Richard K. Nelson, a remarkable Alaskan, passed away on Monday, November 4th, 2019. I never met the man, but I’ve been touched by his work for over forty years, ever since I read Hunters of the Northern Ice and Hunters of the Northern Forest in 1975. He was an anthropologist originally from Wisconsin, and what he learned and experienced in researching his Alaskan ethnographies changed his life forever. He eventually settled in Sitka, wrote books (including the meditative The Island Within), participated in a five-part video series accompanying Make Prayers to the Raven, and literally found his voice in creating the radio program Encounters, “A program of observations, experiences, and reflections on the world around us.” His deep knowledge, optimism, and enthusiasm come through so clearly, as does the sound of whatever subject his parabolic microphone was capturing while he recorded his episodes in the field, be it polar bears, sandhill cranes, whales, or even — during visits to Australia — wombats.
Here are a few of Nelson’s works in the Consortium Library:
ALASKA E99.E7 N43 1969
Hunters of the Northern Ice
ALASKA E99.K84 N44 1973
Hunters of the Northern Forest: Designs for Survival Among the Alaskan Kutchin
ALASKA GN21.N45 A3 1989
The Island Within
ALASKA E99.K79 N44 1983
Make Prayers to the Raven: A Koyukon View of the Northern Forest
ALASKA QL765.N45 2005
Encounters: Radio Experiences in the North (6 CDs)
The video series Make Prayers to the Raven can be borrowed on 2 DVDs from other Alaska libraries in our system. But you can also listen to 108 Encounters episodes simply by going here:
We’re lucky to have such an audio archive available: a few minutes with Richard Nelson can inform and brighten your life, and help you better appreciate the Alaska that is all around us.