Paul Kirsteatter was interviewed on August 16, 2000 by Don Callaway and Connie Friend at his son Fred's home 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). In this interview, Paul talks about his experience living at Healy Lake, the seasonal round and hunting activities of the people of Healy Lake, and learning from the elders of the community. Paul discusses the epidemic in the 1940s, and the relationships between the local people and the miners and traders in the area. Paul also talks about his wife, Margaret, who was raised in Healy Lake, her role in Native land claims, and how much he learned from her about Native traditions.
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Being in the military and coming to Alaska
Epidemic in Healy Lake
Seasonal round and movement of Healy Lake people
Billy Mitchell's expedition and help from Chief Joe
Living at Healy Lake in the 1950s
Living a subsistence lifestyle and Native relationship with wildlife
Traditional subsistence and food preparation practices
Raids from other tribes
Trading, traders and trading posts
Fear of doctors
Education and jobs
Caribou populations, introduction of buffalo, and protecting traditional hunting grounds
Margaret Kirsteatter's knowledge of traditional ways and role in Native land claims
Raising and educating his children
Relationship between the Native people and the miners
Traditional beliefs about hunting and behavior
Traditional beliefs about death and burial
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DON CALLAWAY: Hi, my name’s Don Callaway. This is Wednesday, August 16th. We’re in Healy Lake. We’re in the house of Fred Kirsteatter, and his Dad, Paul is gonna talk about his life history.
PAUL KIRSTEATTER: I was born and raised Outside, born in 1922, and -- and I entered the Service up here in Alaska, well, I entered the Service, I came here in World War II. I came up here. I was stationed at Everest Headquarters, a headquarters in the Aleutian Islands.
During the time I spent in the Service here in Alaska, I spent most of the time in the Interior flyin’ around with a special crew and I became acquainted with a number of Native people during that time.
We had a Tenth Rescue made up of Eskimos and Indians and prospectors. And uh, they did a lot of rescue work: downed aircraft and people in trouble all the way up from the Aleutian chain all the way on the Interior.
So that -- and during that time I became acquainted with a number of Native people and I had a lot of respect for ‘em and they had the, you know, they were adapted to the country. They wore their own clothing, you know, their mukluks and their fur clothing or whatever they wanted to wear, although they were in the Service and they did a lot of amazing feats in rescue work.
Some of ‘em parachuted out of airplanes, dog teams, and uh, and then when an airplane, a plane would go down, it would be located, and they would, usually if they couldn’t snowshoe in or go in by dog team, they ‘d just jump out of an airplane and they’d see if any survivors .
They’d paint a red -- a white cross on the airplane craft so it wouldn’t be reported again.
And I was discharged in 1945. I went Outside and I was discharged in Fort Sam Houston, Texas and I turned around and came right back to Alaska in the spring of ‘forty-six .
I met my wife at that time and what later became my wife and we lived here in Healy Lake. At that time in 1946 there was about five families livin’ down here in the old village.
And they had an epidemic here back in the -- the mid forties that almost wiped out all the families here.
At one time John Hajdukovich, the trader out at Delta told me that there was seventy-five children here, school age at one time.
And that uh when this -- this was during the World War II, it was hard to get doctors in in here.
The trader, Stanley Young was the trader down there at that time. He told me he tried and tried to get doctors in here and there was entire families was dyin’ and layin’ in their cabins.
This was uh, my wife was here at that time. She was one of the survivors.
Entire families lyin’ dead in their cabins and there was no way to bury ‘em and uh few white traders and others was, was living down here by the trading post, John Knight, Stanley Young and others was helpin’ bury the people and they finally got a doctor in by the next Spring.
He came up, an Army doctor came out of what is now Fort Greeley. He came in. Burt Hansen brought him up. He was a resident. Burt Hansen was a resident of Big Delta.
He brought him up by a dog team, up here, the doctor and the doctor, by that time the epidemic was almost over.
No tests were ever made, but by the -- by the symptoms and all he thought it might be diptheria and measles together.
The Native people had very little resistance to White’s diseases. They had never been exposed to it like our race and they, it, you know common measles would decimate an entire village sometimes.
And then when they had these diseases, the elders were great for it, and they felt a sickness, they would always get in the steam bath, and uh they would have someone make a steam bath and then all the men would get in the steam bath at one time. Well if a sick person in there like -- They also had TB was around for, was around for, was rampant too, also.
But that wasn’t mainly what the epidemic, whatever it was was water borne, I believe, because it --
Back in the 1930's they also had an epidemic here that uh, decimated a lot of people and they believe it was from the water here around Healy Lake.
But most people were uh, I understand, were moving around. They’re nomads. They... They uh, in winter time they spent, the Healy Lake people spent most of their winter up at Joseph and the Middle Fork area over in that other drainage (Middle Fork of the Fortymile River).
They had the caribou drift fences up there. They had the caribou drift fences up Healy River. And also they spent most of their winters up there. In the spring they'd come back.
It was a cycle. They'd come back here for the moose, the beaver and the fish.
They weren’t dependent too much on fish, but, although they did have fish trap mostly, there’s no salmon coming up this, this part of the Tanana, very few, so they depended mostly on whitefish.
But they had traps down here on the Healy River, traps up the Healy River for whitefish.
And then in the fall they’d gather berries and all. They went up in the Alaska Range over here for sheep and the marmot (The Alaska Range, especially the Macomb Plateau, was the Healy Lake people's traditional area for hunting Dall sheep and marmot. More recently much of this became military land, and the people stopped hunting there because of deformities found in the animals, thus eliminating Dall sheep, once an important resource, from their diet.)
And the women and all would all go along too and they'd pick berries and the women would pack the -- would snare the marmot and the men would be hunting sheep.
Then they would come back here and prepare to go back up in -- up to their caribou drift fences, up in the upper eighty and the Middle Fork as far down the Middle Fork as Joseph village.
That was Healy Lake people’s area up there.
The -- the Army, Billy Mitchell, that was stationed at Fort Egbert, his journal -- he came up, I believe in 1901, up from Eagle through Joseph village in the winter to find a way through for the telegraph line going to -- to Fairbanks and he ran into the Healy Lake band at Joseph.
Chief Healy and -- and his band were up there at that time. He made an agreement with them to lead him through the following winter to Delta --
to the Delta area to find a route for the telegraph line which would extend it off the Eagle line.
It ran from Valdez to -- to Dawson and Eagle that way. And the following winter he came up with his sergeant, and they contacted with what was -- they call Chief Joseph.
But Chief Joseph was really from the Salchaket. He was from here, but he’d married down at Salchaket and came back up here.
But he wasn’t really the chief. Chief Healy was really the chief, but he was the only one who could speak English so Mitchell assumed that he was the chief.
But uh, he contracted with him, to lead him up --This was when it was fifty below according to Mitchell’s journal.
Led him up the Joseph Creek, from Joseph village over the head of the Goodpaster and down to the village down at the mouth of the -- toward the mouth of the -- close to the mouth of the Tanana -- the Goodpaster River.
And the -- those people, there was pictures taken of the band up there, Chief Healy and his band. And there was --
It’s been well documented and recorded by Billy Mitchell. He thought a lot of the people up there. But they had their caribou wickups with the skin houses according to the photographs they’d -- hed' taken.
And they told him they were Tanana Indians, they came from up over here. That was the place where they wintered up there.
Sometimes they, I understand they went into -- joined up with the Ketchumstuk group over there. They were related to the Ketchumstuk people too, I understand, too.
Well, I’ll get back to my wife and the Healy Lake people here at the lake. When I -- I moved back here in uh, in here in 1947 and stayed. During the summer time my wife and I, we moved in, and there was several other families here, but they just spent a little while and then they’d go -- move back out to the highway.
And when the Alaska Highway was constructed, well, Chief Healy was the chief of their -- John Healy was chief of the band here and he had moved the people, the survivors of that epidemic, he’d moved them up to the Little Gerstle on the Alaska Highway.
So people more or less -- his people moved up there with him, the survivors of that epidemic they had but they would still return here all the time and mostly in the summer, you know for fish and the moose, the beaver and all.
And anyway, my family, we lived in that old village. And Fred was born down there in that, that old village.
And, but we carried -- we hauled all our water there. The water was bad there, you know, the lake water was bad and we hauled our water from the creeks, the fresh water from the creeks and different places, because we were always afraid of that water.
Due to past, you know, records of epidemics there.
Then in about ‘50, about 1950 we moved over here to this location.
Built our cabin. Drug the logs up, cut ‘em by hand, drug ‘em up with the dog team. Built our cabin and we raised our family here.
We had a garden. We had a -- We got our moose, we got our fish, we trapped for furs, and I did a lot of predator trapping and hunting for the bounties, and occasionally I’d go out and work in the summer with the Alaska Road Commission out of Tok.
And uh, but, our family grew up here. We didn’t -- we weren’t dependent on no, no outside money, BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) or anything. We lived mostly strictly on subsistence off the land here.
The family we had nets out here in the lake and my family dried fish year round, or you know, not year round, but all during the summer. We fished under the ice in the early fall. We had two big dog teams that we used for travel and for trapping and bringing supplies in. We usually brought supplies in once a year by boat.
But we lived right here off the country. We didn’t get no -- any outside income other than sometimes when I’d go out and work maybe for a month in the summertime.
Anyway, finally most of the people moved out of here for good, you know. They weren’t even coming back any more. So for a number of years, clear up until the ‘70's most people were livin’ out on the highway.
Some of the band moved to Tanacross, Dot Lake, other places. Some to Fairbanks.
And since then there's a lot of descendants, you know, of the people who were originally from here, there's quite a few. But very few of them that are still alive today, the original people that was here in 1946.
And Chief Healy died, I believe in 1946 up at Little Gerstle and his people became pretty well scattered around. They went to what, the survivors they went on up to, like I explained up to Dot Lake and Tanacross and Tok, other places, other villages.
But through the years here, we, we uh, we made a good livin’ here, you know. It was pretty much subsistence. We didn’t have much money to spend, but we lived right off the country mostly, you know.
My -- my family dried meat, moose meat and caribou. When we could find caribou up the Healy River, they were part of the Fortymile herd. They still are with the Canadian caribou coming through up there.
They had traps up Healy River. They always had traps up Healy River.
I’d like to point out I had the highest respect for the elder Natives, for their knowledge of game and their and their respect for wildlife.
And I never saw them waste game and when they butchered an animal they took everything that was edible and what we’d once considered not edible.
And even the moose when the -- in velvet, they even ate, chewed the horn. They’d cook it over the fire and chew that. Nearly all the organs of the animal they ate.
The liver, the brains, mostly the brains we used of the caribou and moose were used for skin tanning. But nearly all the organs they ate: the stomach and the kidneys, all, everything.
They seemed to be healthy and they had good teeth. All the elders did when I came here. And they were very, you know, they were rustlers. They were always out, even the the old ladies, the elders, they went out setting the rabbit snares, you know, and draggin’ in their own wood.
And surprising some of the elders was way up there in age, and they would cut, saw their own wood. Maybe the younger ones would help out.
They would bring wood for ‘em, you know, the ones that was too old, but a lot of ‘em would be sawing their own wood, carrying it into their cabins.
They had a village here, down here on the point, that one time they had one across the lake and they had one up Healy River at old Chief Healy’s camp up the upper river. They had a village up there, also. That was more for caribou and fish from the Upper Tanana. They had upper Healy River direction.
Upper Healy River they had by the old chief’s cabin up there, they had, well there was a number of cabins there. and they had tents and there’s also pits up there where they had, they had covered you know, with skins and bark and --
and they had -- all along the river there’s still cache pits are in evidence where they had their fish there, the whitefish, they put in those pits, you know, and they put, lined them with bark, put a layer of grass, layer of fish, layer of grass, then --
And then later they would -- they'd cover them with logs ‘n soil ‘n moss, 'n later dig them up. Then they dried ‘em, quite a bit of fish.
They also put up caribou. You know, dried and frozen, and dried caribou also and moose. Everybody had -- seems like everybody -- no one went hungry that I knew of. And it wasn’t -- They didn’t need any hand outs or anything like that either.
I had the highest respect and I still do for the elders and I learned a lot about wildlife from the elders.
And uh, and I still admire them, you know, how industrious they were and how they could get along without nothin’, and their survival here in a real harsh climate.
And on the trail I’ve hunted with many of ‘em and many of their huntin’ trips and hunted wolf dens with ‘em and wolves and uh --
They --they could call, you know most wildlife perfectly, and, you know, call moose, caribou, bear, muskrats, birds.
This was the elders, you know. They were real good at it.
And that’s -- that probably contributed to their -- a lot to their, you know, their knowledge of game and wildlife, contributed a lot to their survival up here.
Because they talked about the -- the elders talked about famines. And, they always put away, I understand they put away food for those kind of events.
They had hidden caches out. A man and his partner would usually -- they would have a hidden cache way out somewhere. You find ‘em all over the country uh, up on top of ridges where they would fork.
But they made pits and they put their --They put dry meat, clothing weapons, and berries. A lot of times they'd put berries up in trees. They’d make ‘em -- they’d pick berries while they were on a look out watching for game.
They’d take a birch tree and knock -- that was rotten, and knock the inside out and put sticks to the bottom and some moss and fill it up with berries while they were watching for wild game. And they’d climb way up in a spruce tree and stash it up there.
And uh, they always talked about these caches were very important. You know, way out, there’d be known to just the -- the two partners here.
Sometimes they were married to sisters. And, uh, but anyway they had their own caches. In the event that they got driven out by people coming through.
They always talked about people coming through up here from down, down below, the other side of the Alaska Range, comin’ in here raidin’ their villages.
And if they got driven out of their villages, or their encampments in the winter, they always had clothing and weapons and food stashed someplace.
This was the reason, I understand that they had made those caches, for survival.
And -- and they talk about the Upper Tanana where they -- Those people came over from Kluane Lake that tribe and shot a hole in ‘em down there, and
a lot of people that escaped were, you know, that got away and they did survive by some of the caches way out
and later they went back and retaliated, I understand. (Anthropologist Catherine McClellan called this retaliation "the epic 19th century massacre of the Southern Tutchone.)
But it was those caches that when you’re driven out when it's severe weather, driven out of your encampment, not fully dressed, you know, and with no weapon, you’re you’re --
It’s almost a death sentence unless you have something to fall back on the way they explained, the old people, and which is understandable.
But I don’t know it’s -- what more I can say about the people here.
They had a trader, the early trader here, I believe was Newton. He came in here about 1917 roughly there.
And first he was up in the Upper Tanana, or went up the -- what was Mansfield at that time and traded some up there for one season. Then he came back here to Healy River and made a trading post down here.
And he was here ‘till about 1930, I believe. And his trading post burned down and his -- his family moved to Fairbanks for school. There was no school here.
And uh, they started a school here one time. I understand my wife told me, but it was only one year, some uh, minister, man by the name of McIntosh (Reverend E.A. McIntosh who was the priest in charge of St. Timothy's Episcopal mission at Tanacross).
He came in here and started a school one spring. But that’s the only school they had here.
Hajdukovich was a trader that went up with his boats all the way to Tetlin. Later Herman Kessler. He ran his boats clear up to -- up and around Tetlin and that area up there.
Then there was, uh, there was other traders, too. They were uh, uh -- Off hand I can’t think of all of ‘em, but, uh, anyway I ‘ve heard so much about ‘em through my wife, you know. They had those steam boats and went all the way up to Northway, I guess. Tetlin.
And uh, sometimes in the fall they didn’t make it all the way up there, they would freeze in. Then the traders would have to unload all the material on the --. It’d be frozen in on the Tanana someplace, and they’d have to unload everything and cache it.
And later after freeze-up, hire the Natives in the Upper Tanana come down with their dog teams and haul the trade goods up, up river to their trading posts.
Hajdukovich had trading posts at Tetlin and, I think, Northway, one at Tanacross. He also had caches along the river here at George Creek, Sam Creek, there little settlements there of Healy Lake people.
And uh, he had the trading post. He had a little trading post here.
But uh, Newton was the main trader here for a number of years. And then he turned it over to a man by the name of Emil Hammer.
And Hammer ran the trading post for a number of years. And then he died on the trail. Froze going down to Delta one winter.
And then a man, Tedlow. Tedlow one time, too, ran boat up here, and run -- and haul freight up here for Hajdukovich. I believe for himself, too, and traded.
Tedlow took over the trading post here in Healy Lake. And Ted had the trading post, owned it during the World War II and Stanley Young was running it at that time, during World War II --
Stanley Young was the trader here at that time when they had the epidemic during World War II.
And he was the one that told me that -- about him trying to get doctors in here at that time to take care of people.
But it seems -- and I heard this from not only Stanley Young, but others and my wife.
It seems that they, some of the elders -- before this epidemic some of the elders, some of the people would get sick and they’d send them down to the traders boats and they’d end up in Fairbanks or wherever.
And then when -- if that person died down there, and then when they sent the body back, well then, ‘course if they did an autopsy , well then, the elders would look at the body ‘cause they dressed ‘em.
And here there’s been an autopsy performed on the body and they didn’t understand. They thought the doctors killed him because of you know, the way the condition was.
But it wasn’t explained to ‘em. So that was real hard to -- some of the elders told me, to get any of them to send -- when they got sick to send anybody to Fairbanks.
And their tradition was that they always bring the bodies back to the area where they were born, where they were from.
And they talk about if a man was born here, from Healy Lake and had married somebody down river or Upper Tanana, he died up there, they always brought the body back even in the winter time if they couldn’t pack it, they would -- a crew would go up there and bring it back with a sled or whatever.
But they believe that’s the spirit that will be coming back to the locality where it was raised.
And I think they still, you know, especially the elders, you know, follow that real closely, and I understand it was real hard feelings between the elders and the BIA when a lot of the people would go to Tanana for medical help and died down there .
Then they went to sanitariums for TB and the bodies would never come back, and so there was a lot of hard feelings between the elders and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and doctors in general because, you know, they really thought they were killing their people, too.
But it was understandable because they had no education, you know.
The Upper Tanana people were the last ones to be exposed to any amount of education, I believe.
John Hajdukovich and Jack Singleton, I believe, was the first teacher at a school up at Tetlin. It was arranged by John Hajdukovich.
John Hajdukovich was instrumental in getting the Tetlin Reserve. He -- John had about thirty horses.
He was a U.S. Commissioner for the Upper Tanana. He was a big game guide. He was on the Alaska game board, the territorial game board.
And he -- during his time of guiding he -- he became acquainted with a lot of influential people like the Mellonkoffs and others, Endicott, and a number of those people.
He took them along the Alaska Range here -- he'd take those hunting parties all the way up to the Upper Tanana.
Maybe spend two and three months at a time on the hunting parties. He -- at that time would hire mostly Healy River people here, men to help guide.
You know, because they were good, good. They were also good river men, too, you know.
And John had run gas boats up for his trading post up river. He usually got John Healy or some of the Healy River Indians here to run the boats for him.
And they also -- he hired a lot of ‘em for -- most of ‘em for his guiding party. And through the people that John had become acquainted with through these hunts like Endicott and Mellonkoffs, and a number of those people they had a good deal of political influence.
John made a number of trips back to Washington, D.C. testifying about the Natives in the Upper Tanana that the caribou were --
Back in the mid-thrities was the last time that any amount of caribou made the big migrations, I understand, through this Upper Tanana.
And John made the -- testified several times before Congress. It’d be a matter of record back there I’m sure.
That the Upper Tanana people needed, you know, more game up here. So that’s one reason the buffalo were sent up here from Montana.
But as it turned out the Native people never -- were never allowed to use the buffalo, but they didn’t seem to be much concerned about buffalo meat any way. They were more concerned about their caribou and their moose.
But never-the-less that was the reason the buffalo were sent up here. But they were brought up, I understand, by the Tanana Valley Sportsmen group. They put the money up for transport ‘em up here.
I believe the Park Service in Montana released though that many for breeding purpose to send up here, so that’s one reason why the buffalo come up in this area.
And the Upper Tanana people’s area was from the delta, down here, back to the Alaska Range, all the way, all the way up and then part of the Goodpaster, the Volkmar and on the divide goin’ up to the --
Mt. Harper and the drainage of the Upper Middle Fork was their territory and back down along the drainage between the Mosquito Fork and across to the head of Minnie Creek and across to the Robertson River.
That was the area that the Healy River band here claimed as their subsistence places (what was Healy Lake's traditional hunting grounds).
But any -- gettin’ back to the testimony that John made in Washington, D.C., he told me that he -- he got the reserve up there in the Tetlin Reserve that was made by -- I believe he told me the Executive Order was never passed by Congress although Congress approved it.
But it was supposed to be -- that reserve was supposed to be for all the Natives from Delta on up to the border.
Well, my wife tells me and other elders that at times they used to leave here.
It would be during the spring. And they went hunting muskrats and there’d be a lot of people that would leave here and they’d go up to the Tetlin area and the Northway area to hunt muskrats.
But when there was no rats here. You know, rats run in cycles, and this area this year could be hardly any muskrats, but up river a ways in different areas could be -- they could be plentiful so they went up there, would go up there and hunt muskrats in the spring of the year.
And they were, I understand, pretty much interrelated and marriages between here and Upper Tanana.
And there’s a number of families in Tanacross right now at one time was here at Healy Lake.
The Isaacs and the Joseph families, they were from, originally from here, but moved up there later.
Usually during those epidemics, you know, people would move out. And anyway that -- Is there anything else that you wanna know that I know about?
One of the reasons, you know, that I was successful as a trapper -- You know, I came up from the Lower 48 and of course I’d been a hunter down there and an outdoorsman in my younger days, too.
But it was a lot different here in Alaska. That’s for sure.
One of the reasons for my success was through my wife, Margaret.
She was born at Mansfield. Her mother was a Sam from here at Healy Lake and her father was an Isaac.
Her father died when she was two years old and her mother brought her and her sister back to Healy Lake.
And her mother married Paddy Healy. And shortly after that, a year or two, Paddy Healy died. And then her grandparents raised, took her up to Sam Lake, its another river up, up above George Lake and raised her.
And her grandparents never spoke English. They were a generation behind and they retained their old ways.
They weren’t influenced very little by, by whites.
And Margaret, my wife, she always talks about at night her grandparents, her grandfather in particular, would be telling her about the old ways.
Her grandmother ‘d tell her about the old ways.
Everything from childbirth to things that were taboo in their culture and -- and about wildlife how the -- the rituals they went through when they hunted wildlife and consumed it and potlatches and everything like that.
And so her -- being as her grandparents didn’t speak English, Margaret never spoke English untll she was in her teens and then she moved back here to Healy Lake.
But she never went to school, but she picked up the English language pretty quick.
And ‘course when I met her, well she spoke mostly Native, but through the radio and conversing with me she learned English and got real good at it.
And uh -- but she was an unusual woman. She was real proud of her race, real proud of her people.
And when everyone left here, Chief Isaac appointed her chief here. She was chief here for about twenty-five years up until about 1970.
And in fact she was the one that fought for the land claims here. The land --
Healy Lake was one of the unlisted villages and we fought for three years. We had to gather up, you know, all of the records and everything else and present them to the Department of the Interior to convince them that this was a village and was entitled to the settlement.
And Margaret’s name is on the claims. And my family was the only one that lived here year around at that time. And had lived here for quite a few years. We were the only ones here.
But others would come in. And they had their allotments here. They’d come in for their fish, meat and quite often they were, they stayed --
Most of them spent their time out on the highway where there was schools.
I self taught my children for three years and then they went out to BIA school when it was too much for me to --
Be as my wife couldn’t read, well she couldn’t teach correspondence, but I did for three years and then I had to make a living trapping so the children went out to Chemawa (Indian School in Salem, Oregon) and Edgecumbe (Mount Edgecumbe school in Stika, Alaska) and places like that.
So Fred ended up with -- he ended up going back East. He’s a graduate of the University of Vermont.
And, but that was one drawback here was that we missed, was schools. But I think the schooling that they got by being raised here and raised here in a subsistence life, you know, style was an education that others weren’t fortunate enough to ever get.
You know, they understand how, what there, we went, what we did here to make a livin’ here and do what their mother taught ‘em.
And my success as a trapper and all, I learned mostly from -- from not only my wife, Margaret, but from the elders.
And that’s -- that’s one reason I respect the elders so much because after all they survived here all this -- this time with their knowledge of wildlife and how to survive here.
And I’ve been fortunate, you know, to learn so much about their ways. And I have respect for all their ways: their potlatches, system, their whole culture.
Now getting back to the Healy Lake people and the Native people from the Upper Tanana, there was --
There was accounts that I’ve heard over and over from the elders and also from the early prospectors, miners in the Chicken area, in the Fortymile.
At one time there were a lot of prospectors up in the Fortymile, and it was a year that the steamboats got frozen in with supplies coming up the Yukon.
And so they were short of supplies, the miners and prospectors in the Chicken area and so the Ketchumstuk people had fences for caribou over there and they practically saved, you know, many of the miners over there by meat.
You know, the meat they were getting from the caribou and they hunted for moose and all in there.
One of the prospectors told me, he said they would try to pay them with gold and they had no use for gold. They would throw it over their shoulders, you know.
You know, they had no way for payment; but they did it out of compassion for the prospectors, you know, that was in that area.
And most of the early prospectors had a high respect for the Native people.
And the injured and sick and those accounts of different prospectors and miners in the Fortymile area that would become sick in the wintertime, severe weather,
or injured, and the Ketchumstuk people would put them on their sleds and their dog teams and with their dog teams take them to Mansfield, which is in the Tanana drainage.
And then from Mansfield, the people there would put ‘em on a sled and bring them down as far as Healy River and then the Healy River people would take them to Fairbanks.
And they saved a lot of prospectors that way. And a lot of the prospectors they really appreciated the Native people, you know, and their ways.
They were poor. They didn’t have much, but whenever people would enter their village, their intent was sharing what they had.
Most of ‘em were honorable, their word was good.
And John Hajdukovich told me that he used to leave caches of food all along the river up here for trappers.
He would outfit ‘em and uh, and even though the Natives didn’t speak English, well, he had access to those caches.
He would take tobacco, rice, or anything that he'd left in his caches and in the spring John would come up with his boat and trade for the fur, and he said he never got beat.
They would always make a mark what they took, you know.
John spoke the language, too, which made it easier. And he said he never had anything stolen out of those caches all through the years that he had up and down the Tanana.
But that’s about all I can tell you about what I heard and understand about the Upper Tanana people and the Fortymile and Ketchumstuk people.
Helped them save lives of the early prospectors. Not only hunting game for them, but when they were sick and wounded, they would take them -- hauled ‘em down to Fairbanks.
And you know, relay them from one village to the other.
DON CALLAWAY: What was your question, Connie?
CONNIE FRIEND: If you’d like to speak to some of the -- the hunting traditions or the cultural traditions --
PAUL KIRSTEATTER: Oh, there’s -- there's lots of ‘em. It’d take me a long time --
There’s -- about young girls grew up -- there’s taboos for each of these, about when they’re menstruating, that, you know, they’d camp way out away from the village until that was over.
And a man uh, a woman never step over a man’s weapons, you know. Certainly not when she was menstruating.
There're certain foods that the young people didn’t eat, of the moose, and the caribou and the beaver and other animals.
Certain -- Young people was not supposed to eat them.
Women weren’t supposed to eat bear. That's of this group here, although they vary -- and I've heard. Some people up river, you know, had a different custom, but here the women didn’t eat bear.
Many things like that. Then they had certain customs about hunting.
The caribou they talk about, they always let the first of the bands go through, migrate through. They left the fences open and the corrals open.
They had long drift fences. There’s some up Healy River and then up, up in the Fortymile. A number of the Healy River people had up there, and then the Upper Middle Fork, Joseph, Joseph Creek.
And they could hear a caribou migrating through, they always let -- regardless of how hungry they were for meat, they let the leader of the caribou go through because they claimed that they left a scent trail, or in -- you know for the ones that followed.
Once the caribou -- the leaders went through, that they agreed was -- then they could go ahead and corral the caribou.
They had usually a circular fence and closure, and a long drift fence -- and been described to me. I’ve seen the outlines of those fences. I know where a number of them are, especially up here.
You can still see the outlines of ‘em where game through the years followed those drift fences and cut in down long trails into where there were enclosures.
The enclosures were described to me as being mostly circular and the women and children would be way behind, out in the route of the caribou approaching these drift fences.
And then once they got past the women and children, they’d make racket, you know, and drive the caribou down the drift fences into the encirclements.
It's described to me the caribou went round and round. Well, the men in the early days before they had white men’s rifles, they had openings in the corral.
They would set snares and the snares made out of sinew, braided sinew.
And they'd set snares in those openings and they could catch the caribou as they tried to escape and the men would run along and cut the tendons in the back leg and let the caribou -- release the caribou and put the snare back.
They had an enclosure, you know, where they can -- and then later could -- they had, and of course they had, they tell me they had bows and arrows and all that.
So they could select the caribou that was the fattest. They knew which ones.
The elders were real sharp on game. They knew which animals at a certain time of the year which were the fattest.
That’s the ones they tried to take.
And like I explained, they -- in the winter time they froze a lot of the meat up on caches, away from the dogs.
In summer they dried a lot of the meat.
When they traveled, they carried dried meat. Berries, they stashed berries all over where they’d come back in the middle of winter.
After the fall they picked these berries and had ‘em stashed. They could come back to these berries.
There was certain taboos for potlatches. How they -- which way they stirred the meat, the soup.
The body might be taken out of a window, brought in and out of a window (This was done to avoid contamination through the doorway where young girls had walked which was considered taboo or injii. While this practice continued until quite recently, it has now been abandoned).
In a community hall, or what we call a community hall.
In a home, they, they, uh, sometimes if they had a wickiup, I understand, that while they was cremated with -- right there sometimes.
There's a place over here at George Lake where they had a partly submerged pit.
They usually two families lived in those places.
They had the willows bent over, had a dome shape with an opening for smoke to go out. They had both ends open.
One side -- then they had a fire pit, a long fire pit.
And they could drag logs in and burn them in the center. The smoke would go out the top and the heat from the fire would warm the ground on both sides of the shelf.
And they were partly sunken. And then one family lived over here and the other one.
Really, this is where your partnership came in and the families stayed together, you know.
The one family on this side and one family on the other side.
Those are still evidence in some places around here, those pits. And house pits, I understand sometimes a death there that they might uh -- (tape ends prematurely) Rest of written transcript: In the old days, they would hire a non-family member and he would criss-cross the body with logs and it would be cremated. Then they might put the ashes in the house and burn the house down. They didn't stay in those houses after somebody had died.