Oral History Interviews:

Richard Frank

Richard Frank grew up in the village of Minto west of Fairbanks. He also spent considerable time in fishing camps on the Yukon River and trapping camps north of the Yukon. As a young boy, he lived the traditional lifestyle of his Athabaskan heritage.

When Richard grew tired of school in his early teens, he moved to Nenana where he worked on the Alaska Railroad. As a young man, he served in the military during World War II. After the War, Richard returned to Nenana and worked on sternwheel riverboats for many years. Frank eventually returned to Minto, where he pursued several business opportunities.

Hunting, fishing and trapping continued to serve as Richard's connection to the Indian way of life. Throughout this recording, he describes:

  1. the traditional way of preserving fish and meat,
  2. construction and use of a fishwheel,
  3. the recipe for Indian "ice cream", and
  4. gathering birch wood to make snowshoes and dog sleds.

Frank freely shares insight into the Native view of the world. He takes great pride in their dedication to family. He speaks often of the lessons he learned from his elders. He explains Indian words and his own Indian name.

The content of this recording alternates between serious stories and funny incidents. Richard does not make this a 'sanitized' version of events. Rather, he frequently makes himself the butt of his most humorous tales.

Two phrases are repeated often during this interview: "I'll never forget that" and "That was quite an experience." As he reflects back on his life in the great outdoors of Alaska, these two phrases tell the listener that Richard Frank has learned and retained the lessons of his Indian culture.

This interview was recorded during a meeting of the Alaska Trappers Association in Fairbanks. Background laughter and questions from the audience occur throughout the recording.

Click here for excerpt from Frank interview (MP3)

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