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Elder Voices: Frances Wright

Frances Wright turned 94 this March, and when she tells stories, you know she hasn’t wasted any of that time.

Born in Council, and raised in Solomon, Frances has vivid memories – and tells amazing stories – of growing up in a household that spoke Inupiaq, of hunting and trapping for food, of gathering driftwood to heat their home, and of keeping a team of sled dogs as a way of life. Her memories range from the sweet – quite literally, as she relates the feast of apples and oranges during Christmas dinners in Solomon – to the bitter, such as losing her “Eskimo” papa at a young age and living with her aloof and neglectful birth father. But most of all she shares fond memories of her mother, teaching her the secrets of ptarmigan trapping and berry picking, fishing and sewing, living and thriving in western Alaska’s unforgiving environment.

While Frances shares much about her early life, she also remembers her family: her children, grand children, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren. Some are still with us; others have already passed on; and as the generations spread across time and geography, she says it can be hard to keep track. But when she did celebrate her 94th birthday, she said she didn’t mind some grandkids or great grandkids don’t call. “As long as they’re good,” she said, “as long as they’re happy.”

Besides, she adds with a smile, “it’ll only make me feel older.”