Fifty Miles from Tomorrow by William L. Iggiagruk Hensley
A Memoir of Alaska and the Real People

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Nunavut tigummiun!Hold on to the land! It was just fifty years ago that the territory of Alaska officially became the state of Alaska. But no matter who has staked their claim to the land, it has always had a way of enveloping souls in its vast, icy embrace. For William L. Iggiagruk Hensley, Alaska has been his home, his identity, and his cause. Born on the shores of Kotzebue Sound, twenty-nine miles north of the Arctic Circle, he was raised to live the traditional, seminomadic life that his Iñupiaq ancestors had lived for thousands of years. It was a life of cold and of constant effort, but Hensley’s people also reaped the bounty that nature provided. In Fifty Miles from Tomorrow, Hensley offers us the rare chance to immerse ourselves in a firsthand account of growing up Native Alaskan. There have been books written about Alaska, but they’ve been written by Outsiders, settlers. Hensley’s memoir of life on the tundra offers an entirely new perspective, and his stories are captivating, as is his account of his devotion to the Alaska Native land claims movement. As a young man, Hensley was sent by missionaries to the Lower Forty-eight so he could pursue an education. While studying there, he discovered that the land Native Alaskans had occupied and, to all intents and purposes, owned for millennia was being snatched away from them. Hensley decided to fight back.  In 1971, after years of Hensley’s tireless lobbying, the United States government set aside 44 million acres and nearly $1 billion for use by Alaska’s native peoples. Unlike their relatives to the south, the Alaskan peoples would be able to take charge of their economic and political destiny. The landmark decision did not come overnight and was certainly not the making of any one person. But it was Hensley who gave voice to the cause and made it real. Fifty Miles from Tomorrow is not only the memoir of one man; it is also a fascinating testament to the resilience of the Alaskan ilitqusiat, the Alaskan spirit.

About William L. Iggiagruk Hensley

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William L. Iggiagruk Hensley was a founder of the Northwest Alaska Native Association and spent twenty years working for its successor, the Iñuit-owned NANA Regional Corporation. He also helped establish the Alaska Federation of Natives in 1966 and has served as its director, executive director, president, and cochair. He spent ten years in the Alaska state legislature as a representative and senator, and recently retired from his position in Washington, D.C., as manager of federal government relations for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. Hensley and his wife, Abigale, live in Anchorage, where—now an Iñupiat elder—he is the chair of the First Alaskans Institute.
Published March 2, 2010 by Sarah Crichton Books. 288 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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A longtime activist for Native rights in Alaska shares his remarkable journey.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Fifty Miles from Tomorrow: A ...

The New York Times

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With his memoir of Alaska, the Inupiat elder William L. Iggiagruk Hensley offers a coming-of-age story for a state and a people.

Jan 23 2009 | Read Full Review of Fifty Miles from Tomorrow: A ...

The New York Times

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In his often harrowing new memoir, William L. Iggiagruk Hensley recounts growing up in a Native Alaskan family in the far north of the state.

Jan 28 2009 | Read Full Review of Fifty Miles from Tomorrow: A ...

Publishers Weekly

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Although this fascinating memoir is set hundreds of |miles from where most Americans have ever dared to travel, Hensley brings to life this “little-known part of America” through myriad

Oct 27 2008 | Read Full Review of Fifty Miles from Tomorrow: A ...

Book Forum

With what he describes as an excess of passion and a profound sense of optimism, he served two terms in the state legislature, helped found the Northwest Alaska Native Association and the Alaska Federation of Natives, and assumed leadership of the Alaska Village Electrical Cooperative—all at more...

Jun 01 2009 | Read Full Review of Fifty Miles from Tomorrow: A ...

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