chipewyan, Gwich’in, Hare, Mountain, Slavey, Tłįchǫ Yatʼìi/Dogrib
  • Nunavut: Dëne Sųłiné
  • British Columbia: Babine-Witsuwit’en, Bearlake, Beaver, Chilcotin, Dakelh/Carrier, Hare, Kaska, Mountain, Nicola, Sekani/Tsek’ene, Slavey, Tagish, Tahltan, Tsetsaut
  • Alberta: Beaver, Dëne Sųłiné, Slavey, Tsuut’ina/Sarcee
  • Saskatchewan: Dëne Sųłiné
  • Washington: Chilcotin, Kwalhioqua-Clatskanai (Willapa, Suwal), Nicola
  • Oregon: Applegate, Clatskanie, Galice, Rogue River (Chasta Costa, Euchre Creek, Tututni, Upper Coquille), Tolowa, Upper Umpqua
  • Northern California: Eel River, Hupa, Mattole-Bear River, Tolowa
  • Utah: Navajo
  • Colorado: Jicarilla, Navajo
  • Arizona: Chiricahua, Navajo, Western Apache
  • New Mexico: Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, Navajo
  • Texas: Mescalero, Lipan
  • Oklahoma: Chiricahua, Jicarilla, Plains Apache
  • Northwestern Mexico: Chiricahua

Later in the week I had opportunity to take a small plane up above the Arctic Circle where during the Summer, the sun never sets.  We landed in a Native Alaskan village named Fort Yukon where we were given a tour in an old school bus of the community and were able to learn how the Alaskan Natives now live after their introduction to western civilization.  It was an eye-opening experience to say the least.  The First Nations, as they are called in this area, started as a nomadic people following their food wherever it may wander.  They did not start building permanent settlements until Europeans started to make the scene in the early 1700s.  At that time, many of the natives found it profitable to set up permanent trading camps where they could trade furs, artisan works, and slaves to the white skins in exchange for weaponry and whiskey.  I don’t know if it was a good trade.  At this time in Fort Yukon unemployment ranges around 85%.  Many of the people still live without electricity and running water and are permitted to live off the land.  Subsistence living, living off the land, is still a way of life for many of the Alaskan Natives.

Oi!  I am exhausted!  Watch for more tomorrow, as well as some pictures…

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