Richard Nelson (author)

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Richard Nelson
Born1941 (age 77–78)
Wisconsin, United States
OccupationWriter, author
GenreNon-fiction, anthropology

Richard K. Nelson (1941-2019[1]) was an American cultural anthropologist and writer. His work has focused primarily on the indigenous cultures of Alaska and, more generally, the relationships between people and nature. He is the host to a public radio series called Encounters aired nationally.


Nelson was born and raised in Wisconsin, attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and received his Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He lived for extended periods in Athabaskan and Alaskan Eskimo villages, experiences which inspired his earliest works, including Hunters of the Northern Ice, Hunters of the Northern Forests, Shadow of the Hunter, and The Athabaskans.

With his book Make Prayers to the Raven about the Koyukon people of Alaska's boreal forest, Nelson moved from anthropological studies to a more literary style. The book was the basis for a five-part public television series, for which Nelson served as writer and associate producer.

Nelson's next book, The Island Within, won the John Burroughs Medal for distinguished natural history writing. He has also received the Lannan Literary Award for creative nonfiction writing and, from 1999–2001, served as the Alaska State Writer Laureate (the state's equivalent of a poet laureate).[2]

Nelson's more recent works include Heart and Blood: Living with Deer in America and Patriotism and the American Land (book two in The New Patriotism Series) with Barry Lopez and Terry Tempest Williams. He is also an activist working to protect old-growth rainforest in Alaska's Tongass National Forest and was a member of the Harriman Alaska Expedition retraced. He currently hosts the syndicated radio show Encounters that is produced with KCAW-FM. He lived in Sitka, Alaska.


  1. ^ Staff, AKPM (2019-11-06). "Richard Nelson, Sitka-based writer and "Encounters" radio host, has died". Alaska Public Media. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  2. ^ Writer laureate list Archived 2006-10-07 at the Wayback Machine