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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Life in Alaska
Writing Truth, Three Generations  -  Paul Silook's Letter to Henry B. Collins
By Paul Silook « Prev   Page 4 of 4  

Paul Silook's Letter to Henry B. Collins from the Archives of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Gambell, St. Lawrence Island
Alaska, June 22, 1931

Mr. Henry B. Collins,
U.S. National Museum
Washington D.C.

Dear Henry,

I have received your letter right after the arrival of the Northland. She is at Savooonga now so I am writing a note to let you know how I am getting along.

We are all well and happy. The addition to my family was born on the 16th of November last fall. It is a boy and so I named him Henry. He is a cute little boy and now is beginning to crawl around.

We have had a poor year. There was very little meat nearly all winter. There was not very many game near by, but there was good many polar bears was seen but they are hard to get.

In April one was killed by Adam, in a skin canoe so we get meat for a while. But after that there was no hunting until the next month.

In May a whale was killed by Booshu about five miles off the shore. There was lots of ice so we cut it up out there. While we were cutting it up the wind grow higher from the north, so we did not load our boats much because of the wind. Surely if we have no motors the wind would drift us toward south, but we run our motors and came home safe.

Later Booshu killed a bear and after that we killed few big seals and no walrus.

Now the people are going out nearly every day for mukluks. Some killed walrus but not many.

Since I began helping Chambers, I stopped hunting but Roger took my place. Yesterday he struck a seal with a harpoon and hit it at the right place. So I am very proud of him.

This spring my folks killed several mukluks and two walrus and so we have meat for a while.

I will scrape the skins as soon as she skinned them. I told James about the mice.

If the museum is going to continue having me getting the bird skins I would like to know if you would send me a motor perhaps next year. If you would I would be very glad.

Thank you for the toys you have sent to my children. They are very proud of them.

I must close now for the working time is almost come.

With best wishes I am,
Sincerely Yours,

(This letter was edited slightly for this format.)

Listen to Audio
IBM Text to Speech
 
About the Author: Paul Silook, Susie's grandfather, was the son of Ugwitelen and Wamiiyaq of Gambell, on St. Lawrence Island. He loved to read and write, and worked as a translator for the church, a substitute teacher, and as an assistant to the early archeologists that excavated on the island in the early 30s and 40s. He left behind a wealth of literature about the island and culture, and his works are housed in the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks, and the Alaska State Museum.
 
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