Ice Window: Letters from a Bering Strait Village 1892-1902

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9781889963211: Ice Window: Letters from a Bering Strait Village 1892-1902
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A young, optimistic teacher eager to work with another culture, Ellen Lopp welcomed the challenges that life in an isolated coastal village of northwest Alaska offered. Ellen was both a teacher and a student, helping a generation of Native Inupiat adjust to the white culture being thrust upon them while learning their language and lifeways herself. Ellen shared her observations and experiences in letters to family and friends, leaving us a window that expands our knowledge of a vital period in Alaska history with an intimate view of people's lives and turn-of-the-century events at Cape Prince of Wales. Most important, Ellen's letters clearly show the kind of person who was the best representative of a culture destined to change another culture. Unlike many teachers and missionaries, the Lopps accepted the villagers as their friends rather than people to be subjugated. Ellen's letters make up the core of this book, and are augmented with annotations and copious photographs, making this highly readable and beautifully produced volume a bestseller among both scholars and the general public.

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This illuminating epistolary history is a labor of love by Lopp Smith, whose grandparents were Christian missionaries and teachers in the remote Alaskan province of Cape Prince of Wales. The author combines excerpts of diaries and letters her grandparents, Ellen Kittredge and Thomas Lopp, wrote, to carefully chronicle hardship, exploration, scandal and, above all, daily life. A vivid writer and keen observer, Kittredge recorded everything, usually while nursing a child: the amazing experience of "midnight sun"; a 600-mile missionary dogsled trip while pregnant; the butchering of a whale; the scandalous exile of one of the other whites in the area for adultery with a Native American; questions over theology as she attempts to teach Old Testament ideas to the "Eskimos." In conditions where "every drop of water comes from heating snow seven months of the year," where Kittredge (who bore six children during the decade) teaches, preaches and tends to the sick, money is worthless. Services are traded for scarce food. Siberians and gold rush miners bring disease as they pass through and Native infant mortality runs high. Yet despite these circumstances, Kittredge and Lopp work hard, take photographs (which they develop outside in sunlight), print a newsletter (The Eskimo Bulletin) and train Natives to set type as well as herd. Throughout, they retain hope while struggling to impart their worldview without disrupting that of Native culture ("the sacrifice would be in leaving," writes Kittredge). That these letters and diaries survive is a wonder; that Lopp Smith has done such an admirable job of bringing them to light is a revelation.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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That these letters and diaries survive is a wonder; that Lopp Smith has done such an admirable job of bringing them to light is a revelation.

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9781889963204: Ice Window: Letters from a Bering Strait Village 1898-1902

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ISBN 10:  1889963208 ISBN 13:  9781889963204
Publisher: University of Alaska Press, 2002
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