Far Eastern Press, Seattle
free range writers and dreamers, independent books
How Far Eastern Press came to be
Eric Oberg's grandfather, Henry Tatsumi, earned two degrees at the University of Washington and taught Japanese language there. He published his own language textbook under the Far Eastern Press imprint.
'Far Eastern Press was really a foot-operated printing press in my grandfather’s study,' Eric Oberg says. 'He set the metal type himself. I revived the Far Eastern Press name to publish my book, but I’ve used more modern methods.' "
Far Eastern Press: Books about the Far East, the Far North, the Far West, and the Far Future
Fine Literature by Free-range Thinkers and Dreamers
a novel by Nancy Danielson Mendenhall; just released (1/2020)
Five newcomers arrive at the 1998 Settlers' Reunion at the mid-Columbia River: two anthropologists drawn by the storytelling, two on special missions from their elders, and a Siberian shaman intent on river healing. A Wanapum Indian bus driver angry over salmon losses takes them into the devastated area around the defunct Hanford atomic plant, the scene of the 1943 settler evictions. That view, and the growing threat of nuclear waste from the plant, spark new insights, friendships, and loves. Decades-old anger is swept into vows of action to save the salmon, the Columbia, and the world beyond.
Flight of the Goose:
A Story of the Far North
Endorsed by top anthropologists, Native Alaskans, scientists, faith leaders and literary critics
Reviewed in Shaman's Drum Journal
Sandra Ingerman, Transmutations
Die Presse newspaper (Austria)
Miriam's Well (Joanna Harcourt-Smith)
Bookslut (Colleen Mondor)
see review section below or visit the author website for much more!
Rough Waters: Our North Pacific Small Fishermen's Battle
nonfiction by Alaskan fisherman and historian Nancy Danielson Mendenhall, Nov. 2015
Listed in Anchorage Daily News
Reviewed by Boston Globe "Seaworthy Fish Tales"
in Fishermens' Voice "A War Story That’s Not Over Yet" by Paul Molyneaux
in Hakai Magazine,
"Two authors from fishing families explore the threats posed by the privatization of fisheries..."
by Alan Haig-Brown"
"A great Alaskan book that now can be found in the library of Cambridge University in England..."
~ Lawrence Khlinovski Rockhill, Scott Polar Research Institute, Univ. of Cambridge
Kevin Bailey's Fishing Lessons: Artisanal Fisheries and the Future of Our Ocean, cites Rough Waters
see review section below or visit the author website for much more!
Orchards of Eden: White Bluffs on the Columbia 1907-1943
social history of settlers on the Columbia River, by Nancy Danielson Mendenhall
Reviews in NW Hikers
"Rich familial stories. . . a captivating journal."
~ Walla Walla Union Bulletin
Cited in Nowhere to Remember, a book of the Hanford Project
"An excellent social history of the White Bluffs settlement.."
~ Sidelong Films, producer of Arid Lands documentary
"Reading Orchards of Eden is like experiencing a great screen documentary...A great contribution to Pacific NW history..."
~ Maria Brooks, documentary maker, Sinrock Mary, the Reindeer Queen
See review section below or the author website for much more!
philosophy and art of aikido,
by Eric Oberg
Read about it and the origin story of Far Eastern Press in University of Washington News, an interview with Eric Oberg by Nancy Wick "Getting to Know Aikido"
"Moving Toward Harmony is not a book from which one can learn to do aikido. Although it contains multiple photos of aikido moves, the text more nearly resembles poetry."
Reviewed in MAVIN magazine (full review below)
Excerpts appeared in Tricycle, a magazine of Buddhist practices
An Illustrated Poem/Storybook
Be on the lookout for
Shannon M. Lin's rudimentary, colorful hobby-art style in her upcoming book.
(An example of her art here >>)
Torvald: Memoirs of a Grandfather From Northern Norway
a work in progress by Nancy Danielson Mendenhall and Lesley Thomas; includes socio-historical background of late 1800s/early 20th Century Arctic Norway and the emigration experience, photos, and illustrations by Lesley's grandfather Torvald Magnus Danielson
(1900, Husvig, Norway - 1973, Seattle)
The Otter's Ransom
a work in progress by (pen name); a speculative fiction trilogy
Reviews for Storytellers at the Columbia River
Storytellers at the Columbia River:
"A great read...a strong voice for the power and importance of place...through a series of carefully constructed interlocking stories that connect the Hanford Reach's different cultures, generations, and (involved) countries. Underneath (Mendenhall's) web of stories, like the deep current of the Columbia River, is this lesson on the use of technology: do not be too quick to adopt new technology until the consequences are known and can be controlled.
She illustrates this lesson with the fate of "downwinders" who were infected with radioactive iodine from the (Hanford) reactors and the slow creep of radioactive waste toward the river. These problems have been with us for 75 years without adequate resolution. The river once supported large runs of wild Pacific salmon, whose habitat was traded for another technology, hatcheries, as the river was developed. The fate of the salmon is a thread that weaves its way through several of the stories."
~ Jim Lichatowich, author of Salmon, People, and Place:
A Biologist's Search for Salmon Recovery
“Mendenhall tells a rich and complicated story—in reality many stories—cautionary tales of violence done to people and the environment: families evicted from their farms and orchards in order to build the Hanford, Washington nuclear facility; the construction of huge Columbia River dams that prevent salmon from reaching their spawning grounds; indigenous people dispossessed of their ancestral land and food sources; the horror of Nagasaki; the threat of nuclear waste leaking from storage at the Hanford plant and contaminating the river. These stories, told through the concerns of the novel’s characters, join together in a narrative to raise ecological awareness of these enormous problems and to rally a spirit to actively respond to them.”
~ Dr. Gerald W. McFarland, author of The Buenaventura Trilogy, and A Scattered People:
An American Family Moves West
"Gripping...Tragic...(brings) in a cast of characters who tell their personal stories, bringing alive the tremendous losses suffered because of nuclear weapons, thermonuclear war, the internment in concentration camps of Japanese immigrants, most of them U.S. citizens during WWII, the oppression of the Wanapum Indians, who lived on the east bank of the Columbia, the construction of dams on the river that has destroyed the salmon runs that provided food for the Wanapums and other residents along the river and for millions of people across the U.S. Mendenhall's book weaves all these critical issues together. She is a wonderful writer (and) writes with much wit so there are also plenty of laughs in this book."
~ Tim Wheeler, journalist, author of News From Rain Shadow Country
"Rich, questioning, often funny . . . has the social flavor of a traditional novel with a multicultural cast of characters who struggle with their unique histories while bom-barded with today's challenges to the river and its people. The challenges are global, while the Columbia, a river I love myself, can use this attention, and the lively plot holds us tight to its banks."
~ Dr. William Keep, English Professor, past resident of Yakima, WA
More Reviews of Flight of the Goose
Flight of the Goose: a Story of the Far North
"If you are looking for a great read I highly suggest Flight of the Goose by Lesley Thomas. It is an amazing story and I am recommending it to every one I meet. I loved this book... combining a love story, with some deep teachings about shamanism in the Arctic, the complexities of life of a small village, and deep ecology. It is very rich. It was one of those books I simply could not put down. And Thomas is a brilliant writer. I cannot say enough about this book."
~ Sandra Ingerman, shamanic teacher, author of Medicine for the Earth and Soul Retrieval
by Fred Bigjim, Alaskan Inupiaq author of Plants: A Novel, and Indian; Non- Indian Thinking, Listening and Speaking"
"A remarkable achievement. Its memorable characters, believable setting, and complex treatment of problems that face us all in a world of unavoidable change and contact, will haunt the reader long after the covers have been closed." of the Goose: A Story of the Far North is a novel about loss and loneliness, alienation and fear, acceptance and forgiveness, natural and supernatural. Lesley Thomas has carefully crafted a complex story set in Alaska at a time of rapid change, competing economic and social interests, and national crisis.
Her characters seem drawn from life. Both they and the circumstances in which they find themselves are believable, memorable, tragic, and hopeful. Although the novel is set in a time and place where inevitable conflicts must arise from clashes of cultures, communities, and beliefs, and from change itself, the real depth of Thomas’ work derives from the way she examines conflicts within individuals themselves. To an even greater extent, she illuminates how we are all responsible, through our own choices and actions, for much of the tragedy and alienation that afflicts all of us, regardless of our culture, country, or religion.
One of the most interesting and thought-provoking aspects of Flight of the Goose is the portrayal of the clash of beliefs in the Arctic. We see there is little basis in the common idea that Christianity is a “white man’s” religion, for none of the non-Native characters in the novel are practicing, nor even nominal, Christians. Instead, to find meaning in their lives, the bird man places his faith in scientific rationalism, the teachers in education and humanism, and the hunters in hedonism. Among the Native peoples, too, there are clashes of belief. Some families are Christian, some are not. Even those in the novel who are drawn to shamanism demonstrate an understanding of Jesus that is richer than that shown by any of the non-Native characters. We begin to realize that the real conflicts arise from individual choices related to exploitation, greed, selfishness, misunderstandings of others -- all of which have less to do with the precepts of any particular religion than with true practice of the precepts of these. Either way, we learn how dangerous it can be to delve into the supernatural carelessly, without understanding and preparation.
To a great extent, we watch tragedy unfold before us, brought about less by a clash of “great religions” than by refusal by all individuals involved to practice the moral precepts, common to these, to do good to one another. Instead, we find rejection of others, in both Native and non-Native settings, and as a result, alienation, confusion, and misunderstandings on multiple levels. These lead ultimately to loss of innocence, loss of culture, loss of family, loss of belief, loss of land, loss of life.
Yet, we are not left hopeless. Tragedy has not meant total destruction. This is also a novel about triumph over despair; maturity gained through pain; forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration made possible through acts of the will."
~ Fred Bigjim, Inupiaq author, Plants: A Novel, and Indian and Non- Indian Thinking, Listening and Speaking
Review of Flight of the Goose in Sacred Hoop Magazine:
"What an extraordinary novel. Set in the far arctic lands of the Bering Straits in the early 1970’s, it tells the story of the meeting and the relationship between a US environmentalist, desperate not to be sent to Vietnam, and a deeply emotionally-damaged, ostracized young Inuit girl, whose painful history is revealed as the pages turn...
Written with poignant and often amazing insight into the Inuit culture, the book is a love story, it is a tale about Inuit shamanism, a portrayal of the conflict between cultures, and a glimpse at what happens to the smaller of the cultures when a more dominant one collides with it. And, along with the richly-described human characters in the book, is another character; throughout it all the arctic lands themselves hold the stage, the sunlight and warmth of summer, the darkness and coldness of winter, the crash of the arctic oceans, the spirits of the seals and the cry of birds. Thomas deals with the shamanism and sorcery in a very realistic way so that not once did I feel I had wandered into a fantasy novel where the author was trying to portray ‘ancient magic’ without any real idea what it actually was, or what it smelt like. In fact, the whole book is congruent, the storytelling is compelling, and quite frankly I couldn’t put it down - and I bet you won’t be able to either."
~ John Patrick; Sacred Hoop Magazine
Review in Shaman's Drum Journal for Flight of the Goose :
"An insightful and well-written novel that delves into cultural, shamanic, and environmental themes, Flight of the Goose is... of possible interest to many Shaman’s Drum readers. It explores our ability as human beings to overcome cultural differences and form meaningful relationships—and it does so with both artistry and insight. In Flight of the Goose, Thomas has created a moving and extremely well-written story that, although set in the Arctic almost forty years ago, can help us learn to live more fully human lives today...
Thomas, who spent part of her early years growing up in rural Arctic communities, brings both a knowledge of Inupiat customs and traditions and a cross-cultural sensitivity to this story, which transcends cultural boundaries and explores the universal human themes of alienation, reconciliation, spiritual awakening, and love...
Although the book deals with a variety of interconnected themes, Shaman’s Drum readers may be particularly interested in Kayuqtuq’s spiritual journeys into the realm of the inua(spirits). From the beginning of the story, she has secretly pursued the path of an angutkoq (shaman)—a profession feared and outlawed due to Christian and governmental influences. Her impetus to follow a shamanic path may have stemmed in part from a desire to raise her status in the community—having been orphaned in childhood, she had been ill treated as a slave and was never fully accepted as a member of the family that later took her in. However, she clearly has an affinity for the work. With the help of her turnaq(guardian spirit), the red fox, she is able to travel to other places by spirit flight and observe what is happening there, and to enter visionary states to access hidden information.
Unfortunately, she has encountered obstacles to obtaining the shamanic teachings that she needs. There is only one young man in the village who professes to work as a shaman—having been trained by his elderly father—but he is of little help to her. Most of her training ultimately comes directly from the spirit world itself, supplemented only slightly by a couple of anthropological texts she has come across. Lacking the guidance of a human teacher, she discovers that some of her early actions have unintended consequences. At one point, she beseeches the spirit world out of jealously, and inadvertently sets in motion dangerous forces that are out of her control and that she cannot call back.
Kayuqtuq’s feelings about Leif create conflicts for her at various points in the story, but often inspire her to take the next step in extending the range of her shamanic work. For example, when Leif falls gravely ill, Kayuqtuq calls upon as-yet-untested shamanic abilities on his behalf. Feeling that she must sacrifice her most valuable possession in exchange for what she is asking of the spirits, she offers up her qilya (shaman’s powers)—only to find in time that they are not lost, but strengthened. Gradually, over the course of the book, her abilities increase and her understanding matures. She truly becomes an angutkoq, and this enables her to see more clearly on both the physical and spiritual planes and to come to terms with her own past. However, the help of the spirits is not always enough to ward off tragedy.
In the course of the story, Thomas delves into a variety of shamanic themes—including spirit travel, soul loss, shamanic questing, initiation by spirits, and the independent reality of spiritual forces. Her treatment of these topics is insightful, and her detailed narratives are well grounded in the cultural and spiritual traditions of the people. Thomas provides a richness of cultural detail in her descriptions of the Inupiat lifestyle and the nuances of her characters’ behavior. For example, even the angle of an eyebrow conveys a culturally accepted meaning, which is not initially apparent to outsiders. She utilizes a goodly number of Inupiat terms in telling the story, and provides a glossary that readers may want to bookmark for frequent use while reading.
She deals sensitively with issues such as the decline of the traditional spiritual ways in the community; the effects of child abuse, alcoholism, and greed; and the conflicts and tragedies engendered by cultural misunderstanding and bigotry. The character of Leif makes an excellent foil for exploring some of these themes—as a Western-trained scientist of mixed Norwegian and Native heritage, he provides a unique viewpoint in the story through the record of his thoughts, as set down in his private journal. The entries serve as an apt device for disclosing his true feelings and his inner journey, as he struggles to survive the rigors of life in the harsh Arctic climate, learns to interact respectfully with the Inupiat community, and develops a meaningful relationship with Kayuqtuq. Along the way, Leif is slowly forced to admit the reality of spiritual forces and Kayuqtuq’s shamanic gifts, and he finally comes to respect and trust her abilities as an angutkoq.
Although I have chosen to focus largely on shamanic themes in this review, the story addresses many other significant issues as well—among them, climate change, environmental crisis, and indigenous rights. Incorporating themes from both Western science and indigenous mythology, it explores our ability as human beings to overcome cultural differences and form meaningful relationships—and it does so with both artistry and insight. In Flight of the Goose, Thomas has created a moving and extremely well-written story that, although set in the Arctic almost forty years ago, can help us learn to live more fully human lives today.
~ Roberta Louis, Shaman’s Drum Journal
Review of Flight of the Goose from Insurgent 49 newspaper, Jack Dalton, Yup'ik storyteller and playwright
"It is difficult to be an ambassador, especially between two unbelievably different worlds. In this case, it is the modern world and the world of the Inupiat Eskimo of Northwestern Alaska of not so long ago. Between these two worlds, everything is different: Language, communication (that which is beyond language alone), philosophies, customs, morals, values, spirituality, food, relationship with the environment around us, ways of seeing the world, ways of interacting with the world, roles of men and women, community, privacy, ownership, ways of education, measures of intelligence, houses, transportation, medicine, and even the way in which one takes a crap. Everything is different.
So, to be an ambassador between these two worlds is a daunting, even hellish task. There are so many ways in which to screw up, offend, misinterpret, misrepresent, and confuse.
And it is one thing to be Native and to try and bridge the Native culture with the modern one. But it is even more significant when a non-Native, a nuluagmiu, tries to assume this role. The knife-edge upon which they must walk only gets sharper and sharper and sharper. However, Lesley Thomas seems to be the perfect ambassador. And her novel, Flight of the Goose, is a truly glorious manifesto.
What helps is that Thomas is not Native, so she understands the language, the ways, the thought processes of the non-Native world. But then, in many ways, she is Native. She was adopted by a Native family, well known, recognized and respected elders of the Bering Straits region. And she must have been lucky enough to have a desire to pay attention and see below the surface of what she was taught about the “Ways of the Eskimo”, to have an amazing understanding of what it meant, what it means and what it may mean.
Whenever I see a story, a book, about Alaska Natives, and I see it was written by a non-Native person, I immediately become suspect. Who are these people? Who are they to think they can write about us? Who are they to think they know? Who are they to think they can see below the surface to what is really going one, to what is really the truth? And even after I am told that this person or that “learned” from Native elders, has lived with “the people”, I am still suspect. After all, I am of the Yup’ik culture and would never assume to “know” in a way that I could write a definitive novel about “the North”, its people and its history.
And yet, I am open, I want to give that person, that story, a chance. This is the mindset in which I began to read Flight of the Goose. How quickly I realized I had no reason to be suspect. Oh, certainly, there were places where the fur on my back stood up and I growled, but the more I read, the more I began to understand the purpose of each idea, of each word. I was supposed to have that reaction.
It is this that makes Thomas such a brilliant ambassador. She begins knowing exactly how far apart these two worlds are. But, instead of trying to mash these two worlds together and make them get along, she uses all the bad history, all the misunderstanding, all of the differences to her advantage, and in the end, to our advantage.
Whether Native or not, we must recognize our own prejudice, our own thoughts and ideas, and be angry with the prejudice, thoughts and ideas of “them”. But, in Flight of the Goose, Thomas slowly peels those prejudices, thoughts and ideas away. And slowly, we see innocent misunderstanding instead of prejudicial malice, we see like ideas expressed in different ways instead of completely different thoughts and ideas that could never understand each other. Slowly, we see how alike we are than how different.
This does not mean, however, that being aware of this knowledge will do us any good. For anyone can read a book, hear a story. It is what you do afterward that is important. It is how you work this knowledge into your life that will be the true testament, the true way in which to honor a good story.
Perhaps in the end, this is the difference between the old ways and the new ways, whether Native or not. In the old ways, you searched out every story for wisdom and ate it to make you fat, to help you survive the winter of life. Nowadays, we tend to eat stories like popcorn and candy, it is enjoyable, but they are empty calories and the fat no longer protects us, but kills us. We are entertained, but we choose not to learn -- a fatal mistake.
At this point, it doesn’t really matter how good a book this is. I know now that you will read this story, read this book. But remember, the point isn’t to read this book, it is to make yourself a better person after the end of it. This is the only way to honor this story. It is the only way to honor the work and wisdom of Lesley Thomas . . . Native, or not." ~ Jack Dalton, Yup'ik storyteller and playwright
REVIEWS OF ROUGH WATERS
Rough Waters: Our North Pacific Small Fishermen's Battle
Kevin Bailey's 2018 Fishing Lessons: Artisanal Fisheries and the Future of Our Ocean, cites Rough Waters!
Reviews for Rough Waters in Boston Globe,
Fishermen's Voice (Paul Molyneaux)
for full length reviews scroll down
""In this impassioned, broadly researched book, (Mendenhall) plumbs today’s fraught seascape, from the West Coast’s state-managed fisheries, to federal policy, to plights in other regions." ~ Boston Globe
“Personal and poignant. . . an intimate look at what small-scale fishermen have been up against...As long as writers like Nancy Danielson Mendenhall exist, the voices of the underdogs will be heard." ~ Fishermen's Voice; Paul Molyneaux (author of The Doryman's Reflection: A Fisherman's Life)
"In Rough Waters, Mendenhall has given us an exhaustively researched book in which she presents information on privatizing management regimes from around the world, while always relating her findings back to the independent and small-boat fisherman...A definitive review of the current trend toward individual vessel quotas, individual transferable quotas, catch shares, and other versions of privatization."
~ Alan Haig-Brown in Hakai magazine
"Spellbinding... a tour de force... a masterful account (of the)
. . . tragic enclosure of the world's fisheries.”
~ Dennis Brown, author of the bestselling Salmon Wars
"Covers every angle on the North Pacific small fishermen’s battle... Mendenhall documents a way of life with exhaustive research and reporting. This history of the fishing fleet and its struggle is more intimate than what you’ll find in the news and official reports and more extensive and accurate than your grandfather’s memoirs."
"...I'm a fishery biologist. I care about fish. I also care about fishermen and the communities they support. I have read about the fishermen's problems because of declining abundance of fish, but until I read Nancy Mendenhall's book did the dry statistics become real people who work hard to get by on a shrinking resource and have to contend with policies that seem to care little for both the fishermen and the fish."
~ Jim Lichatowich, author of Salmon, People, and Place: A Biologist's Search for Salmon Recovery
"Fantastic... I am so glad these kinds of perspectives and voices are having a chance to get in print. I appreciate you taking the huge effort (I know) to research and write this important book and I will let people I know in Iceland about it."
~ Margaret Willson, author of Seawomen of Iceland: Survival on the Edge
~ Dr. David Olsen, fisheries biologist, past director of Fish and Wildlife for the U.S. Virgin Islands, member of the Caribbean Council, international consultant
"A great Alaskan book that now can be found in the library of Cambridge University in England..."
~ Lawrence Khlinovski Rockhill, Scott Polar Research Institute, Univ. of Cambridge
"Bravo! I was both delighted and impressed by (this) fine-grained and very balanced history of every stage of the struggle against privatization... Mendenhall's work serves as a much needed bridge between the ever-present critiques, and the big picture of where we need to go and what programs and tools, however imperfect, are helpful along the way. She knows her history and she tells it well, making it accessible and meaningful to a much wider audience than would otherwise have access to this intimate story."
~ Dr. Evelyn Pinkerton, Simon Fraser Univ., B.C.
"Heartwarming and heartbreaking. . . Danielson-Mendenhall comes from a long line of Norwegian commercial fishermen. . . so she writes with sensitive yet accurate profundity, in an intimacy of place that conjures many memories for me. Our story deserves to be told and is told uniquely and honestly in (this) exhaustively researched book up to the present, including insights into fish politics that most have never deigned to imagine. . ."
~ Dave Otness, Alaska fisherman and activist
“A deeply engrossing book. . . about the struggle by independent fishermen (and fisherwomen) along the Pacific coast from Oregon to Alaska. Great in terms of suggesting measures we need to fight for to win sustainable fisheries.”
~ Tim Wheeler, journalist and author of News from Rain Shadow Country
"Well-researched... offers a unique perspective... full of colorful and relevant stories which highlight life as a fisherman (and) relates the struggle of small, family-owned fishing operations against the politically savvy factory fishing fleet. This book brought me back to my time as NMFS fishery observer in the Bering Sea, while it also did a great job of capturing the high-stakes politics that have created the current fisheries landscape in Alaska. Bravo!"
~ Michael Sloan, fishery biologist
"Does an excellent job of showing how the complex pieces of our fisheries management system came to be and how they fit together. Along the way it asks the obvious question – are the assumptions this system is built on valid? Given the continued decline in fish stocks, and the economic devastation facing small fishing communities and small family fishermen this is a valid question to ask."
~ Andrew Crow, Alaska Cooperative Development Center
"Mendenhall creates a vivid profile of a classic small business venture with a long history and an uncertain future. She details its importance -- especially to small coastal communities -- its joys and rewards, threats to its survival, and the complicated interplay of groups which would control, sustain, perhaps even eliminate such ventures.
Throughout she feeds us firsthand accounts of trolling for salmon, long-lining for halibut and cod, crabbing through unstable winter ice and summer’s recent rough seas -- sometimes idyllic, sometimes frightening, always compelling: she puts us there."
~ Dr. William Keep, fisherman, English professor and book reviewer
A War Story That’s Not Over Yet
review by Paul Molyneaux in Fishermen's Voice :
"Nancy Danielson Mendenhall, who spent more than half a century in the Alaska salmon fishery, gives readers an intimate look at what small-scale fishermen have been up against in Alaska. In addition to her own experience, Mendenhall is heir to a family fishing legacy, and her book begins with stories that are personal and poignant. She describes how her family and their friends built their own boats and helped open up the commercial fisheries of the north. In addition to the commercial fisheries, she describes the importance of subsistence fisheries to Alaska and the role that fishing plays in both Native and non-Native Alaskan culture...
In the first part of her book, as Mendenhall writes with a depth of intimacy and understanding that transports the reader back to the 1960s, 70s and 80s, she hints at coming troubles. Dams, habitat destruction, increasing regulations, and competition from sport fishermen contribute to the “death by a thousand cuts” that many fishermen have experienced...
Fisheries are a vital part of Alaskan culture. Mendenhall notes that for most Americans, fisheries may occupy little more than a hazy corner of their consciousness. “It’s a different story in Alaska,” she writes, “where a recent poll found that 60% of the people still think that salmon is very important to the image of the state. Alaska is the only state that prioritizes subsistence fishing. People need to be able to get enough to eat and sell on a small scale, then commercial fishermen get their whack at the stocks, and after that, sports fishermen.”..
(Mendenhall's) stories are intimate and personal, revealing the values and cohesive spirit of the North Pacific fishing communities. But in the value system of the policy makers, things like intergenerational knowledge and cultural integrity cannot be measured in dollars, and so they are discounted...
Tolstoy once wrote that the history of battles is barely more than conjecture. Nobody knows really what the generals intended or how their orders were executed. Even those engaged in the fight have little awareness beyond the reach of their own vision. Mendenhall, after years of watching her friends and family struggle to stay in business, and many of them failing, finally recognized an institutional problem. “As I researched this book I discovered that although our federal government floods us with information promoting healthy, sustainable fisheries, its management is full of contradictions for the small fishermen, the majority…”
That’s putting it mildly, but in the second half of her book Mendenhall offers meticulously researched, and painfully detailed, analysis of how federal regulations have privatized fisheries and disenfranchised the small-scale fleet. Mendenhall’s play-by-play description of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s actions, from promoting Individual Transferable Quotas, to its unworkable programs ostensibly intended to protect small-scale fishermen and their rural communities...
She writes that the council passed a Community Quota Entity (CQE) program, intended to buy quota from large operations and sell it to communities of less than 1,500 people. But most towns could not meet the costs. Mendenhall quotes Sven Haakanson: “It cost us two million to get that community quota working. Two million.” According to Mendenhall, Haakanson’s community, Old Harbor, was the only one out of 42 that really got the CQE working for it...
The battle Mendenhall chronicles takes place throughout the Alaska and North Pacific region over the course of a hundred years, but has been most fiercely fought in the last three decades. Mendenhall’s meticulous research shows how corporate interests have taken over the pollock and crab fisheries, and how quota management has shrunk the state’s halibut and black cod fleets with little or no conservation benefit, especially in Western Alaska where the pollock fleet is allowed to kill and discard thousands of salmon and halibut, much of it underreported...
Countering the gains made by the privatizers of Alaska’s fisheries, Mendenhall notes a number of fisheries that have endured due to one fortunate circumstance or another. As in any battle, survival is a matter of luck. But the gist of Mendenhall’s book is that the surviving small-scale fisheries are the kind that should be intentionally restored and preserved...
After a certain amount of time, war stories become completely defined by the winners, but as long as writers like Nancy Danielson Mendenhall exist, the voices of the underdogs will be heard. Rough Waters: Our North Pacific Small Fishermen’s Battle, is a war story, and the battle is not over yet."
~ Fishermen's Voice, May 2016
Paul Molyneaux (author of The Doryman's Reflection)
From Dennis Brown, author of bestselling Salmon Wars:
"For any one interested in Pacific Coast fisheries, Nancy Mendenhall’s new book Rough Waters is hard to put down. Those not familiar with fisheries or fisheries politics, but interested in how neo-liberal economic policies are under-mining human societies all over the world, will also find this book a “must read”.
Mendenhall’s book is consummately researched and broad in scope--as befitting social science of the highest order. Yet her narrative is rendered with such intimate sensitivity to people, places and things at the local level so as to evoke poetry. Mendenhall provides an encyclopedic overview of not only fisheries in her home sate of Alaska, but also Washington , Oregon, New England and British Columbia. Throughout her book she weaves together the common problems facing small boat fish harvesters everywhere—including depleted fish stocks due to habitat degradation, the challenge of dealing with increasingly complicated management regulations, and the perils of declining incomes vis-a-vis increasing operating costs. Above all, Rough Waters, is a tour de force so far as exposing the insidious threat to small boat fish harvesters and coastal communities posed by a world wide governmental obsession with privatizing fish resources through Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQ) or Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQ)—or “defined catch shares” as they euphemistically dubbed by the apostles neo-liberalism who promote them.
In the final chapters of the book Mendenhall offers a sobering, but realistic, appraisal of the daunting prospects facing small boat fish harvesters and the communities that depend upon them. Her analysis is a well thought out appeal for fish harvesters to empower themselves with greater technical knowledge and organization, when dealing with management agencies, as well as the need to build alliances with NGOs and the general public. While Mendenhall’s criticism of the drive to economically redesign and privatize common property fisheries is not particularly new in fisheries literature, her first hand experience with the fishery elevates her voice to an unique and compelling stature.
Mendenhall is at her very finest in describing her years as a troller in Southeast Alaska, way back in the 1970’s. To any one her has ever fished commercially her stories will resonant to the deepest possible level. Moreover, her description of her present day participation in the subsistence fishery, based out of Nome Alaska, is seminal in pointing the way for both humans and wild creatures to sustainably co-exist in perpetuity. Her account of her own sons and their fishing adventures in small vessels in the wild expanse of Bering Sea makes for spellbinding reading.
Mendenhall exudes authenticity in the way she superbly describes the almost Will Rogers-like philosophical genius of her cousin George Morford, an Oregon troller with deep roots in the fishery. Morford’s life story in the fishery is subtly interspersed throughout the narrative, and he serves as a microcosm of the fate of fish harvesters all over the world. Both in the sense of the insidious and relentless victimization that small boat fish harvesters everywhere face because of ideology and misguided management systems, as well as for his undying sense of optimism, common to all fish harvesters. After decades of slowly being displaced from the Oregon troll fishery. Morford, late in life, rises phoenix –like and happily re-establishes himself as a troller out of Sitka, Alaska,
It is through the viva voce of individuals like George Morford, and many others, that Mendenhall is able to so thoroughly validate her overall thesis that fish harvesters are not the true threat to fish stocks the world over, as is commonly assumed. Indeed, she convincingly shows how commercial fish harvesters have become the unfortunate scapegoat victims of massive hydro-electric dams, bad forestry practices, industrial pollution, urban sprawl, over capitalized industrial fishing, to name but a few. In short, any one reading Nancy Mendenhall’s masterful account will never be able to naively look at the tragic enclosure the world’s fisheries commons in quite the same way."
~ Dennis Brown, author of bestselling Salmon Wars
from ~ Andrew Crow, Alaska Cooperative Development Center
"The world of fisheries management is about as esoteric a topic there is. Even if you have been involved in commercial fishing the gumbo of Federal and state laws, regulations, programs, mixed with mind numbing, endless commission meetings, and hearings and spiced with acronyms and bureaucratic jargon is daunting and incomprehensible. At the same time this system seems unable to deal with what most of us see as the core problem, the need to preserve our fish stocks.
Our marine resources are faced with a wide assortment of threats from overfishing, to climate change and a host of other environmental stresses. When faced with such a complex problem it often helps to look at one aspect of the whole system, a part that can serve as a canary in the coal mine a simple gauge to illustrate what is happening. In her new book Rough Waters Nancy Mendenhall focuses on the effect of modern fisheries management, especially the privatization of fisheries resources in Federal waters on small fishermen, and has found a good measure for gaging the health of the North Pacific fish stocks...
Small fishermen are the marine equivalent of family farmers. Like family farms they are the core of a romanticized image of fishing, and like family farms there is a hard economic reality behind that romantic view. The small family fishing operations on the North Pacific coast not only provided an economic anchor for coastal towns, but offered a reliable pathway for young people to earn a living. Rough Waters tells the story of how that pathway has become increasingly difficult if not impossible to follow. While telling that story Mendenhall describes the development of our current fisheries management system with its focus on privatization and industrialization of the fishing fleets.
Telling this story from the perspective of family fishermen makes the topic more interesting and human. It becomes the story of people, including Mendenhall herself, her children and cousin. Being told from this perspective it is not an objective look at management decisions which have at best underlined the demise of a way of life and at worst have hastened its end. Despite its partisan slant it does an excellent job of showing how the complex pieces of our fisheries management system came to be and how they fit together. Along the way it asks the obvious question – are the assumptions this system is built on valid? Given the continued decline in fish stocks, and the economic devastation facing small fishing communities and small family fishermen this is a valid question to ask."
~ Andrew Crow, Alaska Cooperative Development Center
Review by a professor at Simon Fraser U (Evelyn Pinkerton, 2018):
"What could be more delightful for an anthropologist/political ecologist such as myself than a book which is both ethnography and political economy? In Rough Waters, Nancy Mendenhall covers the terrain in an amazingly comprehensive way. She has an insider’s view of what it means to be a small-scale fisherperson, since her whole family has fished for generations, in Norway, Southeast Alaska, and the north Bering Sea. But she knows the fish politics of not only these areas, but also of the hot spots of privatization of fisheries: British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and New England. Her book is a testimony to the havoc wreaked on coastal communities and their fishermen by what is euphemistically called “fleet rationalization” (getting rid of the small boats) and privatization in the form of Individual Transferable Quotas.
But this book is so much more than that. Mendenhall has kept track of the intricacies of policy-making, so she understands at the deepest level how the world of fisheries politics has evolved, and how small-scale fishermen have miraculously survived against all odds by sheer determination. What is most impressive is the maturity and balanced nature of her analysis, which seeks to understand and point ways through the morass, appreciate what has been accomplished, and suggest what needs to happen next.
For example, while exploring the difficulty of small-scale fishermen in getting the support they needed in the first decade of Alaska’s Community Development Quota program, she also shows how much they eventually benefited from CDQs, the best thing that could have happened to them.
Thus Mendenhall’s work serves as a much needed bridge between the ever-present critiques, and the big picture of where we need to go and what programs and tools, however imperfect, are helpful along the way. She knows her history and she tells it well, making it accessible and meaningful to a much wider audience than would otherwise have access to this intimate story."
~ Dr. Evelyn Pinkerton, Simon Fraser Univ. B.C.
Reviews of Orchards of Eden
Orchards of Eden is cited heavily in a book by Hanford History Project (Nowhere to Remember, WSU Press, 2018)
"A captivating journal about a place and the people who were much like the hardy folks who settled here and built up our Valley. . . rich, familial stories. . . “
~ Walla Walla Bulletin
"An excellent social history of the White Bluffs settlement that includes the families of Walt Grisham and Alene Clarke (who are featured in Arid Lands)
“Orchards of Eden is a wonderful book, and will be a valuable reference for me. I took scads of notes. I am so glad that Mendenhall recorded this history in such detail and with great compassion. Truly a gift to future generations of Northwesterners—this is where we came from. It's like a Steinbeck novel, only true.”
~ Kevin M. Bailey, author of Fishing Lessons: Artisanal Fisheries and the Future of Our Oceans; and Billion-Dollar Fish: The Untold Story of Alaska Pollock
"A fascinating history of an early irrigation project in Washington State, based on the letters, memoirs and interviews of a White Bluffs family who tell not just of their farming experience but of the community they helped build and of the political/economic forces that influenced their successes and failures.
In spite of the White Bluff farming families' resolve to turn the desert into an Eden, the story of how their efforts were impacted by the railroads and power monopolies and by the US government itself, including the devastating Hanford Atomic Project, makes this book an important contribution to Washington State history."
~ Margaret Hamilton Wood, PhD, former resident of Columbia Basin towns
"At last--the little-known story of the orchard-based communities of the Priest Rapids Valley of Washington State before the devastating effect of the World War II Hanford Project...This book needed to be written for everyone who loves the Pacific Northwest and cares about its history."
~ Marthiel O'Larey, historian and descendant of White Bluffs settlers
"Vivid... dramatizes a great American tragedy... Mendenhall writes sympathetically of the people’s struggle to build a viable and civilized rural community.”
~ Tim Wheeler, journalist and author of News from Rain Shadow Country
"Reads like a novel...Tells in vivid detail the birth, maturation and death of a tiny desert town through the eyes of one family. Their dream lasted from 1907 until the confiscation of their land for the Manhattan Project. An economic balance sheet would say that their dream failed, but this richly woven human story...tells a different tale."
~ Dr. William Keep, college professor, desert gardener and Hanford Reach devotee
"Does for the small farmers of America what 'The Naked and the Dead' did for the foot soldiers of WWII..." ~Thomas Coons, teacher of American history, retired
“Informative and interesting. . . Orchards of Eden is an engaging family history which goes far beyond the story of one family to illustrate an historical period and the economic system that many small farmers struggled with. The author began with a wealth of information saved in her grandparents' letters which she augmented through interviews. Her story has been further informed by narratives of other families from the area as well as research of historical resources. . . I found her description of the social structure of White Bluffs particularly fascinating. She used her grandmother and great-grandmother's experiences in that society as examples to illustrate the role of women in building social cohesion in rural America. Children played an essential role in the economic survival of farming families. I heartily recommend this book for people interested in history of the West or family stories.”
~ Carlyln Syvanen, ret. English teacher, Sequim, WA
"I was born in Stevens County, WA, in 1916. My father owned a large sheep ranch...The story "Orchards of Eden" meant so much to me because I knew White Bluffs and the surrounding area, the Wheeler family, and their friends....I found fascinating (this) account of their life there, as well as the history of the hardworking orchardists and their irrigation travails."
~ Oma Singer, Vancouver, WA
"Vivid! Authentic! The life of an isolated river community before the Hanford Project ushered in the firestorm of the atomic age...The whole Columbia River should be declared a National Monument."
~ Helen Wheeler Hastay, educator, raised in settlement of White Bluffs
“An honest and insightful picture of the life of small farming when it was still possible. The respectable work, pride in crops, love of surroundings, and rich social life of a small rural community--all that good made the strangling economics endurable for families. If we could only reconstruct it now, with a decent return!"
~ Steven Vause, former Washington State dairy farmer and retired teacher
"Mendenhall does a great job of combining the rich personal history of an extended family with the history of an early irrigation project and the social/economic issues facing small farmers of that day."
~ Susan Wheeler, descendant of 1907 White Bluff settlers
"A valuable and engrossing account of pioneering history. In the present generation of high technology and corporate lifestyles, Mendenhall recounts a time when sweat, idealism and individuality mattered. It is a priceless gift to former residents of the region and for all of us who value the histories of American settlers."
~ Reader review at Amazon
From Walla Walla Bulletin:
‘Orchards of Eden’ tells of turn-of-last-century settlers...
“When I first drove across Eastern Washington in 1977, following the Columbia River, vast sections of it were scrub land. Since then, large orchards and vineyards have replaced barren tracts of sand, rocks and sagebrush, with the aid of irrigation. Across the Hanford Reach in no-man’s land, lies a place once inhabited by a small town that was settled at the turn of the last century. The settlers dreamed of growing things with irrigation. The town had a bank, a ferry landing, farmhouses, an orchard, a pumphouse and 40 years of Wheeler family history. The rich, familial stories became author Nancy Mendenhall’s legacy. She remembers the area from early childhood and writes about it in “Orchards of Eden: White Bluffs on the Columbia, 1907-1943.”
Her grandparents’ Willowbank Farm was north of town. She draws from a wealth of letters written by her grandfather and other family members, interviews of neighbors and other historical information, to relate the story of communities along the Priest Rapids Valley of the Columbia River and the tiny orchard town of White Bluffs. Frank Wheeler, Nancy’s brick mason grandfather, was drawn to the agricultural dreams of greening Eastern Washington through irrigation during the early 1900s. Although he had no farming experience, he brought his wife and children to an uncertain life in the desert.
Despite challenges of weather, the governmental climate, rising and falling market prices and the economy, the family and the community thrived for nearly 40 years. Yet they were forced to leave behind their labor when the land was confiscated for the Manhattan Project during World War II. Nancy simply intended to preserve her family’s memories, but she also captured an era of near modern-day pioneers who wrestled with isolation, the elements, fickle markets, power companies, banks, the railroad, the Depression, the advent of World War II, economics, politics and perseverance. She produced a captivating journal about a place and the people who were much like the hardy folks who settled here and built up our Valley."
~ Walla Walla Bulletin, (Annie Charnely Eveland)
by Tony Nakazawa, The Journal of Rural and Community Development:
"The Orchards of Eden story is a quick read, albeit almost 500 pages, and gives us important insights on community infrastructure and community involvement. The setting of Orchards of Eden is the 1906 land boom that opened up the Eastern Washington desert’s potential to irrigated farming.This well documented historical story of the Shaw-Wheeler family’s efforts to find the American dream through land ownership, farming/orchards, also chronicled the community’s likely responses to government efforts to stimulate/support such rural development programs by such agencies as the Bureau of Reclamation, Agricultural Extension (now Cooperative Extension), rural electrification, railroads, and so forth. While the beginnings of the story of White Bluffs is almost 100 years old, being able to live through this community’s story will give many of us involved today as educators and policy makers a better perspective on the timeless aspects of the community development process."
~ Tony Nakazawa, The Journal of Rural and Community Development
reviews of Moving Toward Harmony
and some history of the original Far Eastern Press
"Eric Oberg's Moving Toward Harmony is not a martial arts handbook... more an illustrated book of poetry. Oberg strives to help readers achieve a better understanding of self. Simple and reflective, the text alternates with black and white photos of practitioners of Aikido. With over 18 years of training under his belt. Oberg gives an insightful look into the emotional and spiritual space of this Japanese martial art. If you're looking for step-by-step instructions or flashy photos and content, look elsewhere. But if you're inclined to learn the Aikido dojo and its philosophy on non-violence as a way of life this is a good place to start." ~ Mavin Magazine
From an interview with UW News:
"Eric Oberg has been moving toward harmony for about 20 years, and wanted to share something of his journey with others. That’s why he’s written a book of the same name, Moving Toward Harmony, which he describes as “a meditation on the principles of aikido.”
Aikido is the Japanese martial art that Oberg... has been studying and teaching since he was 19. The fact that he has a book on the subject goes back to his grandfather, Henry Tatsumi, who was connected with the UW for more than 35 years.
Tatsumi, who earned two degrees at the University and taught Japanese language here, published his own language textbook under the Far Eastern Press imprint.
'Far Eastern Press was really a foot-operated printing press in my grandfather’s study,' Oberg says. 'He set the metal type himself. I revived the Far Eastern Press name to publish my book, but I’ve used more modern methods.' "
Indie publisher in Seattle: Our Gallery
Lesley Thomas and Eric Oberg are owners (and workforce) of our micro-press
Far Eastern Press logo
The Tatsumi family crest
We used the logo of the original Far Eastern Press of Eric's grandfather, who published college textbooks in Seattle in the 60s. To see more of that history, scroll down
a fan of Orchards of Eden and Storytellers at the Columbia River
Frank Meek, 2020, photo by Tim Wheeler
Meek is an original resident of the White Bluffs settlement (evicted in 1943 to make way for the Manhattan Project--which is one of the big themes in both of Mendenhall's books set on the Columbia River.
Mendenhall also spent her childhood in White Bluffs at her grandparents' farm.
Lesley's reading at University of AK
Flight of the Goose for Earth Day
Bellingham Weekly, Environmental Bookshelf, 2006
new titles celebrating (and mourning) Planet Earth
in Nome, Alaska
Feb 24, 2016 in Nome, Rough Waters
Eric Oberg, right, demonstrates an aikido move on Rupert Berk (photo by Neal Oberg).
From his book Moving Toward Harmony
"Eric Oberg's Moving Toward Harmony is not a martial arts handbook. More an illustrated book of poetry." ~ Mavin Magazine