Jul 24, 2006

JUNEAU, Alaska: The interview starts with a long string of apologies. We forgot the fish.

Traditionally, one brings the tribal elders a fresh salmon. Especially if one is a journalist, a suspect breed.

The Tlingit have the most stringent intellectual-copyright concepts on earth, I'd wager. To them, a tale is a present, bestowed from one person to another. Re-gifting is a serious offense.

"These are not your stories to tell," they stress – for about three hours.

Finally, as Edward and I scrabble to catch the ferry, the elders relent somewhat: "We do not like writers, but we need them to communicate about our culture to the wider world."

I'm honored and irritated and driving about 20 miles over the speed limit to return the rental car, all at once.

That's my story. And I'm sticking to it.

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