Shadows on the Koyukuk by Sidney Huntington as told to Jim Rearden

Shadows on the Koyukuk: An Alaskan Native’s Life Along the River by Sidney Huntington as told to Jim Rearden
Publisher: Alaska Northwest Books
Genre: History, Non-fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

“I owe Alaska. It gave me everything I have.” Says Sidney Huntington, son of an Athapaskan mother and white trader/trapper father. Growing up on the Koyukuk River in Alaska’s harsh Interior, that “everything” spans 78 years of tragedies and adventures. When his mother died suddenly, 5-year-old Huntington protected and cared for his younger brother and sister during two weeks of isolation. Later, as a teenager, he plied the wilderness traplines with his father, nearly freezing to death several times. One spring, he watched an ice-filled breakup flood sweep his family’s cabin and belongings away. These and many other episodes are the compelling background for the story of a man who learned the lessons of a land and culture, lessons that enabled him to prosper as trapper, boat builder, and fisherman.
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This is more than one man’s incredible tale of hardship and success in Alaska. It is also a tribute to the Athapaskan traditions and spiritual beliefs that enabled him and his ancestors to survive. His story, simply told, is a testament to the durability of Alaska’s wild lands and to the strength of the people who inhabit them.

Sidney Huntington is half Athapaskan and half Caucasian and lives off the land in the interior of Alaska. Life there is harsh and demanding with the temperature commonly being well below zero degrees Fahrenheit. His story is a giant adventure filled with little slice of life vignettes.

At age five, the oldest of three children, his mother died while his father was away. This five-year-old has nowhere to turn and has to survive and help his younger siblings survive as well. At one point, a bear was dragging away his baby sister by her diaper.

This true story entertains while educating on the reality of living under such circumstances. Sidney is a likeable character, and smart. It is a wonder to read about how he gets out of many difficult situations. Readers are also graced with cultural insights. This book is a great look into another culture. I would recommend this to anyone interested in learning about other places.

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