On May 12th, we mounted the sign on the Frederica cabin, readying for September’s resident. The cabin has been named after Frederica de Laguna, an ethnologist, anthropologist, archeologist, and writer. William W. Fitzburgh writes, “De Laguna, known to friends and colleagues throughout her life as ‘Freddy,’ spent the first two decades of her professional life on comparative work of circumpolar art, on several syntheses of North American archaeology, and on research involving Alaskan archaeology, followed by 50 years of ethnographic study of northern Northwest Coast cultures in southeast Alaska.”
Freddy was a vanguard for women in working in the field and studying in the classroom. Her first expedition to Alaska was in 1930 when she was a 24-years-old. After she received her PhD, but before she secured a permanent teaching or research position, Freddy wrote several books for general audiences. Fitzburgh writes, “While waiting for a position to open at Bryn Mawr and preparing her Cook Inlet and Eyak reports, Freddy produced three books for general readers, all laced with anthropological insight. The first, published in 1930 and aimed at young adults, was titled The Thousand March: Adventures of an American Boy with Garibaldi; the story was based on G. M. Trevelyan’s account of the Italian patriot. Two detective stories followed: The Arrow Points to Murder (1937) and Fog on the Mountain (1938). She had a gift for the perfect phrase and the well-chosen word, and these skills, honed early in her upbringing.”
Throughout her whole life, Freddy worked hard to break barriers and in 1976 she was elected into the National Academy of Sciences as the first woman, with former classmate Margaret Mead.
Steve Ferzacca, for the Penn Museum, writes of de Laguna, “Her work in Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet is considered definitive for an understanding of the archaeological record of southern Alaska (McClellan 1989). In 1949, she continued with her work among the cultures and peoples of southeastern Alaska, conducting research that combined the approaches of archaeology, history, and ethnography among the northern Tlingit communities of Yakutat, a village that lies in the shadow of Mount Saint Elias, and Angoon. In 1996 Professor de Laguna returned to Yakutat to attend a gathering given in her honor by the Tlingit people among whom she had conducted research nearly fifty years earlier. Her invitation was sponsored by the Yakutat Camp of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood, acting for the Yakutat tribe.”
Yakutat tribal elder Marie Abraham commented, “There are few people in her profession that have made such an impression with the people she wrote about. She became part of us. She became our Grandma. We love you. We thank you for all the gifts you have given us. You’ve given us the greatest gift that anybody could give a culture. You saved the songs. You gave them back to us.”
We’d like to thank Dave and Maddie Gerard for creating such a beautiful way to inaugurate our first cabin. Their incredibly detailed sign is a fitting tribute to Storyknife’s first cabin.
There are still two more days to apply for the first writing residency that will take place this September. You can apply at https://storyknifewritersretreat.submittable.com/submit until midnight Alaska time on May 15th. We hope to notify the chosen applicant by email by June 5.