My father’s grandmother, Lena Andree, was one of the most unique women in Alaska.
McClatchy did a great piece on her a while back. It began:
Her father was a Dutchman, “Glass Eye” Billy Bartman, a sled-dog freighter in the Bristol Bay region and caretaker of the Alaska Packers saltry on the Igushik River.
Her mother was full-blooded Yup’ik, growing up in a sod-roofed barabara in the now-abandoned village of Tuklung, somewhere on the tundra between Dillingham and Togiak.
Growing up in two worlds along the Igushik River in Bristol Bay, Lena Bartman spoke broken English with her father and more fluent Yup’ik with her mother, whose Yup’ik name was Ahchitmook and western name was Amalia. Later she would make a career as a translator, bridging the cultures of Dillingham, speaking English with the doctors and storekeepers and pilots, and “speaking Native” with the residents.
We called her GG.
The piece goes on to say:
Todd Palin’s roots in Alaska are more complicated and run deeper — all the way back to that sod house on the tundra and the winter day Glass Eye Billy made a freight stop at Tuklung on a dog run to Togiak.
The musher, who had come to Alaska after leaving Holland at 14 as a cabin boy, saw a young woman dipping water from a frozen creek. The first thing he noticed about her were her fur boots and gorgeous white parka made from the supple fur of reindeer fawn.
The courtship and marriage arrangements took a year.
Their first-born’s full Western name was Helena, her Yup’ik name Tikchu, or Chickadee.
Lena Andree grew up in the 1920s along the Igushik River. Along with her father, a couple of other white men lived nearby — White Headed Pete and Rum and Gum Johnson.
Otherwise, her neighbors were Yup’ik families drawn by summer fishing jobs to live along the river.
She is in a better place and feels no more pain. We’re all at peace at having witnessed a life lived to the fullest.
Thanks, GG, for all of the lessons you taught us… most of those lessons which were taught without any words at all.
Buy my Mom’s new devotional, Sweet Freedom, in bookstores everywhere!