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Fifty Miles from Tomorrow: Willie Hensley

Taken from Fifty Miles from Tomorrow by Willie Iggiagruk Hensley, published by Sarah Crichton Books, and used by permission.

Read by Willie Iggiagruk Hensley: Born in a small house where Kotzebue Sound washes seafoam onto the Baldwin Peninsula's gravel shores, Willie is a lifelong Alaskan. He loves words and communicating about ideas -- from learning to read with Sears-Roebuck and Dick and Jane to studying and collecting old books about Alaska and doing any crossword puzzle he can get a pen onto. Willie is just a little bit surprised to be able to mention his own website, williehensley.com.

I have been asked to read this passage from my recent book, Fifty Miles from Tomorrow, about the loss of my family home in Kotzebue.

"This was the place where decade after decade the family had tied its dogs, beached its beluga, dried its seal meat and salmon, and moored its qayaqs and umiaqs. This was where year after year the father and sons would step out on the beach to assess the water, the clouds, and the wind before venturing out on the hunt.
We did not think of  straight lines and pieces of paper as describing our relationship to the land.
[But] in Kotzebue, the BLM surveyors had come to town, surveyed the entire three-mile spit from the beach back to the lagoon, then auctioned off hundreds of lots. ... [T]he local Iñupiat never had a chance. Many were out of town gathering food for the winter when the auction was held. .... The result of the auction was to prevent future generations of Native families from ever owning land, dooming them to be renters or squatters on what was now considered other people's property."