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Ruth Sandvik

Ruth Sandvik: Interview Outline: Section 3

Father hired as a cook in Noorvik and mother worked in Noorvik hospital

Tape Reference Number: H2002-09-11
Ruth Blankenship-Sandvik talks with Bill Schneider and Eileen Devinney in Kiana, Alaska on February 28, 2002.

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Bill Schneider: So on the establishment of -- of your father's store here, you moved from Selawik?

Ruth Sandvik: We moved from Selawik (map), yes. My father came up in the Army into Tanana and guided the -- the first geologists to explore the country from Nenana clear up to Point Barrow -- Phillip Smith and that group. And then on his -- on one of the trips where he was -- where he was returning, they used -- they walked and had pack dogs. And on the -- on one of their last trips back from the Barrow area, they went by way of Noorvik (map) and there was a hospital there. And they needed a cook, and I don't know that my dad was particularly a cook, but they hired him. And my mother was working there in the -- in the hospital. At that time you probably know that the Friends Church established a -- established a hospital there, and they have -- and they staffed it with doctors and nurses. They were oft -- they were oft -- always short of nurses, so they -- my mother was one of the ones that they trained right there in the hospital. So when she left there and wherever she moved, and especially over here, she was on call night and day for anything, any mishaps in the village. She delivered, I would say, 90 percent of the -- of the births around -- around here. And she didn't -- I mean, there were no antibiotics, of course, at that time. So I remember her using flax seed to pull out infections and pus and this sort of thing from carbuncles.

I recall an instant where a kid, he lives next door, stuck a match in a drum and blew himself up. And I recall there was, like, a teacher locally and my mother. And the teacher gave up, but my mother kept sucking out the phlegm and stuff that built up in his lungs. And she worked all night. I know that she was still doing it at six o'clock in the morning. And he survived.

I recall another time someone had blood poisoning, and I don't know how you cure blood poisoning, but she lanced something and put it -- I don't know what powers flax seed has, but I mean, I -- I was too little to even know what -- what she was doing.

But that was -- that was what she did around -- well, he met her, and then they lived other places, went to Selawik (map), and then moved over here. And then he bought out somebody's store here, a Mrs. Vernon's store.

Bill Schneider: And what was her name?

Ruth Sandvik: Mrs. Vernon.

Bill Schneider: No, your mom's name.

Ruth Sandvik: Oh. Nellie, Nellie Flood.

Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Uh-hum.

Ruth Sandvik: And that -- and that was her stepfather's name. We -- I -- we don't -- we have no knowledge of her father.

Bill Schneider: Uh-hum.

Ruth Sandvik: Of her biological father.

Bill Schneider: Boy, she sounds like quite a woman.

Ruth Sandvik: Well, I -- I think they -- I think they really trained them because they were short of -- they were short of -- of nurses. And I think they just took native women in and -- and... Well, for instance, they helped the doctors. I don't -- I mean, handing instruments during -- and they seemed to do it -- not my mother, but I mean the doctors did a lot of appendectomies. I never hear of so much being done now, but they did at that time.

Bill Schneider: Yeah, that's interesting.

Ruth Sandvik: Uh-hum.

Bill Schneider: I don't hear about that much.

Ruth Sandvik: Uh-hum.

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