There are few photographs of Inupiat from the early 1900s. And there are almost no photos from this era taken by an Alaska Native photographer. But among these photos are those captured by Charles Menadelook, a teacher who worked in nine villages in the first three decades of the twentieth century. The photos he took of hunters, of artisans, and of his own students, represent the Inupiaq culture in a way that only an Inupiaq man could.
Eileen Norbert has spent decades uncovering the stories behind these photographs. Along the way, she learned that Charles Menadelook was an important figure in the history of Western Alaska, not just because of his photographs, but because he was a teacher unlike any other, teaching in an unprecedented time of transition for the region. Eileen also learned a lot about her family and herself. Charles was her grandfather, though they never met.
To hear what Eileen discovered about her grandfather and about early Inupiaq life, tune in to Story49 on KNOM (780 AM, 96.1 FM) on Sunday, December 18th, at 6:00pm, and then again on Thursday, December 22nd, at 3:00pm. You can also listen online using the audio player above.
If you or someone you know has a story to share, contact KNOM at 443-5221 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story49: Sharing your story, your voice, your Alaska.
(Eileen Norbert’s book is called Menadelook: An Inupiat Teacher’s Photographs of Alaska Village Life, 1907-1932. It is available now from the University of Washington Press and the Sealaska Heritage Institute.)