Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

men unloading fish at cannery

The people of Bristol Bay have long depended on the region’s salmon fisheries. This project contains oral history interviews with seven longtime residents of Dillingham, Alaska in the Bristol Bay region who talk about their involvement in fishing and their efforts to address fisheries management and resource issues over the years. They also reflect on the most significant changes they have witnessed during their lifetimes, and look to the future to offer perspectives for young people today. The project explores how livelihoods connected to the environment have both continued and changed in Bristol Bay over time. 

The oral history project was conducted between 2013 and 2015 by Karen Hebert, who at the time was an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University. The Project Jukebox was completed in May 2016 by Karen Brewster of the Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Funding for this project was generously provided by the National Science Foundation’s Arctic Social Sciences program and by Yale University’s MacMillan Center.

People

Mary Ann Johnson Mary Ann Johnson

Mary Ann Johnson lives in Dillingham, Alaska. She was born in 1940 to Socally and Sassa A. Johnson Wallona. Her siblings are Connie Timmerman, Carol Davidson, Phillip and Leroy Wallona, Judy Samuelsen, Rose Loera, and the late Emma Ann Nicholson. In December 1958, Mary Ann married William P. Johnson. Together they have had 5 children, 13 grandchildren, and 14 great grandchildren. Mary Ann attended school in Dillingham and graduated from Dillingham High School. For many years in the 1960’s... Read More

William Johnson William Johnson

William P. Johnson lives in Dillingham, Alaska. He was born in 1938 in Igushik, Alaska to Carl W. Johnson and Mary (Gosadak) (Johnson) Tilden. In May 1958, William graduated with the last class of the Dillingham Territorial High School. In December 1958, he married Mary Ann Wallona. Together they have had 5 children, 13 grandchildren, and 14 great grandchildren. William has been involved in commercial fishing ever since he could pick a fish. He helped his mother with her set net sites in... Read More

Joanne Nelson Joanne Nelson

Ethel Joanne Nelson lives in Dillingham, Alaska. She was born in Nampa, Idaho in 1935 to Jacob Howard Reynolds and Mary Margaret (Mitchell) Reynolds, the second child in a family of eight. She first came to Alaska in 1952, when she worked at a cannery in Dillingham for the summer. She married George Nelson in 1953, and in 1954 returned to Dillingham, where she has lived ever since. She and George have had six children, and now have 16 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. Joanne and... Read More

Ofi Olson Hjalmar "Ofi" Olson

Hjalmar E. "Ofi" Olson was born in 1939 in Kanakanak, Alaska to Hjalmar and Mary Olson. Ofi was the eldest of eleven children. He was a lifelong commercial salmon fisherman and an avid pilot who spent many years hunting, fishing, and trapping in Bristol Bay. Ofi earned his private pilot's license in 1957, at the age of 16. He served 22 months in Germany in the US Army, returning to Dillingham, Alaska, in 1961. In 1964, Ofi met Anuska Hansen and they married in 1968. They had three children... Read More

Robin Samuelsen, Jr. Robin Samuelsen, Jr.

H. Robin Samuelsen, Jr. lives in Dillingham, Alaska. He was born in 1951 in Dillingham. A lifelong fisherman, Robin is known for his passion for fisheries. In the early 1990s, he served on the Alaska Board of Fisheries, shaping policies and regulations in the interest of subsistence, commercial and personal-use fishermen statewide. As a member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, he promoted Alaska’s interests at the federal level. There, he worked toward an equitable approach to... Read More

Tom Tilden Thomas Tilden

Thomas (Tom) Tilden lives in Dillingham, Alaska. He was born in 1953 in Dillingham to Mary and Earl Tilden. When he was a young child, his family moved from Dillingham to Portage Creek along the Nushagak River. There, he learned how to hunt, fish, and gather berries and plants. Thomas was sent to high school in Dillingham and went to the University of Nagoya in Japan and the University of Alaska during his senior year. He went on to the Seward Skill Center in Seward, Alaska to get his... Read More

Kim Williams Kimberly Williams

Kimberly (Kim) Williams was born in December, 1961 at Kanakanak, Alaska to Mary Ann and William P. Johnson. She was the third of five children. Kim has been a subsistence fisherman her entire life, and holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a focus on Tribal Co-Management, which she received from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1997. Kim is the executive director of Nunamta Aulukestai (Caretakers of Our Land), an association of village corporations and tribes in the... Read More