Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Cecelia Kunz
Cecelia Kunz

Cecelia Kunz talks about the Native community in Juneau, and how development effected their way of life. She talks about the Princess Sophia shipwreck, Chinese immigrants working in the canneries, and the channel freezing over.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2010-06

Project: Juneau Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Nov 17, 1995
Narrator(s): Cecelia Kunz
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
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Sections

Native land ownership in Juneau

Building Willoughby Avenue

The Princess of Fire [Princess Sophia] accident

Native clothing and the Princess Sophia funeral

Chinese immigrants in Juneau

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Transcript



CECELIA KUNZ: I'm guessing he motioned my name for you folks to -- Cecilia. My Indian name is Kintoo. K-I-N-T-O-O.

I don't know just what you want to hear. An Indian legend or what happened in Juneau --

I lived in Juneau most of my life. Well we, we'd go over to Sitka because my dad is a -- leader of his tribe and the tribal hall is in Sitka. So we had to go over to Sitka.

Quite a few things I remember about Juneau. I went to the government school. It used to be out there by uh Gold Creek.

It’s a parking lot now. Lets see 10 acres of land was given to us Indian people from that umm Firewood Apartments - all the way to -- to -- where the federal building is.

That’s Indian land, but we been pushed aside all the time. Now we only got three acres, that's all we got now.

My dad used to have his uh -- uh war canoe where the drums were. -- Was the name of the boat. Killer whale canoe --.

I remember we used to play in that canoe when I was a small girl. Uh --

Gold Creek used to go through there and one time it flooded, that's when they pushed that canoe out of.

I remember when the Willoughby Avenue was going though. Well I don't know if some of you people that's been here before remember this used to be tide land right here.

Tide comes up to oh... where the village is. People leave their canoes there. And the Alaska Juneau starts uh you know filling it up, filling it with rocks.

Gee you can go on the street and you can find rocks with gold, gold on it. I picked quite a few. When the Solicitor of Indian Affairs came up I showed it to him.

Oh he wants it he wants it. I gave it to him. You couldn't pick enough from the floor of Juneau Street. And uh well I think uh it was 1916, I’m not quite sure.

Anyways -- uh Carter from the mortuary here in Juneau he was the mayor of Juneau when the Willoughby Avenue was going through.

And my dad Jake Jaquan (phonetic) he went to the council meeting with uh -- Marie Emberks (phonetic) mother.

Her mother, Marie is her name too. she was a -- She was a -- she interpret for everybody.

You know she was the secretary for the Alaska Native Brotherhood too in the beginning. And she went to the council meeting with my dad and told the city you can't go any farther than that corner where that fire, Fireweed Apartments is.

You stop right there. Our canoes goes in and out from here.

At the time the Indian people were using umm coal to keep warm beside wood. And they go on the canoe to where the coal bin is to buy a sack of coal.

Then they bring it back on their canoe. Yeah for two weeks the Willoughby Avenue stopped right there in that corner.

Later on uh the Seward Kunz, that's my father-in-law's brother. Seward Kunz, him and another man uh Jake Williams, they had a meeting and they said uh lets call the people together, the Tlingit people.

So they all got together and they said I think it will help us to put the roads there.

We don't have to go on our canoe to get a sack of coal. The horses that pull the wagon you know, the horses will bring us a sack of coal. That’s how the Willoughby Avenue came through.

Oh so many things happened. Some of them I, I forgot like that umm Princess of Fire [actually called Princess Sophia, 1918].

I think that that was the boat that -- brought -- went down the rock out here. As a little girl I remember I was standing by my mother where the merchants wharf is.

It’s a little float there where the ferry boat come in, yeah boat it goes between Douglas and Juneau. Well they were bringing in lots of bodies and just piled them up like sacks.

We was there, lot of people down the dock. And I remember the police going around they said we don't want the children to watch, go home, go home.

And I was trying to hide behind my mother's skirt. No the police saw me anyway they told me to go home.

And one family out there, everybody was looking, everybody. Two boats, the one in, the one that’s going ahead kind of pushed the oil aside and the one behind is the one that will see if a body is floating around.

Lot of people were out there -- looking, looking. They were told whatever you find on the body that’s yours, take it.

Mr. Kunz, they found a Chinaman and he's got a vest, when it opens up you see a lot of money sewed there.

He had his hand out like that, he must have been hanging on to something. But they turned that body over to the officials.

That’s when they were told you should have kept that vest because whatever you find it's yours, but they turned it over. And it just so happened -- uh -- a couple people out there, old people.

His name -[]- that’s his Indian name -[]- and his wife. I remember those people when they come into town.

They would have a blanket and no shoes, just barefoot.

And they found a, they found a, a bag when they opened it there was a lot of currency in there. At the time they didn't know, you know, 5, 10, 100 dollar bill.

The only money they know was gold coin. That what they were using in those days, gold coins, 20 dollar, 20 dollar, 5 dollars.

5 dollars it’s the size of a quarter, or 10 dollars it's the size of 50 cents. That’s the only kind of money they know those old people and when they found that bag of uh currency they said oh lets fix up our house with it, the cabin ok.

Somehow somebody showed them how to make paste flour. They started putting, putting it on the wall, all over.

They didn't know what it was, it just looked good to them but uh, but pretty soon here comes Mr. White Man, "Oh look at the walls, oh."

And then he searched his pocket he took out gold coin and he motioned to them (gestures) and they understand he wants the, he wants our wallpaper.

They talk and the man took out another one, two, showed it to him. Yeah lets him have it, look at the gold he's got.

So he went to work, he wet a cloth and he put it, it took him a long time to get all the wallpaper.

-- That’s, that’s man's name. And like I said I remember him, him and his wife when they come to Juneau, go around without shoes. And when I read the Old Testament, god, it's just like us.

In the Old Testament children of Israel they walked around barefoot. They didn't have no shoes too, we were like that.

We didn't have uh -- uh shoes. But you know a person that comes from a royal family they're the ones with boots, you know, mukluks and moccasins.

An Indian is known by the way they dress. Sealskin was real cheap, the slaves used sealskin.

When I talked at the historical society when I told them that they, they everybody laughed. This time the seal skin cost so much. And that's what happened.

When they had the funeral here in Juneau, I, I wasn't there but the people talk about it. Just a big trench in the cemetery, just a big trench right there, just to line up the people.

I didn't see it but people were talking about it. A colored woman is the only one, she had a special funeral.

The undertaker -- course it was a long time ago, women folk used to use that, inside was just lot of money she, she'd sewed it there.

She was the only that had a real nice funeral, a colored lady.

Oh, we used to be just scared to go outside. There was no lights, in just certain places was lights there.

Now, that’s the Princess of Fire [Princess Sophia] accident.

And I got to see a China Joe. Uh he used to have a little cap, and he'd braid, long braid, Chinamen clothes.

He sells bread and uh -- any -- anybody that's going to the baker I used to tag along because he gives candy to children. And the nut with the fruit inside, he used to hand that out to you.

He had a place up there. There was no lights in Juneau and he used to put, um, a lamp by his window so, so people can at night time,

they will know where, just which part of Juneau they're at. Chinaman.

Before my time, uh my grandparents that were talking about it, where all the Chinamens were. Uh -- you know Treadwell, they’re all, um, let all the Chinamens go.

The people complained, taking over the job. And a lot of Chinamens in Juneau just laying all over.

I know my grandpa told them to come, they came into the house, that's where they spent the night. You see my grandfather is -- (Tlingit word) you know the leader of the -- Auk people.

They were some of the things that I’m talking about I hear it. I, I didn't see it I didn't exactly see it.

Like the people using the money for the wallpaper, I didn't see it but they were told. Oh people tell each other what happens. But I still got time.

WALLY OLSON: So Cecilia, you can continue, Cecilia

CECELIA KUNZ: Yeah it was, it used to be just cold too. One time it was so cold, you know the channel it just frozed over.

Just to make sure it is frozen uh, Henner Cropperly (phonetic), the late Henner Cropperly, they took a canoe and the pushed it across to Douglas.

It was still frozen. Oh once in a while we get real cold weather here in Juneau. Ok, Tom.

TOM: Thank You.