Belle Herbert is a Gwich'in Athabaskan woman who lives in the village of Chalkyitsik, Alaska, on the Black River. According to conflicting birth records, she is between 105 and 127 years old. Her son died in 1964 at the age of 68; so Belle may well have seen more than 120 springtimes. People in the Yukon Flats refer to her as Belle, so that is how we will refer to her [here].
I lived in Fort Yukon for some years and often heard people mention Belle and her stories. In the fall of 1979, the Alaska Humanities Forum provided us with money to do a series of recordings with Belle telling her life story. I made several trips to Chalkyitsik to talk with her; the accounts in this book have been transcribed from the recordings of those meetings.