Writer tells traditions of Kake in kids' book

Posted: Friday, June 02, 2000

As the eldest daughter, Frances Kraus was expected to pass on the stories and history her grandparents taught her growing up in Kake.

Now she has, in a children's book.

``A Story to Tell: Traditions of a Tlingit Community'' is both personal and universal. The history of Kake and Tlingit traditions are explained through a dialogue between Kraus and her granddaughter Marissa.

The book is almost a family project, illustrated with photographs taken by Kraus' daughter Bambi of Frances and Marissa as they walk through Kake. All three of them will be at a book-signing from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Hearthside Books downtown.

``It's a big thing to have an Indian family do a book about Indians,'' Bambi Kraus said.

In some ways Frances Kraus started the book in 1951, as a student at Sheldon Jackson boarding school in Sitka. She wrote a report on the history of Kake and sent it home to her parents. When her mother died 40 years later, Frances Kraus found the 1,000-word essay in her box of beads.

Frances Kraus showed the old essay to her youngest daughter, Bambi Kraus, president of the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers in Washington, D.C.

Bambi Kraus is also a photographer, and after reading the essay she saw the potential for a book.

``There's a real need for the history of Kake to be told,'' said Bambi Kraus, referring to an event in 1912 when missionaries drove a silver spike into the boardwalk of Kake to signify the end of Tlingit ways and the dominance of western culture. Now the spike is gone, but the damage is not.

``I try to tell my granddaughter that just because you're Indian, you don't need to take a second place and the only one who puts you there is you,'' Frances Kraus said.

Learner Publications agreed to use the book as part of an 11-book children's series ``We Are Still Here -- Native Americans Today.''

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