Notes from an Icy River
The students have looked at the story from a multitude of angles. They have learned about how the early Ahtna used copper, and how a decision by Chief Nicolai helped alter the way of life for his people. They have examined explorers such as Lieutenant William Abercrombie, and Lieutenant Henry Allen who journeyed up the Copper on expeditions that rivaled the journey of Lewis and Clark. The students have also looked at how power and politics came together to shape not only the construction of the railroad, but also the route selection. The railroad, indirectly, also impacted the decision by the federal government to build the Alaska Railroad between Seward and Fairbanks, and the presidential election of 1912 between Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft.
Once filming is completed, a team of student producers will edit and produce the documentary during the 2011-2012 school year. “Iron Rails: The Story of the Construction of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway,” will premiere in April 2012 – the 101st anniversary of the railroad’s completion
Iron Rails will conclude the documentary trilogy produced by Kenny Lake students on three of the most important events that helped shape Copper Basin history. Kenny Lake students have so far produced “Bonanza: The Story of Kennecott,” and “Stampede: The Story of the 1898 Valdez Gold Rush.” Iron Rails will bring the story of the Valdez gold rush, and the Bonanza discovery full circle.
Kenny Lake students have slowly been improving their filmmaking and storytelling skills over the years, and this documentary promises to be the best to date. Business and corporate sponsorships are available to those who would like to support the project and receive recognition. Organizations donating $500 will receive special recognition at the beginning of the documentary, and business sponsors who donate $100 will receive recognition in the closing credits. Please contact Ray Voley at Kenny Lake School if you are interested in supporting the project. The cost of the raft trip was paid for from an Alaska Humanities Forum grant, technology project awards, and documentary DVD sales.
This project, in one small way, will encourage Alaskans to tell the stories of Alaska, rather than filmmakers who come from outside the state to hijack our stories, and who invariably get it wrong. It will also provide an antidote to the sad perception that local history is provincial, tasteless and dull. There are plenty of historical nuggets the students plan to bring to life through the power of film. But perhaps one of the most ambitious goals of the project is to help re-kindle the true Alaskan spirit in our young people – a spirit shared by the brave and tenacious men who built the Copper River and Northwestern Railway that seemed to come especially alive for 11 students during one special week in June.
BACK TO STORY
Check out more Copper River photos by Mariah Doty
Check out the video of the raft trip below, produced by Mariah Doty.