In the 1940’s and 50’s I and my friends had adopted comic book and movie stars as our heroes. We read comic books and looked forward to Friday night movies in our village of Yakutat, Alaska. Our favorite comic characters were Superman, Batman and Robin but we enjoyed the cowboy and Indian movies—probably moreso because of the cowboy and Indian clashes. But please let me lean toward why my real hero turned out to be our Tlingit mythical creature—Raven.
We would play a lot of cowboys and Indians. Most of my buddies wanted to play the parts of Tom Mix, Gene Audrey, or Roy Rogers. The elder kids had the first choice of being one of the heroes; the rest had to be Indians. but I always volunteered to be an Indian anyway. I never knew why but to me there was something special I liked about Indians. The Lone Ranger was impressive because he had Tonto.
Well, the most imposing person I valued were the elders in the village, but moreso was my grandmother, Minnie. She had begun to teach us our Tlingit language and tell stories about our history and culture. The elders had also told stories to children about Raven’s creation and stories that had very moral and spiritual messages that stuck to me even to this day. So, my first real hero became the Tlingit mythical bird Raven.
Since then I often returned to the lifelong task of learning what I can about my Native history and culture. While I realized that I could never write about Roy Rogers, or Tom Mix and Gene Audrey, or even Crazy Horse or Geronimo as my heroes, today I know I could write a little about Raven.
And I did– in this novel When Raven Cries.
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Even though he might have a smidgen of Swedish in him my father, Kadashan, is a Tlingit Indian to the core.
Even though he now lives in Yakutat, Kadashan has roots that come from Sitka and Wrangell. His grandmother named him after her father, John Kadashan, who was a clan leader from Wrangell. He was born in Sitka where his mother met his father while they were attending Sheldon Jackson Boarding School.
When he was six months old his father drowned in a hunting accident. About a year later his mother remarried, however the marriage did not last; it was through this union that I was born. About a year later, his mother moved to Yakutat. Here she married our step-father.
The name Kadashan was given to him by his paternal grandmother. She named him after her father, John Kadashan, who later in his life, was a clan chief from Wrangell. Kadashan means “red tide coming.”
Kadashan’s formal education was received in Yakutat. His high school years were split between Holland High School in Holland, Michigan, and Mount Edgecumbe High School, a boarding school for Native Alaskans near Sitka. His undergraduate work was obtained from Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, and later at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
As a youngster Kadashan learned from a Tlingit Indian friend, Peter Harry, how to express himself with oil paints. “He started me with oils,” he explains. “When I was in high school I started water colors.”
His short stories have been published in the Alaska Native Magazine (ANM) and the Horizons Magazine. The ANM has used his water colors to illustrate his stories. The second printing of these stories are reproductions in black and white of his paintings. He has also written for the Alaska Magazine and the Alaskan Southeaster Magazine, and for about six years wrote a monthly column for the Juneau Empire.
His stories are local color. He takes a slice of life from the lifestyle, culture, history and tradition of the Tlingit people from his community, develops a plot and composites of characters from the village. To inform and entertain are the objectives for his writings and about the Tlingit Indians of Yakutat.
He is a retired commercial fisherman and is presently working on more books.
The poem in the beginning of this book was written by our mother when she was a teenager. She wrote many poems during those years. This poem, along with three others, was found among her possessions after her death; they were scribbled in a small, faded, note book.
The first printing of This Is Yakutat was published in 1992.
There are a few things Kadashan learned while trying to become a writer:
Number one is to read a lot. Read everything so you can overflow the filing cabinet of your mind with a myriad of information.
Second is to read creatively. He believes a writer deliberately leaves things out of his work so the reader can fill in the blanks.
Third, learn to get more out of a book than what is really in it.
Finally, all writers look for truth. It is through the process of reading a lot, reading creatively, and getting more out of a book than is really in it that writers come to an understanding of what truth might be. Once he or she discovers truth then, he believes, they have an obligation to share it with the world.
My father is no exception.
Robert G. Adams
Jisn’eey (Tlingit name)