MAY 29, 1983

INUPIAQ ADA BLACKJACK DIED–MAROONED OFF SIBERIA FOR TWO YEARS IN THE 1920S

Born in Solomon, Alaska, May 10, 1898, Ada was hired in 1921 as a seamstress with a 4-man expedition aimed at claiming Russia’s Wrangel Island for either Canada or the U.S.  Having a son with tuberculosis, she needed money.  When other Native families backed out, the expedition got Ada to stay by promising to replace her between Nome and Wrangel.  She was not replaced.  The expedition ship, Silver Wave, arrived at Wrangel on September 16, 1921.  Expecting to live off the land for 2 years, the expedition only took 6 months of supplies.  Through 1922, supply boats failed to reach the island due to ice.  On January 8, 1923, 2 men–Knight & Crawford–left for Siberia for help, but returned when Knight became sick.  On January 28, Crawford, Mauer & Galle left for Siberia, but were never seen again.  Knight died in the spring leaving Blackjack alone.  She was finally rescued August 19, 1923.  Ada died in Palmer, Alaska.  Her son had a plaque mounted on her grave stating simply: “The heroine of Wrangel Island.”

Source:  Alexander J. McClanahan, “The Heroine of Wrangel Island,” Lit Site Alaska.  Retrieved 6/30/2020, http://www.litsitealaska.org/index.cfm?section=History-and-Culture&page=Life-in-Alaska&viewpost=2&ContentId=850
Photo:  Author unknown, circa 1921. Public Domain.

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