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Learning To Like Muktuk

Penelope Easton's memoir on working with native communities in territorial Alaska

Penelope Easton
Credit OSU Press
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Penelope Easton

Penelope Easton ventured to the Alaskan territory as a young woman in 1948. It would have been an intimidating move for many young women in that era. But for Easton, the move was just another in a series of adventures across the globe.

After her military service, spent mostly in India, she was recruited as a nutritionist to assist with developing dietary plans for native populations. She worked in hospitals and children's homes.

Easton quickly recognized the cultural barriers to providing assistance in the territory. Explorers did not always acknowledge the wisdom of the native populations. "The polar bear liver has enough vitamin A...to be poisonous," she said. But the explorers would eat it anyway.

Host Frank Stasio talks with 91-year-old Easton about the journey and her recent return to Alaska. She will speak at McIntyres Books in Pittsboro on February 15th at 2 p.m. She will teach a class on Alaskan foods at Southern Season Cooking School in Chapel Hill on April 10th at noon. 

Laura Lee was the managing editor of The State of Things until mid February 2017. Born and raised in Monroe, North Carolina, Laura returned to the Old North state in 2013 after several years in Washington, DC. She received her B.A. in political science and international studies from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2002 and her J.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law in 2007.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.