Blackjack, Ada, 1898-1983



Ada Blackjack (née Delutuk) was the sole survivor of Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s 1921 Wrangel Island Expedition. Born May 10, 1898 on an Iñupiat settlement in Spruce Creek, Alaska, she was sent to a Methodist mission school in Nome as a young girl. At sixteen, she married Jack Blackjack and had three children with him. They divorced when she was twenty-two, leaving Ada destitute and forced to put her surviving son in an orphanage. She made a meager living doing sewing and housework for miners in Nome, where she was eventually hired to go on the Wrangel Island expedition. During the expedition, she suffered under the harsh conditions of the Arctic, loneliness and longing for her family, and mistreatment by the other expedition members. After two harrowing years on Wrangel Island, she was rescued in September 1923; she was 25. Upon her return, she moved to Seattle with her son Bennett and lived a quiet life, despite a media circus surrounding the men who had died on the expedition. She remarried and had another son, Billy. Eventually, she returned to the Arctic where she lived until her death in 1983; she died in Palmer, Alaska at the age of 85.

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