In 1874 a fourteen-year-old Yukon girl married thirty-nine-year-old trader Arthur Harper. Jennie's people had been going through a famine and this was a piece of good fortune for her. She joined her cousin Margaret Mayo, and Margaret's husband, Al Mayo, in Tanana.
Jennie, though married to a white man, continued to live her subsistence lifestyle, even speaking her own Koyukon language. Her husband, a trader, really enjoyed prospecting. He often left on prospecting trips sometimes for two years at a time.
Jennie's first seven children were sent "Outside" (outside of Alaska) for their education, which Jennie firmly disagreed with. When their eighth child, Walter, was two years old Jennie and Arthur separated permanently. Jennie continued to live in Tanana and raised Walter in the subsistence lifestyle.
Jennie then married native Robert Alexander. She lived the rest of her life in Tanana, respected by the people of the town as an elder and orator. She spoke only Athabascan then. Her children were so inspired by her that they moved to Alaska's Interior where they live today.
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© Copyright 1997 Elizabeth Beckett and Sarah Teel
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