Wednesday, February 3, 2016

I was Born Under a Spruce Tree by J J Van Biber

I purchased this book in Dawson City, in the Klondike Yukon territory August 17, 2013 on our trip to Alaska.  I had taken the day off away from the tour we were on and wandered around Dawson, which I prefer to being herded.  There in the local drugstore I met the author and two sisters, Pat Van Bibber, Lucy Sanderson and Kathleen Thorpe.  This book is a biography about their late brother JJVan Bibber.  I had heard about it on local news in Alaska and it is just the kind of activity I enjoy, meeting authors.  Kathleen is a famous local artist.  

This is an amazing paperback, only 147 pages but rife with history and photos  of the family.  It had been published only in 2012 and illustrated by a grandson, Shannon Van Bibber.  The grandchildren persuaded JJ to write down all the stories he had shared with them about his life in the 1920's growing up in Mica Creek, the 1940's with his marriage to Clara, the 1970's when he surveyed for the government.  These native peoples lived through and survived in a country known for wilderness.  The women were as hearty as the men to survive.  Each tale has it's own mystique and sense of wonder.  
Me standing behind Pat Van Bibber
 
Back cover

It was beyond delightful to talk with these people.  Pat took an instant shine to me because he said, "you Pat, I Pat.  Good name."  With help from an anthropology student from the University of Alberta, Niall Fink, JJ talked about his life."They're making a book about me.  Yeah.  It is going in all the schools so the kids can learn about how we lived in the old days.  They call it oral history. "  Page 3,JJ's introduction.    Born in 1920 and whether or not under a spruce tree might be questioned, he led a fascinating life setting trap lines, building moose skin boats, playing the harmonica, . His father was a white settler who came to the Klondike from West Virginia  in the Gold Rush and married his mother Eliza who was born in the 1880's.  Page 9, "My mother was an Indian, you see.  She could talk both languages.  I don't know how she did it but she could talk to Indians around Stewart River at Dawson and they talked different languages altogether.  She knew Tlingit too.  Her mother was married to Chief Jackson, from around Juneau."  It is beyond intriguing to read how they went away to school, as very young tots, really away, down river and had to stay until the end of school term, away from their families.  Pat was 92 when I met him and sharp but tired.  This last photo shows me with the family.  This is a 5 ***** book.