Four Stars on Amazon
“An evocative and articulate account of the Tlingit town of Yakutat, written by a Tlingit leader from that community—giving a rare, authentic glimpse into the past and present of this unique place. Painted illustrations by the author are detailed and vivid.”
“This a nicely portrayal of Alaska Natives and recreates speech by Tlingit people. The knowledge of fishing and a sense of hard work and way of life comes alive in these pages.
In Tlingit stories Raven is the creator. He was sent here by one who is greater than he to create a site in which the Tlingit people could migrate to and inhabit. In the beginning there was only water. The first thing Raven did was cause two mountains to rise from the ocean. The tallest was Waaseitishaa (Mount Saint Elias) and his wife, Tsalxaan (Mount Fairweather). Mount Saint Elias is the third highest mountain in North America, standing over 18,000 feet into the heaven; Mount Fairweather is 15,300 feet. The story is told that when they began to have children mountains were born between them and they moved further and further away from each other until, today, they are two hundred miles apart; the only time they can see each other is on a perfectly clear day.
The land, trees, vegetation, fresh water and streams were created by Raven. One day he was flying between the mountains admiring his creations when he saw far out on the ocean something bobbing over the waves. His curiosity got the best of him, so he flew to it, at which time he noticed that this was a large canoe. He saw that in the vessel were the animals, birds, fish and wildlife. H was able to pull it to shore where he let these out upon the land. Now— the land had everything the Tlingit needed to sustain their lives. The land under Mountain Elias became known as Yaakwdaat, a place where canoes rest, and beneath Mount Fairweather is known today as Gunaaxoo Kwaan.
When Kadashan was a child and growing up, he was intrigued by what he had noticed about the area, like a flower, berry, the beauty of the ocean, people camping and fishing in the river, the immense glaciers and high mountains, he would say to himself “This is Yakutat” which in the Tlingit language means “Yaakwdaat Aya.” In this short story collection, Yaakwdaat Aya, Kadashan tells stories in fiction about the lifestyle, history and culture about the inhabitants of this special place keeping in mind the background of the village’s birth.
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Bertrand J. Adams Sr.’s Tlingit name is Kadashan, who was named after his great grandfather, John Kadashan, a clan leader from Wrangell, Alaska. Adams was educated at Sheldon Jackson college and Brigham Young University. While at Sheldon Jackson he began writing short stories with the mentorship of his creative writing instructor, Nellie Ottie. Mrs. Ottie took special interest in his writing and helped him structure a short story including plot, dialogue and many elements that consist in stories. During the semester he wrote about a dozen stories; when he finished Sheldon Jackson, he pursued other interests. One fall he married a woman who had eight children from a previous marriage, therefore his quest to finish his education and writing was interrupted for twelve years. His writing ambition was renewed when he was accepted at Brigham Young University to finish his education as an English major. It was there that he learned the real discipline of writing. He would take out his stories and rewrite, however he never had a desire to do any more with them.
Following is Kadashan’s account of Nellie Ottie’s visit with him that day:
“Twenty years after Sheldon Jackson, I received a telephone call from Nellie Ottie. She was at a reunion at Sheldon Jackson and wanted to fly from Sitka to Yakutat and visit me. Even though I was excited about seeing her, I was puzzled as to why. She asked to see my stories and then spent the afternoon and evening reading them. After supper, we sat and had this magnificent meeting.
“Why are you keeping these to yourself?” she asked. I admitted that I didn’t think anyone would be interested in my writings.
“None sense!” she replied. “You have so many messages here, and the talent to express yourself about young people, old people and animals. And your descriptions of this beautiful country and people are worth reading about.”
Kadashan was, then, encouraged by this former teacher to try and find a publisher. In fact, it took him another twenty years and his rejection slips began to get as thick as his manuscripts.
One day, he was thumbing through some periodicals at a news stand and saw a magazine that had the photo of a Tlingit woman wearing her regalia on the cover. He called her and after he described what he had written and she was interested in seeing some of his work. He packaged all twelve of his stories and mailed them to her. She did not hesitate to use his stories and water color paintings to illustrate his short stories in the Alaska Native Magazine.
In the meantime, he also began to research self-publishing and over a period of time, and hard work, he self-published four books; he is presently working on three more.
Kadashan is a retired commercial fisherman and lives in Yakutat with his wife near his family and grandchildren.