When CIRI shareholder Patricia Wade took a job at the Chickaloon Village Tribal Office in 1995, she didn’t think it would lead to a writing career. Fifteen years later, she is the long-time editor of the Chickaloon News, a freelance writer for publications like The Frontiersman and the Anchorage Daily News, and now an author.
“I have always liked to write, even when I was in high school. When I came to work for Chickaloon Village, I asked them … a lot of my family members were very vocal and effective speakers, but didn’t have writing skills,” said Wade. “The family decided one of the most important things I could do was write a newsletter.”
Wade recently published her first book, “Luk’ae,” a children’s book that imparts lessons on proper nutrition and eating habits and making healthy choices.
“Nutritional education is such an important issue and it’s obvious that our people are dying from the wrong kinds of diet,” said Wade. “And you know, sometimes I think we’re not even aware of it. It was introduced so gradually and, before you know it, we’re all sick with diabetes, obesity. It was horrible to watch.”
Wade remembers her diet being mostly moose, salmon, caribou and sheep when she was young. She recalls the introduction of sugar, flour and soda pop and how people were not aware of its harmful effects.
The book tells the story of several salmon as they make their way through their lifecycle, from spawning in a river to traveling to the open ocean and back again. The story is set in Southcentral Alaska and features Alaska Native characters. The book is formatted similarly to a graphic novel, with Wade’s son, Dimi Macheras, providing striking original art.
“Our legends were of vital importance to our people as they didn’t have schools before the newcomers arrived,” wrote Wade. “They taught their children using our ancient stories. As an Ahtna woman growing up hearing these stories, I decided to create a modern story that would remain true to the ancient wisdom.”
In addition to writing, Wade visits schools in the Mat-Su Borough to share Ya Ne Dah Ah stories.
“I feel the importance in letting the public know who we are and that we’re still here,” said Wade. “This area is such a fast-growing region. People are coming in all the time. So one of my jobs is to go to the schools and tell our stories and share our people’s history.”