Left: Gallery view – photograph by Brian Wallace. Right top: Former NN Cannery winterman, Grant “Brownie” Brown drives his Three-Wheeler with an umbrella to the Mess Hall, 1979. Tom Connelly private collection. Right bottom: Pick up at the airport, ca. 1988. Steve Schapansky private collection.
"Usually, in the summertime, when the fishing season starts, I put a basket on the front of the 3-wheeler. '...' The main reason I put the basket on my 3-wheeler is so I can haul fish down the beach from our nets."
— Rodney Alto, South Naknek, 1978
Introduced by Honda in the early 1970s and advertised as “to play,” the ATC 90 or “the three-wheeler” transformed working life in Bristol Bay.
Three-wheelers were relatively inexpensive and allowed villagers to travel across tundra and down beaches to hunt game.
But the vehicle’s real value came in the summer when local people used three-wheelers to check setnets, pack fish, pull nets, and do other summertime chores.
Representatives from the Honda Corporation visited South Naknek to learn how villagers used the vehicle for work, leading to new models, racks, and trailers.
There were many iterations of three-wheelers, including the Honda 250 and the “Big Red” in 1982. But in 1988, due to high accounts of injury and death from accidents, the manufacturing of three-wheelers was banned.
By then, Honda had introduced the four-wheeler, quickly embraced by Bristol Bay residents.
Four-Wheelers Replace Three-Wheelers
Four-wheelers are as common now in Bristol Bay villages as cars are in the Lower 48. Today, they are as recognizable an icon as the sled dogs they replaced for some of the more traditional work of Village life.
But ATVs in Bristol Bay are not just for work. As high school students David Hodgkins and Rodney Alto confirmed in 1978, “people love to have fun with them too.”