Bowman wearing Sitka Sneakers
Bowman wearing Sitka Sneakers

Ever worn a pair of Sitka Sneakers? Any Alaskan sourdough can tell you from the cheechako aka green horn crowd by your footwear. Well, mostly.  The hard-core, out in the bush folks that work the coast lines, the bogs, and the fish aka slime lines use rubber boots.  Got to.  These knee high rubberized boots with reinforced steel toes, light flannel lining, and grunge moss brown color are staple footwear for natives. Sometimes the mud and dirt give them a slightly different color.

Just another day in boots
Just another day in boots

Europeans and folks in the Lower 48 refer to them as Wellingtons. Think Pamplona, Spain has a corner on the bull running?  Well, yes, they do, but Sitka and their distinctive rubber boot run raises money for charity without horns and danger. Gotta smile and luv those folks living in winter, rain, and snow eight months of the year.

Alaskan sourdough wears her sneakers most days, even to a community dance
Alaskan sourdough wears her sneakers most days, even to a community dance

Totem poles tell tales that are reflected in Alaskan life and seasons.Take the one about Fog Woman. She married Raven who came to live in her in the village. Unfortunately, the village was starving at the time so Fog Woman asked her new mate to take his slaves and find food.  Raven went out hunting but returned empty handed. Fog Woman asked him again to go and again he returned with no food. She asked a third time and he left. This time, Fog Woman was extremely hungry. She sent a helper to draw water from the river and bring it to her.  She looked deep into the bucket and called on fish to come to her then quickly tossed the water back into a nearby stream. Salmon swam up in such numbers the entire village feasted. Raven was jealous when he returned and begged Fog Woman to show him her trick.  Some say she did show him, others say she did not.  At any rate, each year to this day, the salmon swim up river in enough numbers to keep the people fed. I know the legend is true because I saw the salmon migrating and saw a totem honoring Fog Woman and Raven at Potlatch Park near Totem Bight, Ketchikan.

Artist Terry Pyles named his salmon piece after James Yeltatzie, Haida carver of the original wood statue. The Yeltatzie Salmon on Ketchikan Creek can be found in Ketchikan, Alaska on a salmon migration stream.

(Written in 2013 for Going Places blog by Nancy Hartney)

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