Spotlight on Alaska Books: Dreaming Bears

For a while we watched
expectantly. Then Volk and Ted broke out fishing rods. I dozed in the afternoon
sun on the bank of the East Fork of the Chandalar River, now fifty or sixty
miles above the Arctic Circle. Ted and Volk were looking intently upriver when
I awoke.
“Johnny Frank coming,” Stanley
Across the swift
main channel, a small man stood in a little green canoe. He wore an old tweed
coat, shirt, and tie. He paddled into the current and was propelled rapidly
downstream, balancing as he ferried toward our bank. He swept past us, intently
watching the water, a pipe clenched in his teeth, his dark face shaded by an
old-style peaked Stetson hat. We rushed down to the river and caught the boat
as it came to shore. A smile broke across the man’s face as he stepped onto the

is the true story of the rare friendship that develops between a young medical
student with deep roots in the South and an elderly Indian couple in the wilds
of northeast Alaska. In 1961, Mike Holloway, his brother Ted, and a college
friend set out from South Carolina to spend the summer hiking in arctic Alaska,
intending to live off the land. They end up in the homeland of the Gwich’in –
the northernmost Indians in North America. The young men charter a small plane
into the isolated village of Venetie, and are directed to the remote cabins of
Johnny and Sarah Frank, an elderly Gwich’in couple who lived a thirty-five mile
walk from the village. Johnny was a well-known storyteller and former medicine
man. Sarah made their home welcoming with warm, calm kindness – her well-worn
hands seldom idle.

rich encounters in Gwich’in country deepen his love of wild land and his
respect for those who depend upon it for their survival. The experience alters
his life. He becomes the adopted grandson of Johnny and Sarah, returning to
Alaska as a doctor and an advocate for the land and its people.

won’t be seeing stories like this anymore, this remarkable real-deal
first-person account of two generous and wry Indian elders who were still
living out in the Brooks Range wilderness in the 1960s.”
Holloway is like a long talk around the campfire with a new friend.”
Apt Russell, author of Hunger: An Unnatural History
next best thing to hunting bear … with an elderly Alaskan Gwich’in named Johnny
Frank may be to read about it, and much more, in J. Michael Holloway’s
captivating Dreaming Bears.” 
Mike Holloway was born in South Carolina, but a trip to Alaska in 1961 and his
introduction to two savvy Gwich’in elders redirected his life.  After completing medical studies in the
South, he returned to Alaska, spending his professional career as an orthopedic
surgeon with the Alaska Native Health Service. In 1977 Mike took a break from
orthopedics to work as a subsistence advocate and Washington D.C.-village
liaison for the Alaska Rural Community Action Program. He returned to work at
the Native hospital and served some years as Chief of Orthopedics. He retired
in 2001 when diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  In the next eight years he taught
orthopedics, primarily in Africa with Health Volunteers Overseas. Mike and his
wife Margie Gibson live in a cabin near Indian, Alaska. He is a member of 49
Writers. Dreaming Bears is published
by Epicenter Press in a softcover edition with color photos.

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