This is the text of the graphic essay “Flu in the Arctic” by Coyote Shook. Find the original post here and view the full PDF here.

Title Panel: Flu in the Arctic: Influenza in Alaska, 1918 ~Coyote Shook~ [Black and white sketch drawing of a moose skull resting on a hill with trees, water, and mountains in the background.]

Panel 1: October of 1918: Influenza arrives in AK [Two people in coats, hats, and face masks stand in front of hills, trees, and telephone lines.]

Panel 2: “While Spanish Influenza will not come to Alaska as quickly as it spread across the continent, it will be here in time,” said Dr. L.O. Sloane, public health officer, this morning. -The Alaska Daily Empire, Oct. 5, 1918 [A person in a snowsuit holds a rifle. They are standing in front of a log cabin with snowdrifts piled up to the windows. Mountains and trees are in the background.]

Panel 3: The Empire’s Readers did not have to wait long. By Oct. 14, the paper reported 4 cases in Juneau. [The dome of a Russian Orthodox church with tree-covered hills and snowy mountains in the background.]

Panel 4: On Oct. 20, 36 people arrived in Nome on the steamship Victoria. [Three women in coats, hats, and scarves stand on a ship.]

Panel 5: Though mail bags were fumigated, the sickness was carried across western & northern Alaska, likely following postal & mining trails. [A sled pulled by dogs travels past a river and trees.]

Panel 6: [A white hare sits on a pile of wood planks.]

Panel 7: The impact was immediate. [Empty coffins rest against a brick building. A white hare sits on wood planks in the foreground, facing the coffins.]

Panel 8: This was especially true for Indigenous communities. [Two Indigenous women stand on blankets in front of a building and a drying rack full of fish.]

Panel 9: By Nov. 13, Nome reported 126 deaths for Indigenous people & 12 deaths in the white community. [Five doctors and nurses stand inside a brick building.]

Panel 10: “Nome, Dec. 21- Deaths among the Native population on the Seward Peninsula from the Spanish influenza is estimated at 1000. Entire villages of adults have been wiped out. Children are the principal survivors…” Alaska Daily Empire, Dec. 21, 1918 [In the foreground, about a dozen crosses marking burial plots. In the background, a boat on a large body of water with mountains behind.]

Panel 11: Reports surfaced of contained outbreaks in mining communities. [A person wearing a mask, a hat, and boots kneels in the foreground, with trees in the background.]

Panel 12: Railroad construction was suspended. Alaskans were largely advised to wear masks, observe quarantines, and find some joy in the number of recoveries printed in the newspapers. [A woman wearing a head scarf and a mask is inside a building, with a gas lamp behind her.]

Panel 13: [A figure stands on a stone wall near an American flag, facing a rushing body of water.]

Panel 14: [A nurse hangs blankets out to dry in front of a building.]

Panel 15: [A person wearing a mask and holding a spade stands inside a grave, looking into the distance.]

Panel 16: [A person with a dog and a rifle stands at the end of a road. A speech bubble reads, “Quarantine! Turn around.” Across from them is a person seated on a pile of rocks. Trees and mountains are in the background.]

Panel 17: Up to 90% of some Indigenous communities died of sickness, cold, & starvation, leaving children at the mercy of white teachers, clergy, & missionaries. [A small fishing boat rests on the shore.]

Panel 18: Bodies were found decaying inside Inuit homes, with survivors huddling to corpses for warmth. [Around five pairs of different sized boots are lined up inside a building.]

Panel 19: Meanwhile, doctors in Anchorage & Juneau described the epidemic as “mild.” [Two people wearing long coats and black veils over their faces stand at a street corner, with a row of storefronts behind them.]

Panel 20: “All this talk about Spanish influenza is nonsense… it is the old fashioned influenza, & it started a little earlier this year…” [A women wearing a face mask, gloves, and an apron stands behind a store counter. A row of bottles and three “out of stock” signs sit on shelves behind her.]

Panel 21: There is nothing to be scared about in this epidemic… [Five bodies under sheets rest on a wood floor.]

Panel 22: This disease is easily curable & should not be made the means of German propaganda or frightfulness…” -Dr. Benjamin Briggs, the Alaska Daily Empire Oct. 14, 1918. [A bear stands on four legs in a grove of trees, with a drying rack full of fish behind.]

Panel 23: [Seven Indigenous children of different ages stand in front of a building with a sign that reads, “St. Anne’s Orphanage.”]

Panel 24: [A grouping of structures, with no one around.]

Panel 25: [Two cats inspect a beached whale.]

Coyote Shook
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Coyote Shook is a PhD student in American Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. Their research examines intersections between medicine, disability history, and agriculture science in Gilded Age and Progressive Era America, specifically the eugenics and euthenics movements and their use of agriculture editorials and state fairs to promote the “construction” of perfect bodies. Other essays have included an analysis of the influence of euthenics and the home economics movement in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s poultry farming editorials for The Missouri Ruralist, amputation and prosthetic limb fundraising in the wake of the 1888 Schoolhouse Blizzard, the overlapping rise of Better Babies/ Fitter Families contests and the dairy advertising through butter sculptures at midwestern state fairs, and the material history of the 4H Club on American Indian reservations, all of which they have written in graphic essay format. They have an MA in Gender Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and an MS in English Education from Fordham University. They’re a Fulbright Scholar (Poland, 2014) and a State Fair of Texas blue ribbon-winning homecook.

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