Mush with 10-year old David Salmon and his pet ermine through Athabascan traditional life. In the 1920s, an epidemic forced David, First Traditional Chief of the Interior, and his father, to leave their village and trap for eighteen years in No Man's Land. The fur-bearing animals (wolverine, fox, ermine, marten, lynx, and wolf) of Alaska were their daily and closest companions. A story of great overcoming, David Salmon lost his mother in 1925 and was raised by his father on their remote trapline. With David’s little ermine on most pages, children love to look for it, as well as many big game animals. Sure that his little bow and arrow would protect him from any threat, David remembered later, “If you’d have seen me, you’d have felt sorry. I never thought I’d even make it to Fort Yukon.” The message to children however is “aim well and shoot high” as David became the first Alaska Native Episcopalian priest in the Alaska interior and the chief of 42 villages. “You never know what life will bring” as the beautifully illustrated book closes with David Salmon aiming high, becoming priest, chief and representative of his people in Washington, D.C. Alaska’s Little Chief has 24 original paintings by European-trained Nikola Kocic, a glossary with all of Alaska’s fur animals in English and in the chief’s language, Gwich’in. The book ends with a letter from the chief explaining his life more in depth and signed by him. Maps on the inside covers clarify that Chief Salmon lived near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Ferguson’s children’s books are unique, painted realistically with a nonfiction text, featuring indigenous elders. They are rivetingly illustrated, adventurous and Alaska history as it is.
In 2004 Judy began working with Tanana Chiefs Conference First Traditional Chief Rev. Chief Dr. David Salmon on his biography for children, Alaska’s Little Chief. Chief Salmon guided every painting and text, approving it in its final format.
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