A Teacher’s Guide
Whisper to the Blood
1 – As is usual in her novels about Aleut investigator Kate Shugak, author Dana Stabenow has taken a high and free hand with Alaskan geography, history, current events and population. For example, in Whisper to the Blood she has based her fictional Suulutaq Mine in the Park on the real Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska. There is a wealth of information about the real mine on the Internet, pro, con, and informational, including
The Pebble Partnership – a project guide funded by the mine owners
The Truth About Pebble – a pro-mine support group of Alaska businesses
a blog about the Pebble Mine on the Anchorage Daily News website
Stop the Pebble Mine – a group of Bristol Bay citizens against the Pebble Mine
Alaska Trekking – a frequent hiker’s guide to the Pebble Mine area, with many photos
2 – Stabenow based the Park in the Kate Shugak novels on the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in southeastern Alaska. While she is often quoted as saying, “I never let the truth get in the way of a good story,” there are many similarities between the two Parks. Information about the real one can be found here:
The official NPS website for the Wrangell-St. Elias Park
Alaska’s answer to the NPS website for Wrangell-St. Elias Park
3 – Kate is, among other things, an Aleut, but the Park was originally occupied by Athabascans and Tlingits. How did Stabenow manage this ethnic sleight of hand? When the Japanese invaded the Aleutian Islands in World War II, the US Army relocated the Aleuts to other places in Alaska, a story Kate tells in the third Kate Shugak novel, Dead in the Water. Sources for the reader interested in investigating further:
the NPS article on Aleut Internment
a recording of Anatoly Lekanof’s story
a bibliography for The Aleut Story
Fun things to do for younger students
- There are an estimated 40,000 grizzly bears in Alaska. A grizzly bear can weigh 1,000 pounds. How much do all the students in the class weigh put together? Is it as much as one grizzly bear weighs? How about if you add in the teacher?
- Take a map of Alaska and a map of the southern 48 states, both of the same scale. Lay the map of Alaska over the map of the South 48. Use pushpins to outline the map of Alaska. How big is Alaska compared to the South 48? How big is it compared to Texas? How big is it compared to your state, or province, or country?
- Alaska’s total area is 425 million acres. Alaska has two national forests, 17 national parks, preserves and national monuments, 25 wild and scenic rivers, and 16 national wildlife refuges, which total 242 million sq. acres. How many square acres of Alaska are publicly owned? Who is “the public?” How many people in your class? Do the math, figure out how much of Alaska each student in the class owns.
- One-sixth of Alaskans are Alaska Natives, including seven major tribes, Aleut, Yupik, Inupiat, Athabascan, Tlingit, Tsimshian and Haida. Count off 1 through 7 around the room and form into “Native” groups. Where do you live in Alaska? How long have you lived there? What do you eat? How do you travel? Talk about your life.
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