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Nora Marks Dauenhauer (Tlingit name “Keix̱wnéi”) is an Alaska State Poet Laureate (2012-2014), who, with her late husband Richard Dauenhauer, published the series, “Classics of Tlingit Oral Literature.”
Writers' Weir: The Eclipse of 1869 083017 AE 1 For the Capital City Weekly Nora Marks Dauenhauer (Tlingit name “Keix̱wnéi”) is an Alaska State Poet Laureate (2012-2014), who, with her late husband Richard Dauenhauer, published the series, “Classics of Tlingit Oral Literature.”
Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Story last updated at 9/4/2017 - 1:44 pm

Writers' Weir: The Eclipse of 1869

The Eclipse of 1869

By Peter Metcalfe

On Monday, Aug. 21 Southeast Alaska was on the outer edge of a solar eclipse, the shadow of which extended across the Lower 48.

On Aug. 8, 1869, a total solar eclipse arced over northern Southeast Alaska. The astronomer and coast surveyor, George Davidson, had taken a gamble on the weather and organized an expedition to make scientific observations. With the help of the famous Tlingit leader, Koh’klux (aka, Shotridge), Davidson’s team was transported by canoes up the Chilkat River to position his observatory near Klukwan at the center of the shadow that would sweep across the Chilkat Valley. (Another 15 years would pass before Haines was established).

William Henry Seward, the man who negotiated the 1867 Alaska Treaty of Cession with Russia, was touring the Inside Passage. He arranged to join the observation at Chilkat River observatory, where he made an acquaintance with Davidson’s friend, Koh’klux. (For more about all of this, search “The Tlingit Map of 1869” by John Cloud).

Just before the “totality,” the clouds parted and those assembled were able to witness the astonishing event. Another observer was on a beach, perhaps on the outer coast, and much later he told his granddaughter, Keix̱wnéi, about how he witnessed the same eclipse.

Grandpa Jakwteen in Eclipse

by Nora Mark Dauenhauer

He told his family

of when,

as a young man,

hunting along a beach,

he was caught in a midday

eclipse of the sun.

According to Tlingit folk belief,

This could turn you

into a stone.

So he climbed up

on a high rock

where he could easily be seen.

(If he had to be a stone,

he wanted to be seen.)

Lucky for us,

he lived to tell the story.

No stone,

and his descendants

are like sand.

©2000 A Life Woven With Song:

*Nora Marks Dauenhauer (Tlingit name “Keix̱wnéi”) is an Alaska State Poet Laureate (2012-2014), who, with her late husband Richard Dauenhauer, published the series, “Classics of Tlingit Oral Literature.”

Reprinted with permission.