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Velma Wallis was born in 1960 in Fort Yukon, a remote village of about 650 people in Interior Alaska. Growing up in a traditional Athabaskan family, Wallis was one of thirteen children. When she was thirteen, her father died and she left school to help her mother raise her younger siblings.
Wallis later moved to her father's trapping cabin, a twelve-mile walk from the village. She lived alone there intermittently for a dozen years, learning traditional skills of hunting and trapping. An avid reader, she passed her high school equivalency exam and began her first literary project--writing down a legend her mother had told her, about two abandoned old women and their struggle to survive.
That story became her first book, Two Old Women, published by Epicenter Press in 1993. As her second book, Bird Girl and the Man who Followed the Sun, went to press, Wallis was living in Fort Yukon with her husband, Jeffrey John, and their two children. The family also spends time in the neighboring village of Venetie.
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