By Olivia Petroccia
Voices from Alaska’s military past came alive in Mountain View on Feb. 28 to launch Tundra Vision’s series, Thursday nights in Mountain View, marking the ninth season for the participatory history series.
Jean Pollard and an assembled cast from Frozen in History read first-hand accounts of the primarily African-American soldiers who built the Alaska Highway in 1942. The road, which connected Alaska to the continental US, was completed in eight months, led to the integration of the U.S. armed forces, and today is considered an engineering marvel. The Alaska Highway’s Reader Theater presentation was the first of four Tundra Vision events this spring.
Tundra Vision would like to extend special congratulations to Jean Pollard, as Sen. Dan Sullivan honored her before President Trump and the Senate the day after she presented for Tundra Vision and named her Alaskan of the Week to honor the end of Black History Month and the research Pollard shared at Tundra Vision (https://www.facebook.com/SenDanSullivan/videos/vb.1499142123704271/1277033175786892/?type=2&theater).
The collaboration between Tundra Vision and the Mountain View Library aims to provide all Alaskans access to history.
This spring they will be exploring “Surprising Stories of Alaska’s Military Past.” The hour-long events take place in the Community Room at the Mountain View Library and feature new speakers each month. The public space invites the curious to consider Alaska’s many perspectives and history enthusiasts to contribute to the conversation. The events take place on the last Thursday of the month from February to May. Events are family friendly, and admission and refreshments are complimentary.
“Tundra Vision is a vehicle for participatory history,” said Dr. Katherine Ringsmuth, owner of Tundra Vision, a public history consulting business. In addition to organizing the Tundra Vision series, Ringsmuth teaches U.S. and Alaska History at UAA and is very aware of how history shapes our future and empowers communities. “For a community to thrive,” explains Ringsmuth, “it must be healthy—physically, emotionally, intellectually and economically. But we cannot expect young people contribute to the community—to build a prosperous future—if they don’t believe they are part of its past.” Tundra Vision, therefore, aims to cultivate Alaska’s future leaders by introducing narratives that underscore a global past. Ringsmuth reminds Tundra Vision participants that, instead of the bridge to nowhere, “Alaska is the bridge, and we have been for a very long time.”
Tundra Vision’s remaining events continue to explore Alaska’s military history.
On March 28, Friends of Nike Site Summit board member Mark Rice will share little-known stories about the Cuban Missile Crisis in Alaska, nuclear testing in the Aleutians, and how the Last Frontier became the front line of defense against Soviet Russia and protectorate of North America.
On April 25, active duty Army Officer and Ph.D. candidate at UAF, Russell Vanderlugt will revisit Henry Allen’s military expedition up the Copper River in 1885. With assistance from the U.S. Army, Native corporations and state and federal entities, he retraced the Allen expedition’s route from Cordova to McCarthy and from Chitina to Glennallen in 2018. Vanderlugt will share his adventure into the Copper River country 134 years later, and the surprising discoveries he made on the way.
Consulting curator with Alaska Jewish Museum, Leslie Fried, will give Tundra Vision’s final presentation on May 30. Fried will share the heartbreaking story of how the United States failed to make Alaska a refuge for Jews escaping Nazi Germany. Fried aims to remind Alaskans that we are not isolated from the world, and our decisions in Alaska can impact people and places across the globe.
Come down to Mountain View, Alaska’s most diverse neighborhood, and join the Tundra Vision community.
Just by participating—hearing the stories and remembering why they matter—you are helping to ensure voices of the past will not be forgotten. For lecture details, visit Tundra Vision on Facebook.