Oral History Interviews:

Norm Sutliffe

Norm Sutliffe grew up in the Adirondack Mountains of up-state New York. He joined the Merchant Marine shortly after high school. When he left that occupation a couple years later, Sutliffe headed to Alaska and has lived in Kodiak ever since.

Sutliffe's first job in Alaska was as a cook on a boat. He got the position by claiming to be "the best cook in the whole territory" even though he had never worked in that capacity. Norm regularly harvested seagull eggs and trout to bolster the boat's rations.

Norm later tried his hand at commercial fishing, with mixed results. He subsequently got a job as a carpenter, which led him to create a small construction company and lumber yard. Sutliffe lost his store and entire inventory in the tidal wave that hit Kodiak following the 1964 earthquake. He re-built with the help of a friendly government agent and his own ability to bluff an entire agency.

Norm was a devoted hunter and fisherman. He fed his family from the bounty of the Kodiak region. He also hunted bears to protect the livestock of the ranchers on the northern portion of the island. Sutliffe recalls the creation of what would eventually become the Kodiak Wildlife Refuge, which was designed to protect the interests of both the bears and the humans. The giant bears of the region became a lifelong focus for this dedicated outdoorsman.

Sutliffe served on the state's Guide Board for several years in the 1960's. He appreciated the commitment of the prospective guides who traveled from the far corners of the state to obtain a license. Norm did what he could to help the hard work and honesty of those who deserved it. However, he cancelled licenses of those few guides who deserved that fate, as well.

Norm's story-telling ability and hearty laugh make his recollections of life on Kodiak Island captivating for the listener from the beginning to the end of this entertaining interview.

Click here for excerpt from Sutliffe interview (MP3)

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