ICE WINDOW: LETTERS FROM A BERING STRAIT VILLAGE, 1892-1902
Edited and annotated by Kathleen Lopp
Smith and Verbeck Smith
Because the information in Ice Window covers a decade in the lives and work of the family, the sequence of letters become a story. In addition to over 350 letters, there are more than 90 photographs from the period, five maps, a dozen or more drawings from the letters, reproductions of the five issues of The Eskimo Bulletin, and copies of lessons printed for students in the Wales school during the 1890s. There are 110 footnotes, a reference list, and index.
From the cover of Ice Window:
Ellen Lopp was an exemplar of the nineteenth-century woman at her best. A young, optimistic teacher eager to work with another culture, she welcomed the challenges that life in an isolated coastal village of northwest Alaska offered. Ellen married and raised a family while adapting to arctic ways of survival; she was a teacher and student, helping a generation of Native Iñupiat adjust to the white culture being thrust upon them while learning their language and lifeways. She and her husband Tom were instrumental in establishing the reindeer industry in northwest Alaska, from distributing reindeer to teaching the Natives how to care for them.
Ellen shared her observations and experiences in letters to family and friends. This window expands our knowledge of a vital period in Alaska history and offers an intimate view of people's lives and turn-of-the-century events at Cape Prince of Wales. Most important, as renowned anthropologist Dorothy Jean Ray has commented, Ellen's letters clearly show the kind of person who was the best representative of a culture destined to change that of another. Unlike many teachers and missionaries, the Lopps accepted the villagers as their friends rather than people to be subjugated. Most of Ellen's letters were saved and passed down through the family; they make up the core of this book. Editor Kathleen Lopp Smith, Ellen's granddaughter, augments the text with annotations and numerous photographs, making this a highly readable and informative volume of historical value, one that is descriptive and vivid in its details.
From the Foreword by Dorothy Jean Ray:
It takes an unusual combination of letter writer and recipients to amass a collection of letters as interesting and as valuable as this one written between 1892 and 1902 by Ellen Louise Kittredge Lopp at Cape Prince of Wales, an Alaskan Eskimo village only 55 miles across the Bering Strait from Siberia. Although novelists and poets, for example, and other well-known figures in the world's eyes have their collected letters, it is rare indeed that a busy teacher living almost at the ends of the earth in the 1890s would write so many letters that give us--more than a hundred years later--a description and insight into the many facets of life during the course of laboring at what must have been one of the most unusual jobs for a woman during that era. It was not only an unusual job--if we can call being a teacher, missionary, wife, mother, confidante to the Eskimos, and manager of what must have been the busiest bed and breakfast operation ever, a job--but it was fulfilled by a vibrant woman who yearned to share her unique experiences, and also, as we read her letters, to teach. She wrote about everyday Native life and celebrations; about visitors from trading and whaling ships and the Revenue Marine cutter Bear; and about the school children. She described the environment, the subsistence quest, and the reindeer herd that the school and mission acquired in 1894. As one reads about her busy life, it becomes apparent that these many letters were written in stolen minutes, at times when other people would have been getting a much-needed rest.
Text design and production by Deirdre Helfferich:
The editors are pleased with the layout and design of the text and other elements of Ice Window pages. Ms. Helfferich now has her own business, Ester Designworks, in Ester, Alaska, near Fairbanks. If you have a project in mind, we suggest you contact her by -- e-mail: email@example.com -- or -- phone: 907-479-3368 -- or -- mail: P.O. Box 24, Ester AK 99725-0024