The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 17

Warning: Spoilers spoken here.

HoZ Kate17

The Suulutag mine, of course, and more specifically, gold, and most specifically of all, Alaska’s mineral resources.

Barry W Nugget edit

The largest gold nugget ever found in Alaska, 294.10 troy ounces, or a little over twenty pounds, or a little under $400,000 at today’s price per troy ounce.

I’m just going to cut and past Megan’s comment here

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 10.06.44 AM

because really, what else is there to say?

The Park’s Suulutaq mine is of course based on the Pebble Mine, the most controversial issue in Alaska today. It’s died down some since Pebble failed its EIS but I wouldn’t bet a wooden nickle against the chances of it heating up again if oil prices remain too long in the basement (cue the Donlin mine). As of the writing of this post the price of gold is $1,357.50 per troy ounce and climbing.

This is what we do in Alaska–we’re a resource extraction state; i.e., we pull stuff out. We pull stuff out of the water and we pull stuff out of the ground. It ties us to a boom-and-bust cycle we have yet to summon up the political will to change.

It’s easy to say let a beautiful place be, but the people who live there still have to eat. People like Kate, and the rest of the Park rats. All those dying villages along the Kanuyaq River in the books? They’re fictional, but there are plenty of real ones.


kate21-cover-artThe 21st Kate Shugak novel, coming May 6, 2017.


 

The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 16

Warning: Spoilers spoken here.

HoZ Kate16

This was a hard one, specifically because of dueling recommendations for the copy of Robert’s Rules of Order Jim gave Kate for Christmas and the fishing line used to commit the murder. Megan said

[Jim] knew, in this instance how completely out of her element she was, and found a way to let her take back control for herself. Not through giving her authority, or patronizing her, but finding a tool that he could give her, that if she chose, she could use effectively to gain advantage.

Beverly agreed

The best means of teaching someone to do something is to give them the tools to do it with. It shows your faith in them and their ability.

And so did I, until Heather laid out a convincing argument for the fishing line

I also felt that the fishing line itself, is almost a metaphor for the Aunties. The fishing line keeps the drift nets together, much as the aunties keep The Park together. The fishing line is strong, it is tough, it is almost invisible as it does it’s job. The same can be said for the Aunties. They are strong, they are tough, and invisibly they are working behind the scenes in The Park (as well as out in front in Bernie’s Roadhouse), but they are the indelible force which holds the community together.

It is also the murder weapon. So the fishing line it is.

canvas

PS–There are many stories of people stringing fishing line and even piano wire to discourage snowmobilers and ATVs from crossing private property, and not just in Alaska. Most are I’m sure apocryphal. Some are not. Like I keep telling you, I don’t have to make this stuff up.


kate21-cover-artThe 21st Kate Shugak novel, coming May 6, 2017.


The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 9

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.

Hunter's Moon GDP cover art

This time it was almost unanimous. It’s Kate’s braid.

This braid graciously provided by my niece, Angelique. She's not going to cut hers off, though.

Photo of braid graciously provided by my niece, Angelique. She’s not going to cut hers off, though.

 

Marty hit the nail head on in her comment. Kate seldom does anything for only one reason. That braid was just too convenient a handle by which to be dragged around, and Kate gives no edge to the bad guys. Even more important in that moment, and as many of you pointed out, a woman cutting her hair is a sign of mourning in many cultures.

Besides, shorter hair is easier to care for, and Kate practices pragmatism like she took a vow. Easy, expedient, practical, these are words by which she lives.

And let’s face it, she’s not the vainest person you ever met. Her self image is not bound up in her hair.

Although I love Megan’s vote for duct tape. It does indeed bind the universe together. I mean, have you seen The Martian?

I like Laura’s comment about hunting, too. I visited the Purdey store in London back in the day. My ambition was to buy a pair of Purdey shotguns for my father, but he died before I could save up enough money. They were very nice to me in spite of my jeans and tennis shoes, and it was lovely to at least dream big there for a while.


kate21-cover-artThe 21st Kate Shugak novel, coming May 6, 2017.


 

The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 8

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.

Killing Grounds cover

I so wanted it to be the halibut heart because of Megan’s wonderful comment, but the fish wheel came on strong in the end and wiped out the competition. I found lots of video showing fish wheels in action on YouTube.

Fish wheels are common on Alaskan rivers. The fish caught are a primary food source, they’re dog food, they’re sold for the fuel necessary to keep Bush Alaskans warm through the winter. They are subject to wear and tear from the force of the water, chunks of ice during breakup, and deadheads, uprooted trees being pushed downriver, moving fast and hitting hard. (There is also enemy action, as some of you may remember from the Kate Shugak short story, “Cherchez la Femme.”)

The aunties’ problems with the fish hawk are loosely based on the real-life problems of Katie John of Mentasta.

Photo by Erik Hill, Alaska Dispatch News

Photo by Erik Hill, Alaska Dispatch News

The toughest broad in a state of tough broads, Katie John single-handedly wrestled both state and federal governments to the ground in the matter of Alaska Natives fishing on their historic fishing grounds. Man, just writing those words brings a grin to my face. Read her obituary here.


kate21-cover-artThe 21st Kate Shugak novel, coming May 6, 2017.


The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 7

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.

Breakup

7 – Golden crowned sparrow

Although you people are killing me here, being all over the map as you are (the 747 engine! the bear! the pickup! the Cat! snow machines!) the most votes are for the sparrow.

golden-crowned-sparrow

We call it the “spring is here” bird, because it is when you first hear the notes of its song. Listen to it here.

It’s my favorite bird, singing the first bird song I ever recognized. Not to sound too precious, but it chose itself to manifest as the voice of Everybody Talks to Her, aka Emaa. I had no idea it would become a leitmotif of the Kate Shugak novels. One of those gifts from the writing gods.

Also, FYI, every single one of the bear stories in Breakup is true. Kate going backwards up the creek bank in full retreat from a pissed-off sow? That would have been my dad.


kate21-cover-artThe 21st Kate Shugak novel, coming May 6, 2017.


 

The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 5

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.

Play With Fire cover

5 – The hunter’s tunic

The votes are in, and although there was a strong minority in favor of the morel mushroom, in the end Arlene’s comment made the case for this fifth object.

…It was made of caribou hide, tanned to ivory. Red, white and blue beads were worked around the collar in a pattern that sort of resembled the Russian Orthodox cross, or maybe those were birds, Kate wasn’t sure. The seams at shoulder, armhole and underarms were heavily fringed and hung with dyed porcupine quills. Dentalium shells gleamed from a sort of a breastplate, and something in the order in which they were sewn to the hide hinted at the shape of a fish. You could see the fish better if you didn’t look straight at the design.

In 1988 the Smithsonian mounted an exhibit called “Crossroads of Continents,” a collection of old and new artifacts from Native life from Siberia and Alaska. They brought it to the Anchorage Museum, and I went back to see it I don’t know how many times. I bought the book, too, which you will pry from my cold, dead hands. It’s the best written and best illustrated exhibit book I’ve ever seen.

Crossroads of Continents

Regalia, harpoons, visors, grease bowls, blankets, baskets, drums, masks, and the stories behind them all–it was the class in Native art and technology they should have taught us in school and never did. And yes, it’s where I saw my first hunter’s tunic, which was the inspiration for the hunter’s tunic in Play With Fire.

hunter's tunic


kate21-cover-artThe 21st Kate Shugak novel, coming May 6, 2017.


The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 1

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here. Continue reading