Ellen Demit was interviewed on August 15, 2000 by Don Callaway and Connie Friend in Healy Lake, Alaska for Mendees Cheeg Naltsiin Keey': An Oral History of the People of Healy Lake Village (annotated and edited by Donald G. Callaway and Constance A. Friend, Revised June 2007). The interview continued on August 16, 2000. She also gave a speech to her relatives on January 19, 2001 where she tells more about her personal and family history at Healy Lake and Big and Little Gerstle. In this first interview, Ellen talks about her childhood and adoptions, her affection for her adoptive parents and their struggles to survive a hunting and gathering lifestlye, and her own strength in raising three children on her own while hunting and trapping to survive.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Date of Interview: Aug 15, 2000
Narrator(s): Ellen Demit
Interviewer(s): Don Callaway, Connie Friend
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Personal and family background
Sickness and moving to Healy Lake and Big Gerstle
Being adopted and taking care of her parents
Death of husband and moving to Dot Lake
Raising her children alone
Working hard to take care of her family with hunting and trapping
Death of her mother when Ellen was a child
Potlatch and adoption
Having a job
Living in Dot Lake, Healy Lake, Volkmar, and Little Gerstle
Story about almost not making it back home from trapline
Being treated well by her children and grandchildren
Traveling between villages and surviving in winter
First job at Dot Lake
Working at Forty Mile Roadhouse, and in Northway and Tok
Old Chief Healy
Subsistence foods and lifestyle
Traditional beliefs and behavior and passing on knowledge
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DON CALLAWAY: This is Don Callaway. This is the 15th of August. It’s Tuesday. We’re talking here in Healy Lake with Ellen Demit.
My name’s Don Callaway.
Connie Friend is with us and Ellen’s daughter, Agnes is also with us and we’re here to have Agnes talk about her life history.
Ellen, I’m sorry. Ready.
ELLEN DEMIT: I was born in a Fairbanks in a Chena, old village I was born.
My mother’s name Eva John.
My daddy’s name, Julius John.
And my grandma's a Helen. Helen. Helen, right.
And she die, she’s over ‘hundred.
And I grown up in our adopt way at Chena village.
I was adopt way to -- .
The creek’s name, say -- Indian name, Jeez Ndiig and we call ,”Camprobber Creek”.
And Chief Luke and Anne Luke pick me up, adopt me. (also known as Old Luke John and who was considered a powerful medicine man as well as chief)
The reason I was adopt way and --
Abraham Luke’s sister die six ofclock in the morning and on that evening I was born so he plan on going raise me up and then she die.
Then from there maybe I’m two years old, my old auntie (Ellen's second adopted mother, Selene) send message to from Healy Lake.
And Healy Lake and man and wife, husband blind (Ellen's adopted father "Blind Jimmy" who was blind from birth and brother to Old Chief Healy), pick me up.
I choose to be my dad and my mother.
He brought me up and I got married and I had children.
And all way up to in my life very painful sometime but I go through.
And some special day... I don’t know what to think, but I made it.
I talk about my history for everybody to listen,
and also I growin' up with my mother, Selene, and Jimmy.
And once again, my dad is blind.
And I grown up over there and I got married and I had children.
And after that all the way through to village and he has sickness come out. (Ellen and her husband lost 3 of 8 children in 1943 epidemic; her husband died not long after moving to Gerstle River to escape epidemic.)
I loose all my children, and all my girls.
And I end up with ... I move over to this village
to 1946 with try to save my daughter Agnes (now Agnes Henry) and my daughter, Daisy (now Daisy Northway).
Move out on this village.
And from there we moved to Big Gerstle (14 river miles from Healy Lake to Gerstle River bridge). We sit way in the back on the tent.
Me and my husband, me and my two daughter.
We sit in the tent for a while and then one person name’s Alec Joe.
He’s already sick, but his wife and sister-in-law take him, but, take him away from this village, but yet he die at Big Gerstle.
He take the body back to Tanacross. Been buried up there.
And me and my husband, we end up with my two daughters.
We raise our two daughters. I still have a my two daughters.
And I loose my son (Talbert Felix) sixteen years ago, last one.
And also we live on the land over there in the village.
Spring time I dig the "gardeny" for my mother and daddy.
I plant seed for my mother and daddy, cause he’s so old to do anything.
After my plant seed and all we got our vegetable.
We put it away. Back days there’s no deep freeze, no nothing.
So my daddy didn’t have basement.
We put our vegetable in there (root cellar) and we live on meat and potatoes all winter.
And from begin that my story,
that the man goin' adopt me, he’s, I should say he’s kind of like“medicine man” (this was Chief Luke of Goodpaster).
But back days, maybe good’n reason, had to be doctorin'. I don’t know.
But he’s the one bring me to my mother and daddy, cause his wife die and he can’t raise me up.
And I have two half brother and he can’t take care of me and I’m two years old
and I move to other village where I’m really adopt way.
And with (indiscernible) Fall time we go out.
When I get a grown up, I take care of my mother and daddy.
Turn around, take care of them with wood, and go out fishin' for them,
pickin' berries for them.
I do lot of thing with old people.
I put all my life, I, every one of them over there in the village.
I give a hand every one of them.
I do that 'cause I love them.
And today I don’t have even a relative, close a relative. But I have a lot of my niece's children (Stella (Healy) and Lee Saylor's children: Patrick and Ben Saylor and JoAnn Polston; Margaret (Jacob) and Paul Kirsteatter's children: Fred Kirsteatter and Linda Erickson; Gary Healy, Mike and Ray Fifer, and Minnie Healy's children.) from up out there.
All the way through to my life to grown up.
Like I say we move to Big Gerstle, we loose one person.
From there too we move to Little Gerstle.
And then my husband (Frank Felix) became sick and I had three kids.
I don’t know what to do when my husband is sick.
I don’t know who to turn to.
And I take my husband in the bus to Dot Lake, around people.
I thought, “Better way if my husband die with me all by myself; I don’t know what to do.”
Nobody around me. I just sit with my kids.
I put my husband in the bus and I got three dog.
He don’t accept my dog in the bus, so I walk all way up from the Little Gerstle.
I walk with my three dog.
All way up I walk to Sam Lake in the road (approximately 23 miles from Big Gerstle to Sam Lake).
I been so tired I spend the night there (this place where Ellen camped is about four miles from Dot Lake).
Set my mosquito net.
I rest good.
Next day I went to Dot Lake.
That's where my kids going go school.
We stay and my kids all finish school Dot Lake,
and my husband died, Dot Lake.
One little house my friend, she’s white woman, her name’s Jackie. Her husband die.
He lotta back -- back me up when I need it.
He's the one gave me little piece of meat, little piece of thing to keep it up.
And my husband die, take my husband back to Tanacross.
He buried there.
From there I was out in brush all time.
My oldest daughter, Agnes take care o' Daisy and my son, the one die.
She’s always there for me, my oldest daughter. She’s not my oldest daughter, middle daughter.
She always there for her brother and her sister.
From there I stay Dot Lake.
Some reason I don’t want stay Dot Lake.
I take my kids.
I call some my friend pick me up.
Back to Little Gerstle. (After 1946 epidemic, Ellen moved her family to Little Gerstle where Chief Healy was. During her husband's illness she moved to Dot Lake to be near more people in case he died. He was buried in Tanacross among his people. Following her husband's death, Ellen was mistreated by people in Dot Lake so she moved with her children back to Little Gerstle and supported them from the land. She later moved to Tok and worked as a maid and cooking in a restaurant.)
And I was out there in brush all time. There’s nothing my kids couldn’t eat.
Sometime I come back twelve ofclock at night.
That’s when my kids had camper.
Exactly how the Native people’s life.
It’s hard to get, to eat good whatever you want.
We have to know what we do out there.
That’s how I raise up my three children.
Many time I got lost out there on the brush....me and my snowshoes.
That many time I come back eleven of clock at night or two of clock in the morning.
I goin' tell this story.
This story reach out to someone’s life to be strong.
If you have to be woman, you had to be man.
I’m a woman. I go through this lot of pain. But I made it.
I always think I get up, “I can’t do.”
I always think, “Yeah, I could do.”
I go out see my trap line, my rabbit snare.
I do anything for my kids to eat. Not for my kids be hungry.
I don’t have welfare check, I don’t have food stamp. Like other people does.
I have hard life. I raise up my kids with trap line. Out there on the land.
I raise my children with fish and ducks, moose, caribou, everything what’s in my way, I get it for my children to eat.
Back days we don’t have a 'frigerator.
When I got my food I had to stay on my feet round the clock to dry my meat.
My food, my fish, everything. I gotta take care o'my berries the special way.
Too bad, I hope I talk my Native tongue, but it’s hard for other people, English, can’t understand.
I’m Native. Here I have to talk to English. I really don’t care that much, but it’s okay.
I really work hard all part of my life.
We go out hunt.
My mother and my daddy go out, line (trapline).
I’m too young. I can’t hunt. I have to stay home.
My mother and daddy had babysitter for me.
Sometime my mother use gun.
The hardest one right there, my mother, he put gun in my daddy’s hand.
He point that gun to moose and my mother say,” Ready.”
And my daddy goin' pull trigger and my daddy goin' get moose.
The greatest day he got that moose.
My mother and daddy work hard for that meat.
He both very old.
It’s hard for me to talk about my back life.
I force myself even to do this.
Sometime, one day I don’t know what to do.
Some in the morning, I just don’t know what to do.
Half a hour time I know what I goin' do.
Get my snowshoes and out.
Lucky sometime two hours I sleep.
I come in -- inside, I have to cook for my kids.
Whatever I got I have to cook for my dog. Feed my dog.
It’s the one going' take me around the trap, dog.
Take care of my animals best as I can.
It’s hard if my husband die, but to me I’m very strong to handle everything.
I always think, “My a culture, Native life very precious to me.”
We put our food.
You go out in the brush. I go out in the brush.
I begin to learn and I go out in brush I know which one. If you got no bucket, you know what you doing.
You know how to cook out there. You got out there and you got no nothing.
You take some part out of moose. You going wash it. You going dig the ground.
You heated up your rock.
With clean stick you put your rock in that sink and meat already in there.
Inside ground you can cook for yourself if you know what you doing.
You attention, you listen to grandmother and grandfather, you goin' learn.
That’s way I grown up.
It is hard to look back.
I going skip it little bit. My word it’s kind a hard for me.
Some part I have to be quiet.
'Cause when I was small my mother die.
And I don’t know I’m just three years old.
Some reason been blessed. I’m just three years old, my mother die.
This one going adopt me.
My step-brother (Abraham Luke) pack me around.
He’s not my brother, just a step-brother.
He pack me around. Nobody around.
He’s twelve years old. I’m three years old.
Her father, Chief Luke and Frank Luke go to Healy Lake.
He both run, father and mother run into some woman.
The old man, her wife ready to die.
He left his wife with us, with his son.
And by time I bury.
Don’t know what to do.
We have a my mother’s body in the back to bedroom and my step-brother shut “ curtainy”
and no fire going. It’s cold.
I ask my brother, “Where’s our mother?”
I thought she’s really my mother. I don’t know. I’m just very young.
And my half-brother told me my mother sleep.
I’m three years old and I can’t believe that my mother sleep all time.
My mother make me blanket. Little rabbit's robe, crochet.
That’s my favorite blanket.
I’m not shame of whatever I have to say.
I sleep behind stove. That’s where I want.
I got little homemade bed, but I don’t sleep in the bed. I always sleep behind stove on the floor.
That’s the way I want it. Nobody make me do.
And I growin' up.
Later on I asked my step-brother again.
He don’t know what to tell me.
One night I want sleep with my brother.
My brother’s only twelve years old.
I hold my brother’s neck. I went to bed. I fall asleep and cry.
I want know where my mother.
I was cry and went to bed.
This part I real don’t want talk about but I do this.
I try to skip it, but I can’t.
I ask my brother again, “When my mother goin' get up?”
He say, “Let her sleep. Let her peaceful.”
I say, “Okay.” And then I ask my brother, ”I want sleep with you.”
“Go ahead.” And then I bring my little blanket and I hold my brother.
I went to bed.
Twelve o'clock night I get off the bed and I drag my little blanket.
I go bedroom. Look around, feel around for my mother and dad.
My daddy not there. He’s gone Healy Lake someplace.
This is I talk about Goodpaster.
That’s where I going be adopt.
All my life all the way through, don’t turn out good for me.
The woman goin' adopt me die. Her name’s Anne Luke.
She die 'stead o'.
After I sneak out, out of my brother and I go in bedroom.
I feel around. I’m so small.
I gotta touch my mother’s face. It’s cold.
And I take my little blanket and I crawl in with my mother.
Try to warm him up.
This is saddest one if somebody listen this.
Give you good life. Straight you life up. This, this one I talk about it’s painful.
I sleep with my mother and covered with my little blanket. Try to warm him up.
I can’t warm him up.
My brother get up. He look around outside for me. He thought I went out.
My brother can’t find me and finally my brother look in the back, here I sleep with my mother.
And my brother take me and my brother cried all day.
My brother take me out. He pack me. He set snare for rabbits.
One rabbits die. One rabbits alive.
My brother tell me this rabbits died, that’s my mamma die.
This one, live one, that’s you and me.
And I can’t understand.
I can’t understand what my brother talk about it.
After long time and Frank Luke and his father come back.
I told my brother, “Make me little stick.”
He asked me why. “Nothing, I want play with.”
I want real pretty one I play with my little hand I do. And my brother make me a little stick.
”Why you want that stick?” “I just want play with. I want long one.”
And then he don’t know what I plan on.
I’m three years old.
Abraham Luke told me by time I’m three years old.
Old man and Frank Luke come back.
Old man go bedroom and old man cry.
I’m just a three years old. I club that old man down.
I told,”You throw away my mother. My mother die without eat.”
I thought my mother die nobody feed, but it don’t turn out like that she just goin' be gone anyway.
I club that old man down, her leg and everything. He just run out, never bother me.
Old man understand why little one think.
So he run out and he go out hunt.
He bury her over there cemetery. He don’t even dress her. I remember just like some reason just like I make picture.
I win the land for this story. (Ellen is referring to testimony she gave at a Bureau of Land Management hearing in Tanacross in 1991 to win an allotment in the Goodpaster area for one of her relatives.)
Later on he have potlatch.
Even back days my uncle gave at Fish and Wildlife
Just like right now.
My uncle go round from village to village. Walk.
Right now, Fish and Wildlife gonna have car and everything fly, but don’t.
My uncle walk.
Boat to village to village, my uncle go.
My uncle, one day my uncle came.
He bring me some little good in his pocket and little mukluk and little mitts.
And I show my uncle to meat cache.
'N (inaudible) old man and old man half-brother in a trouble.
One of them still teasin' me before he die.
And when he gave me cane, his cane, he going be die tomorrow.
He told me, “You and me, we got two different mother.
And -- you good friend of mine.
We not related to each other.
My name, my clan’s name different.
Your clan’s name different,” he told me.
And I say,”I understand, but I like for you be my brother, cause I don’t have brother.”
And that from there he have potlatch.
And all potlatch all over and then Frank Luke moved over there and married Lucy Luke.
That’s his wife and Chief Luke married to Mary Healy (daughter of Old Chief Healy and sister to John Healy who became chief of Healy Lake after his father).
But me, from Goodpaster go right straight to where my new mother and new daddy.
Covered me with brand new blanket he hand to me to my mother, Selene.
The boy thought to be the day, and by time all my relatives come along meet me and he had dinner with me and all that, adopt me.
Back days you just don’t grab a person.
You gotta have big dinner.
You gotta get together and chief.
They goin' talk all to chief.
And then this chief say,”No”, it’s goin' be no, no."
Chief say, “yes”. He asked chief.
Chief Healy say , “It’s okay. You guys don’t have kids. Brought her up good.”
So that’s how I brought up over there.
I grown up over there. That’s my village.
It’s real where I’m belong over there.
Every time I come home, this village just peaceful life for me.
I done so many thing woman can’t do.
One time we out of food.
Our chief (John Healy) go out and trap all time.
Summer time he work on boat.
He have bunch of food. He share all whole village.
Rice, sugar, whatever people needed.
That’s our chief.
We real help with chief in this village.
People never hate each other either.
We got little food. I don’t care what kind of night we get together. We eat.
Our favorite food are the moose stomach.
Everything what’s we favorite food we eat.
We lucky we eat sometime fresh food when plane land.
On the lake, sometime he bring us fresh food.
But we don’t care about bacon and eggs.
We live on the land. I still do. I don’t care about anything I just want to eat my meat and soup.
We get a old we want eat our own food.
And I always think in a my mind I don’t know why Fish and Wildlife look at the people, 'specially this village.
To me sometime I really don’t care that much Fish and Wildlife, but that’s their job, too.
But this village, people live on the land. All fish, ducks, everything.
From there to -- I moved to Little Gerstle.
My niece (Jeany Healy), we got little tent out there and me and my kids stay there and with me and my niece and his mother.
Her husband die, too.
We both have a hard time.
I remember we, her and I, we always go out there in the brush after I go Little Gerstle.
We make company to each other.
Sometime we don’t even eat decent.
What we goin' eat, what I goin' eat I give it to my children, 'stead of.
Better my kids eat instead of me.
Why should I goin' eat? I don’t want my kids hungry.
I never shame of my story and my history.
Sometime I make my flour mix.
Make little bit sug -- I go out, I dig it out roots.
You guys don’t know about roots. I dig it out roots. I wash it. I chop up and I boil.
Tastes just like potatoes and I mix with little bit o' rice.
There’s little dinner for my kids.
Maybe little bit of biscuit.
Sometime my kids never -- we don’t eat good sometime.
But I just -- I’m a woman I gotta work. I gotta stand on my feet.
I think all part of my life I real work hard.
Forty-five years I work in a job.
Anyplace job I have to walk.
Sometime I walk two mile to get my job.
Right now all people got job so easy life.
They jump in the car and taking off.
Still say woman, “ Ah, I’m tired.” I don’t believe a that.
Some think, “ Oh, I’m so old, I can’t do nothing.”
Me, I don’t believe it. Gotta go out do something.
Don’t think about you own body, you so tired.
We have to do a lot of things in this village.
I going -- we move a to Dot Lake some reason.
I can’t say how he treat me.
I not talk about it.
And I move a back to Healy Lake and Volkmar, our trap line (Volkmar River is about four miles from Healy Lake).
I put my kids on sleigh and I take them out.
From a Little Gerstle and my three kids, we all walk back with our feet to Big Gerstle (a distance of about five miles).
All the way down we follow river.
Where my husband used to have campfire for us, we make campfire.
And I put little bit up no matter winter time.
Make sure my kids warm.
Make sure my kids eat good 'stead o' me.
We walk all the way back from Little Gerstle down there where our trading post.
The boats been left quite a while ago in there.
I go out, I pick all those pitch;
and I melt it all the pitch and I fix all the boat.
And I let the boat dry little bit and I put that boat in the water and I test the boat.
No water in there.
Either way, no choice or else I have to go without eat for my kids.
No choice for me, I put dog and my three children
I let that boat go.
I in the boat with pie pole.
I made it to other side.
My boat gonna sink down. I throw my kids in the bank.
They’re in water up to my waist and I pack my little baby.
We got little house there.
Native people say , “ts’edoghanih”.
“Ts’edoghanih”, it’s mean you gotta prepare.
You gotta prepare. No matter where you go, you gotta prepare.
If you don’t, every way you gonna be hungry.
Where I always go, I put rice or flour, anything.
Just put it in a can. Have it for something.
I did. When I gets back to house, we eat good.
Next day I go to other side to Healy, to Volkmar where my mother left the house for me.
My Aunt. My aunt gave me that log house before she gonna died.
She told me I could have a that house.
I stay with my kids all winter.
My oldest daughter take care of brother and sister.
I was up there, trap.
Fall time. Even Fall time I go out, trap for rats (muskrats).
I do that for meat. I use skin. I tan.
I make my kids and little moccasin and mitts.
My daughter, I make little rat's coat -- coat for her (out of muskrat fur). Don’t know what happened to.
Lot of things. I go out up there in my winter time I use my snowshoes.
I told my children, oldest one, I say, “When you guys have eat, careful.
You brother and you sister goin' choke with food.”
She’s very good with her sister and brother.
She always there when I was out there.
One time almost I never make it home to my kids.
That day if I never make it home, I don’t know what happen to my kids.
My two kids.
I got lost out there.
Dark, I don’t know where I’m at.
I don’t even protect myself with flashlight.
I have matches in my pocket everything.
I know I’m going build fire but yet where I’m at and I worry about my kids.
I don’t know what to do.
I going round and round and round that one island.
But somehow I stop.
Stand up in the road.
That time, I don’t know. People pray.
My mother pray lot when she die.
My mother’s very good Christian woman.
She brought me up.
That’s why I had good life. I don’t want... I don’t want feel bad a towards to people either.
I don’t talk about people’s life either.
I stand in my snowshoes. I gettin' freeze.
I know my whole body gettin' shake and in the end, I don’t even have strength to move a my hand.
My feet just like ice. Too cold. Sweat.
Walk all night.
It close to three o'clock in the morning. I stop.
I ask people pray.
And I say, “God help me. God help me.
Take me to my family, my children.”
That’s my biggest pray.
He did open up for me.
I find my trail. I take it home.
My kids even had candle.
I never say nothing. I just walk in.
She always had tea for me, hot tea.
Twice I almost lose my life out there. Had to feed my children.
But I beat it.
Today he all turn around, baby me 'round.
He always spoil me.
Whatever I want, I get it, too.
My daughter never tell me, “No”.
My son used to treat me like that.
From Northway, come down.
Bring meat, fish, anything what I wish it, bring it.
And my son’s gone.
All my grandkid treat me good.
Today I make it up, I real have good life.
I not wish for nothing.
If we don’t try in our feet, we goin' be hungry.
We can’t do nothing.
We have to real try to be understand what we do.
After close to Christmas, I got new worries too.
Getting snow. I got little bit of flour, little bit of sugar.
I sell my stuff, sewing stuff.
Buy 'nough groceries, go back.
I told my oldest daughter, I going make a trail.
I told her what she going do if I never come back.
Even you see plane up there, you gotta go out, showing something.
Middle nowhere out there, just me and my kids.
I start a walk three o’clock in the morning for I make snowshoes trail.
Next morning I hitch up dog.
He stand behind sleigh and was set off with snowshoes, pack my little baby.
We made it to other side and our house.
Next day I make trail to Big Gerstle.
And I come back three o'clock in the morning for my kids.
Sleep couple hour and taking off again and we made it to highway.
All my fear. I just stand in road and I catch ride and I bring back my kids clothes and food.
Then, after everything’s settled, Christmas come up.
I can’t even afford a buy something.
I make little moccasin for my three children, my two daughter and my son.
I just put it, hang behind Christmas tree.
My kids used to stand in front of Christmas tree same way, so happy.
After we stay at Dot Lake for long time.
Some reason I just can’t get along any place where I go.
I don’t know why. Just nothing the same like before.
After I move a my own village.
Tanacross he have Christmas and that time I was got job, got little job.
Five dollar an hour I gots pay.
Eighty-one dollars I save.
I don’t spend my one dollars foolish way.
I put that five dollars...
The house I stay, no door, no window.
Winter time so cold.
I cut wood around the clock to keep it warm.
I go someplace, somebody’s dog come in my house.
Eat my little bit of food.
I end up nothing.
I tell her, “You guys’ dog, tie.”
Nobody say nothing.
Sometime just for that we go hungry.
I get a job. I save money. I save money.
I don’t mess around my money. I real careful.
These guys stop.
I order all supply for my house. Everything.
Once again Fred gave me hand.
I work right along with them.
I help him work and we had nice little work. Warm house.
It’s Dot Lake.
And then I move up to Tanacross.
We stay Tanacross for while; not too long.
And I went up to Northway. Stay there for while.
And move a back to Forty Mile. I was working seven days week Forty Mile.
My first job is at Dot Lake.
I not educated. I just came from a little village and I went there, to Dot Lake.
When kids go school, my first job’s there.
I got a hotel room out there 'n take care.
That’s ‘52. That’s my first job.
Ever since I work till two years ago. I’m retirement.
That five dollar an hour I work for it.
Even though I just take care my money. We live a good.
After all we live a good. It's that whatever I do.
And my first grandchild ‘s a Mary Lou.
And my first grandson’s Lee Henry n' Mary Lou Paul.
The first grandkids I got.
Me and my daughter, we think of in the world my other daughter, Daisy, she think of it in the world and his nephew.
I started off with two, one girl and one daughter.
I don’t stay very long where I move, but I work Dot Lake.
He put me work in Children Home.
I work Children Home, hotel room, kitchen, bake.
I don’t go school.
If someone listen this one, you not educated, don’t you think you not educated.
You know what you doin' and what you do, what you had to do, you gotta think about it.
You don’t have to think you can’t do. I don’t. I never think like that.
In the morning you get up, you prepare for what you goin' do.
My boss taught me just only one day and I catch on.
I work from there, I work all summer.
Don’t know how long I work there.
It’s little bit too cheap for me so I asked this missionary, Bob Green.
I asked if he could find me job.
And then he went up to Forty Mile.
He asked Mabel Scoby and Ray Scoby and, “Yeah, we need one.”
They tell Bob Green if I’m a good worker.
Bob Green say, “Yes.”
I went to Forty Mile (Forty Mile Roadhouse located at Tetlin Junction, where Taylor Highway begins, twelve miles east of Tok Junction). I went to work. I had room and board.
I got everything what I need there, and he set me up real good.
The wages not very much, but it’s good.
I had room and board, everything.
I use free electricity and oil and my boss pay for it.
And I work there almost eight years.
Seven days week job.
I work long time and I send my son to Edgecumbe school.
And he finish Edgecumbe school. He graduate that, my young son.
And my other daughter go to Anchorage for college for three months
and she, some reason, she can’t make it so she come home.
And from there I was work for Scoby and from there I got a job Northway.
I work for man and wife hotel room and kitchen.
Both way I work.
I work there two summer for Miller and his wife.
From there, and I don’t care that much to work there 'cause he have bar there.
I don’t like people drinkin'. So I move back to Forty Mile and I work little bit again and then I move back to Tok.
'Sixty-four, I move back to Tok, and I work there, there, there, there, and my last heavy job’s a pipeline camp.
Once again cookin' kitchen.
That’s my last hard work.
From there I work, go back to Tok.
I go to work to Rec. Center.
With old people I was bus aide twelve years.
All together, twenty years I work for with old people.
And I in kitchen. Every job I got, I gotta be in kitchen.
That’s why I say you don’t need educated to work.
You gotta know what you doing.
I know what I goin' cook. I know what I goin' prepare.
I take care of myself for so many, many, many years.
I used to operated everything whatever. I don’t need, I don’t ask somebody to do for me.
Now I need a lot of help.
Can’t do that much anymore.
I real careful for whatever I do.
I just gotta careful.
From there I settle Tok. Ever since ‘sixty-four I live in Tok.
Still today, but in the future I want move back to Healy Lake.
I have mind where I go through.
That’s where I want for myself.
Lot of thing we could do.
And my young son [Talbert Felix), married to Northway (he married Lorraine Albert of Northway).
He had three lovely children, one adopt daughter.
Got two girl and two boys Northway to where my son.
My history story far as Northway, Tok, Tanacross, Dot Lake, Little Gerstle.
We started off with Big Gerstle, Goodpaster, Old Chena village.
I had to cancel some. Some very sad.
Maybe some other time, makes up my mind, I might talk about it. But not now.
But right now I going tell little bit story from the village.
I going talk around our chief.
Our chief, he work in the boat.
He’s very good hunting.
He’s very good trap line.
That’s Pat (Saylor) and JoAnn’s (Polston) grandfather (John Healy).
Their grandma live with.
Not too long ago, my cousin Jimmy pass away.
We all related to each other in this village.
We not different from each other.
Our chief, he go store. He bring back load of groceries with sleigh.
He pass around flour and sugar to village.
Sometime he go Fairbanks he bring back truck load to Little Gerstle.
Bring with dog team.
He’s very good chief.
Just sometime I just want a he live with us today.
But he left a lot of good grandkids to us.
Down fish camp, that’s where. But this time we gotta move a to fish camp. We gonna have fish trap.
We gonna have fish for our survival all winter.
We gonna smoke fish, but our fresh fish goin' be, we smoke it little bit, whole fish, we smoke it little bit and we put it away in the cache.
Grease, moose head we goin' chopped up. We goin' make grease out of moose fat.
Sometime we put berries.
And fish oil. We gotta fix it.
We boil fish oil. We put water in there. We boil it.
It just tastes like, come out like bacon grease.
And we mix with dry berries, blue berries, it’s for old people.
Rose hip, you got your porcupine. You cut up porcupine fat.
You get grease out of porcupine.
You mix with rose hip.
That’s just vitamin C.
And a we make dry meat.
But then we take moose stomach, whole moose stomach, we take it out.
We dry, and we have lot dry meat.
We pound that meat soft.
We put that moose stomach inside the ground.
We put stick around.
We put grease in there. After grease cool off, we put our dry meat.
That’s real special food.
We never eat big either, just little piece.
That’s enough for last up.
Old people real careful for their food.
Never eat all time just gotta eat good.
They used to tell us, “Eat good breakfast.”
Maybe we eat good dry meat, maybe some kind of fried potato with moose grease.
You gotta prepare everything: blueberries, cranberries, high bush berries, all kind, wild rhubarb.
You just know what you doing.
You gotta put it away.
I think lots this Healy Lake. Every time I come down and here the kids 'n come with meat 'n just every time I come Healy Lake I gain weight.
That’s why I got smart.
A little while ago Ray (Fifer, Ellen's nephew) bring me good moose meat, whatever I’m hungry for.
Us Native, we gotta have our fish, ducks, meat, moose, caribou, porcupine, anything on the land we hungry for.
That’s where we loose many, many, many people without the food.
I live in Tok. I don’t eat all those.
Pat (Saylor) and JoAnn (Polston), they always bring me dry meat and whatever, ducks, everything.
Right now I not hungry any more.
I don’t wish for meat anymore 'cause all my niece family 'n grown up.
They all keep trying to help me.
I real proud of my village. The way I want kids run.
Compare to other village, people live on those easy money. Make you lazy.
You just sit on you butt in chair.
You bring, money come to you.
You depend on so much.
Mostly that right now I waiting for my social security.
My little retirement check not very big.
I don’t have a lot of income like other people.
I had two-fifty in my little retirement money. It’s not enough.
Right now oil cost too much. I don’t know if I gonna survive or...
My daughter 'n always help me.
But we have to be strong for that.
We don’t go hungry.
The reason I say this, I want this one, young children here in this village...
Fall time Nan tet tanh.
That’s mean, Fall time, leaf turn to yellow.
Leaf getting old. Fell down here. You young , you gonna sleep.
That’s no good.
She don’t let us do that, Fall time.
Fall time, she just treat us bad.
We train just like army.
We never talk back.
We never nag to nobody for that.
We gotta do. Believe it or not, we go out camp.
She camp mile from creek.
Little bit of snow out there.
We gotta run.
Native people don’t believe on drink overnight water (Tanacross elders also share this view that water becomes stale having sat overnight).
Other day, my daughter talk about. Gee, I just bust up with laugh.
How she 'member that?
My mamma, me and my brother we pack water and me and my sister we pack water.
My mamma spill it in morning time early.
My mamma tell us pack water and we look at each other.
We don’t say nothing. We get water and he tell his granddaughter just, “Gee, here all forget it”.
We go down without socks.
We go down by the creek.
“You going have wrinkle on you face.”
We wash our face with cold water, ice water.
We had to do our hand like that and show them our wrinkle.
And we bring back fresh water and boys go out and get fresh wood.
Native people are tough.
Don’t have easy life.
That’s where Pat (Saylor, Ellen's nephew) learn from, his grandma (Jeany Healy, who helped raise him after his mother's death). I guess his grandma talk to.
Pat don’t have easy life.
He go out pack in his wood, paddle canoe, get fish.
I not brag about it, but I real proud of Pat way he keep his life up.
He make lot o' little good stuff for his a relatives too.
He put little bit of food on the side for us.
Even taste. Very proud of.
In the village over there, we go out hunt. We got moose.
That Friday night we get up and we all eat together, fresh food.
You go out campfire, you gotta have stick to cook you meat.
You got no pot and pan, but you still gonna cook.
You still gonna eat, maybe you gonna drink water.
You got lost and you real got lost, you know which one to eat out o' moose.
Little bit o' raw give you strength.
All those I know.
Exactly real about up all I know, I 'member all the story.
My grandpa and my mother and daddy pass me on all I know.
And I got lot of things to talk about it.
Lots sacred way we take care ourself.
Lot of good way we can do.
And sometime, don’t turn out good.
We all get together, we goin' talk about it.
I always put my grandkids together.
I live with them, I pass on to my life to them.
Some my grandkids don’t listen.
I ask one my grandson I’m strong.
That’s Robert Paul.
Let’s go down river. Go with me.
I goin' show you how to work for food.
“No, Grandma, it’s too cold. I don’t have patient for those.”
I thought, “Gee, what kind of kid’s that?”
Hum, I don’t taught grandkids anymore.
But right now I really work hard with one.
At least one I want to learn out o'me to pass on to other one.
Old people talk to young people, just don’t ignore.
You better stop listen that.
Old grandpa, old grandma say something, you drop everything for them. (All upper Tanana villages share this traditional value of respect for elders. It is manifested in special food delicacies for them, consideration of their warmth, comfort and safey, and in gift distribution at potlatches.)
Respect. Listen. You goin' learn something out o' them.
Maybe this person, maybe this woman, maybe she don’t know.
Maybe she goin' learn something from this tape.
Maybe someone goin' be strong from this tape.
Whoever goin' listen to this tape goin' be strong.
“If Grandma can do, we could do.”
The pain sometime we run into bad pain.
My mother and daddy told me, “Don’t run into that sharp pain.
That trail you walk, sharp stick goin' stick like that, you goin' run into.”
You know what it mean? That’s not stick.
You go run in to you real hate on you heart that sister and brother.
You run into the trouble.
You can’t back up. You already there.
All these that we have to understand, we have to listen.
This village, quite a few children out there.
I want this tape, I want them kids listen, learn something from all out of the campfire, all that talk, campfire cook.
You could cook your dry fish in campfire.
Moose fat, you gonna cook moose fat.
And you gonna eat moose fat and dry fish together.
Maybe dry meat.
You heavy food you gonna boil. You drink soup.
No junk in there.
I want my soup, no salt, no pepper, no nothing.
I don’t want no ketchup in my food either.
I want eat my porcupine.
I want it been clean, burn, just like old day.
You don’t skin porcupine. Take flavor out.
You don’t wash you stoma -- moose stomach just pure white, you got flavor out.
I’m Indian woman.
I want my food just perfect way I grown up.
This one, I want young people listen. He always wash food too much and flavor out.
Ruin that food when you wash too much.
You got you fresh meat up there. Leave on meat cache.
You smoke it little bit and go ahead work on. Put it away.
You don’t wash you food too much.
Us Native people, we don’t like that.
Make sure you cut you meat good. Clean.
Make sure you gotta have something under you moose before you skin.
Make sure you prepare.
Make sure whatever you goin' do.
Fish, what’s out there on the land, rabbits, I think I still 'member all how to take care of food.
I take care o' you rabbits.
You goin' eat you rabbits all winter without 'n freeze, without and spoil.
I guess I gettin' so tired so -- until tomor --