Richard Nelson


Richard Nelson is a cultural anthropologist and creative nonfiction writer whose work focuses on human relationships to the natural world. He is also the Executive Producer, Writer, and Narrator for Encounters, a weekly, half-hour radio series exploring the natural world and human relationships to the environment in Alaska. Encounters programs have been broadcast on public radio stations throughout Alaska since January, 2004.

He was born in Madison, Wisconsin, attended the University of Wisconsin, received a doctorate in Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from the University of Alaska Southeast in 2004.

Nelson spent many years studying the connections between people and nature in Alaskan Eskimo and Athabaskan Indian villages. Based on these experiences he wrote Hunters of the Northern Ice, Hunters of the Northern Forest, Shadow of the Hunter, Make Prayers to the Raven, and The Athabaskans. He was Associate Producer and Writer for an awardwinning Public Television series about Koyukon Indian life, titled Make Prayers to the Raven, narrated by Barry Lopez.

His book The Island Within, a personal journey into the natural world surrounding his home, received the John Burroughs Award for nature writing. A subsequent book, Heart and Blood: Living with Deer in America, which explores the complex and often controversial relationships between people and deer, received the 1998 Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award.

Nelson is also co-author (with Barry Lopez and Terry Tempest Williams) of Patriotism and the American Land. This book explores the roots of allegiance to land in Native American traditions, recognizes the vital importance of standing up for protection of our sustaining environment, and celebrates conservation as the ultimate form of patriotism.

Richard Nelson’s work has also appeared in Life, Harpers, Outside, Sports Afield, Orion, Audubon, Wilderness, Pacific Discovery, Preservation, Northern Lights, Parabola, Utne Reader, the Los Angeles Times, and numerous anthologies.

He was granted a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1991 and received the 1995 Lannan Literary Award for creative nonfiction writing. In 1999-2001 he served as the Alaska State Writer (this state’s equivalent of Poet Laureate). He holds an Affiliate Professorship at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Nelson’s life centers around wildlife watching, hiking, surfing, kayaking, subsistence hunting and fishing, and camping in the wildlands and waterways near his home in southeastern Alaska. He spends considerable time volunteering for a locally-based conservation group that focuses on protection of the old-growth rainforest in southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.



Patriotism and the American Land. (with Barry Lopez and Terry Tempest Williams). Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Orion Society, 2002.

Heart and Blood: Living with Deer in America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.

The Island Within. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1989; New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Taped version by Audio Press, 1991.

Make Prayers to the Raven: A Koyukon View of the Northern Forest. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

The Athabaskans: People of the Boreal Forest. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Museum, 1983.

Shadow of the Hunter: Stories of Eskimo Life. Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Hunters of the Northern Forest: Designs for Survival Among the Alaskan Kutchin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.

Hunters of the Northern Ice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969.



Last updated: June 2009


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