Though Yukon North of Ordinary doesn’t typically post content online, the editors generously supplied this PDF of my Kohklux Map story. You can thank Yukon North of Ordinary for supporting our cross-border Alaska-Yukon connections by subscribing here.
Deep in southeast Alaska’s Chilkat valley, three people bend over the blank back of a coastal chart—discussing, drawing, shading, remembering. They are Chilkat headman Kaalaxch’ (Kohklux) and his wives. For three days, they pool their memories, experiences, and deep knowledge of the land stretching all the way from Klukwan to Fort Selkirk, a one-way journey of thirty days. They are mapping the way inland for a newcomer, American government surveyor George Davidson. Davidson and his party are here to observe a solar eclipse calculated to reach totality at Klukwan, and Kaalaxch’ has guided them here into his homeland. Now, Kaalaxch’ and his wives work together to draw each day of the month-long journey inland. They do so from memory. It is August, 1869.
To the south, the Takinsha Mountains and Chilkat Range rise from sea to sky. Below them lies Lynn Canal, a tempestuous but rich Pacific fjord. Upvalley, the trio draw pencils across the page and alongside them flow the frigid, milky waters of the Chilkat River. Hooligans, or candlefish, seasonally swell its current. To the north, the sheer rock faces and year-round snowfields of the Takshanuk Mountains stand hard against the sky.
Looking back from the present day, former Territorial Archivist Linda Johnson imagines arriving as a newcomer into the Chilkat Tlingits’ homeland. “If you were George Davidson and others coming up the Chilkat [River Valley] for the first time, all you see is a wall of mountains,” she reflects. “The route goes through that barrier,” she says. “In a very precise way.”
With many thanks to Yukon North of Ordinary, the full story is available here.