Alaskan author Tom Kizzia talks 'Pilgrim's Wilderness'
SFBG I had never heard the term "inholder" — people who own property within National Park Service land — before I read your book. Why do communities like McCarthy sometimes have antagonistic feelings toward the Park Service?
TK It's a big thing in the West. I'd heard about these kinds of frictions just growing up and reading about Western history — and in Alaska, it was being played out in the modern day.
It was partly a holdover from the 1970s, when the debate was going on over what the creation of these new parks in Alaska was going to mean to the local lifestyle. For a lot of people, it was the coming of government to a rural area that had very little government before. It was, "We used to be able to do what we want, and now there's someone telling us we have to do things a certain way." That put people off.
But the parks in Alaska were created, in a way, to try to allow that rural lifestyle to continue. A lot of that impetus came out of a desire to protect the Alaska native cultures, and their hunting and fishing traditions. Congress chose to provide those rights for all rural Alaskans, native and non-native. And as a consequence, you end up with families like the Pilgrims moving out into the bush and taking advantage of those opportunities.
SFBG I kept wondering why, if Papa Pilgrim really wanted to keep his family isolated, he picked so many fights with the Park Service.
TK As we came to understand only much later, he thrived on having external enemies. So the park, and its bureaucracy, made a convenient enemy for him; he could rally his family and, for awhile, others in the community, to defend him.
But I puzzled at that: If you really want to be isolated, why build a road to your doorstep? There's a contradiction there. But that's sort of the great American contradiction, too — the great story of Western expansion. Building up your valley, and then trying to keep it to yourself.
SFBG Pilgrim's daughter Elishaba, who suffered the most abuse, emerges as sort of the hero of the story. At what point did she open up to you?
TK It was really in the latter parts of my research where she became comfortable telling me her story. I think it had partly to do with her coming forward in church fellowship settings and talking about her experiences, and realizing what it meant to others to hear what she had been through and how she had come out of it.
And she also realized that even within a non-Christian setting, it's helpful for victims of domestic violence to realize that you can get out, even from the most desperate situation that you could imagine — which would be her situation, not only physically, but also mentally and psychologically. She was trapped by her sense of her soul being in peril if she rebelled. But she found the strength to do it. *
Sept. 18, 7pm, free
301 Castro, Mtn. View
Sept. 19, 7pm, free
51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera
Most Commented On
- Not a joke? - December 18, 2013
- Says the Guest who always - December 18, 2013
- I'm always going to favor - December 18, 2013
- So really, the big pressing issue here is....what??? - December 18, 2013
- "I know a FEW teachers who have bought a home in SF" - December 18, 2013
- Lucas\Chrissy Field - December 18, 2013
- The SGBG stands for San - December 18, 2013
- UPSET - December 18, 2013
- UPSET - December 18, 2013
- Last night I sat in a cafe by a Muni stop on the 24 route. - December 18, 2013