DeArmond, along with Alaskan artist Rie Muñoz, was commissioned to create public art in 1978 for the newly-built school in Nondalton, an Athabascan village on the shore of Sixmile Lake which lies between Lake Iliamna and Lake Clark at the north end of the Alaska Peninsula. When asked what type of art they wanted, the local villagers said they wanted pictures of Joan M. Tenenbaum’s stories. Dale and Rie visited the village early in 1979 under a contractual agreement to produce a series of prints based on local myths, and one of each of the prints would hang in the new school.
The legends in the series were inspired by stories from the four-volume literary work entitled Dena’ina Sukdu’a. Gathered and translated by Tenenbaum, the collection was first released in 1976 in a limited edition of 400, and later in 1984 by the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Each of the legends was told by a member of the Nondalton village. The legends of the entire series were printed on a sheet and included with each print order.
The prints were available exclusively through the Alaska Northwest Publishing Company (via their Alaska Magazine). Each print was priced at $100.00 in a regular edition of 25, along with 6 artist proofs. All images are roughly the same size, about 15″ x 20″, and their print sizes roughly 19″ x 24″ (there were some exceptions). The last ones were offered first to those who’d purchased all previous prints in the series – thus making privately-held complete editions more likely. The series of prints are currently offered as a “traveling exhibit” via the Alaska State Museum. Click here for more information.
The prints are numbered #1–5, and #7–13. Although it is unknown why the number 6 in the series was skipped, here is a brief synopsis of the missing legend:
The Tenaina strong-man hero is Ts’anhdghulyaf. One day when the Nondalton people were still living in Kijik, up at Lake Clark, a group of Eskimos attacked. While the strong-man was lying down inside, the battle raged with the Kijik people apparently losing the battle. So they ran inside and asked the strong-man to help them. He slipped on his boots and went out to win the battle for his people, killing all but one of the Eskimos in the process. To the only survivor he said, “Go back to your village and tell them my story and to double their forces when they attack again.” Then the strong-man went inside, took off his boots and laid down again. Told by Antone Evan.
The following illustrations appear in DeArmond’s Nondalton Legends series. Click on any to learn more information.