Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Warren Neakok
Warren Neakok

Warren Neakok was interviewed on July 26, 1984 by Dave Libbey and Ed Hall at Warren's home in Point Lay, Alaska. A total of eight interviews were done with Warren for the North Slope Borough's Point Lay cultural resource site survey, whose results are reported in To Keep The Past Alive: The Point Lay Cultural Resource Site Survey by Warren Neakok, Dorcas Neakok, Waldo Bodfish, David Libbey, Edwin S. Hall, Jr., and the Point Lay Elders (Barrow, AK: North Slope Borough, 1985). In this interview, Warren talks about a dog sled trip he took from Point Lay to Point Hope, Alaska and uses a map to mark the route. He mentions specific places along the route and provides Inupiaq place names. This recording has been edited from the original in order to facilitate the flow of the interview and conversation.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 88-08-06 & 88-08-07

Project: Dog Mushing in Alaska Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Jul 26, 1984
Narrator(s): Warren Neakok
Interviewer(s): David Libbey, Edwin Hall, Jr.
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Alaska State Library, Institute of Museum and Library Services
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.

Sections

Introduction to discussion about dog sled trip from Point Lay to Point Hope and marking the route on a map

Departing from Point Lay

Following the spit and making first camp at Qasigialik

Second camp at Qagiaqtaaq

Third camp at Ayugatak

Staying at the cabin at Ayugatak and getting help with the load from another team from Point Hope

Arriving in Point Hope in late March

The reason for going to Point Hope

Whaling in Point Hope

Leaving Point Hope near the end of April

Stopping at Akololik

Traveling in stormy weather and following a creek where there were good trail conditions

Finding his way on the creek back out to the ocean

Camping at Pikmigiaq

Camping at Cape Beaufort

Getting to and camping at Kuutchiaq

Hunting caribou near Kuutchiaq

Hauling caribou meat back to Point Lay

Whaling at Point Hope

People and number of dog teams on the trip

Date of this trip

The whale caught at Point Hope

Hunting along the trail

Number of dogs in the teams

Types of sleds used

Making the trip from Point Lay to Point Hope for the first time with Samuel Dives, the route taken, and the equipment used

Getting back to Point Lay on that first trip

Making this same dog team trip multiple times, but never by snowmachine

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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.

Transcript

DAVE LIBBEY: It’s July 26, 1984, and we’re talking with Warren Neakok at his house about a dog sled trip from Point Lay to Point Hope, right? ED HALL: Yup

DAVE LIBBEY: Okay. We were going to try to mark that trip that you make when you go by dog sled from Point Lay to Point Hope. Try to mark the route on the map.

WARREN NEAKOK: Point Hope directions.

DAVE LIBBEY: Yeah, going this way and you would start from. Okay, here’s Point Lay up here.

WARREN NEAKOK: From Point Lay, we left around just before noon, my family, my wife, with one team, and we travel right across here.

And then from there go right across there where we go to the better trail.

The snow was pretty soft and deeper up where we go across there and then we go down to the spit-side.

DAVE LIBBEY: Okay, snows deep up this way at Siksrikpak.

WARREN NEAKOK: No, I was wrong, I’m sorry. That’s, that’s where we left from. ED HALL: From the old Point Lay

DAVE LIBBEY: Oh, the old Point Lay, okay.

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, from there we went this way and then turn down spit-side. DAVE LIBBEY: Okay.

WARREN NEAKOK: So we have to follow the spit all the way, better trail, all the way.

Then from there, we -- where did we camped out?

Right in, right in a little the other side of Qasigialik somewhere, right there somewhere. Yeah.

DAVE LIBBEY: First camp, huh?

WARREN NEAKOK: And we just stayed overnight and the next morning we started out earlier and then followed the coast line all the way and we camped to Qagiaqtaaq. That's where the first -- the first team stopped, there, two teams.

There, right there. Stayed for one day --

DAVE LIBBEY: Okay, that’s at Cape Beaufort

WARREN NEAKOK: --did some little caribou hunting get our fresh meat, and then we just hunt right beyond there because they were pretty close, lot of caribou there. That was around the last part of March, just before April.

And then from there go down to that, oh, that Ayugatak.

ED HALL: Um, this side of --

WARREN NEAKOK: Where’s that coal mine?

ED HALL: Oh, that coal mine? It’s further -- so you kept going all the way to it?

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, all the way. ED HALL: All the way down this trail.

WARREN NEAKOK: Along this snowmachine trail.

ED HALL: Okay, here’s that creek where you told me --

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, that’s where we camped in that, in that old cabin. Made a pretty good trip that time. ED HALL: All the way.

WARREN NEAKOK: The wind was calm and the sunshine clear. The trail was good out through the ocean ice, right close to the bank, pretty smooth all the way, snow kind of half melted.

ED HALL: That was the fourth night, eh? The fourth night. WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah. ED HALL: Right.

WARREN NEAKOK: Let’s see, one, two, must be, third night. DAVE LIBBEY: Third night, right.

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, we remained at one day at --

ED HALL: Yeah, you stayed two days, two nights at Cape Beaufort.

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, from here two days and then that’s the third time we made --

ED HALL: Third time you made a trip, yeah.

WARREN NEAKOK: The trail was good, actually just a little off on the backside.

The ocean ice was pretty smooth all the way. So we got -- got here a little later, right around 10 or 11, the winds started picking up, snowing and everything.

So that’s where we camped out.

ED HALL: Did you stay in that shelter cabin there?

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, yeah that’s where we stayed while it’s in pretty good shape (at Ayugatak).

And from there, we stayed for the day. And one team came from Point Hope.

I don't know how they notified the person down at Point Hope and he come up to help the other team up with their load, that's where he came in the next day.

We stayed there for two days I believe because they got to wait on him.

And then the next day, he came in and for the next day, another day he went up to look for caribou but he didn't get any, so the next day, again we left for Point Hope, all the way to Point Hope.

ED HALL: And all the way around the --

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, all the way around Cape Lisburne. All the way to Point Hope. ED HALL: Okay, I’m just going to do this --

WARREN NEAKOK: And it calmed down again that next day.

This morning was -- wasn’t too good but that second day was real clear again, like we travel here same day, nice weather, good trail, make it all the way to Point Hope.

We got there earlier, early afternoon around three or four.

ED HALL: And this was in late March? In late March.

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah. That becomes around late March, around the last week of March.

ED HALL: And what were you going down to Point Hope for?

WARREN NEAKOK: Oh, we were planned to stay down there for the summer but I changed my mind and I want to head back.

I got a little homesick and then after we got a whale -- the crew I was out with, got a whale April 9th.

And they, they said that this whale catch break the record, they used to the early man was a little later than April.

And this man he break the record, he get the one whale early -- earlier than everybody.

DAVE LIBBEY: Whose was that? Whose crew was that?

WARREN NEAKOK: Lenny Lane, the old man. He died a long time ago.

But his sons are down there, his two sons, the other sons there, Amos Lane, Jacob Lane.

They're all at Point Hope.

And then, we stayed there a little more than a month, anyway and then I changed my mind, want to head for home before these rivers break up and start flowing.

And then we left, it be now, about the last week of April. Just before the end of April. Somewhere around mid, mid-week of the last week of April.

And then we left again, to home. We left around afternoon from Point Hope.

And then where’s that Akololik, it’d be right there. where’s that little --

ED HALL: They call this one Akololik, right here, that’s the name on it, anyway, Akololik.

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah that’s it, we didn’t go too far from there. We camped out a little further in some -- somewhere right there.

Yeah and next day, next morning the wind started blowing from the south. Get a little stormy and could hardly see further away.

That is a part of the back up there, little mounts there. And then we took off -- followed that creek all the way and we stop in to the old -- old cabin somewhere back there.

ED HALL: You go all the way to the headwaters of the creek?

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, we had to follow that little creek all the way. That’s the only good trail. Instead of climbing the mountains.

ED HALL: Okay, it goes right up here and then down to this other --

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, that cabin. And we had a lunch there in the old cabin and then took off again.

Go right over that mountain. We go right, follow that little creek because this here where we used to go right over, kind of a little too high, we got a heavy load.

And then we have to follow this little creek all the way out.

And then from there, right -- that coal mine, the one I was talking about?

We camped out about half way, somewhere on that, I couldn’t tell whereabouts we are.

Straight into that -- I could see that when we go over this mountains. I could see that.

Somebody told me there’s a better trail. Straight, short cut, not like this follow the beach side.

And from there, all the way down to that coalmine. We camped out about half way.

The weather it get good again. I can’t even tell where -- where that place was. Where we camped out.

ED HALL: Was it in a creek, in a creek valley? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, somewhere --

ED HALL: Cause there’s a nice stream valley that goes clear up to here. WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah.

ED HALL: Yeah, somewhere, that’s why I put a dotted line

WARREN NEAKOK: After we go out that somewhere. Camped out. And then from there, we go out to the ocean through that little coal mine, Ayugatak.

ED HALL: Right at the, right where you showed us that coal mine? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah. ED HALL: Oh, okay.

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, that’s where, there was this little creek behind it and we hit -- the water was running and we can't go across and then, I get kind a little lost.

I thought we was way up off from the ocean side. And that was late -- late afternoon.

And then I told my kids, make some hot water and feed our kids, I told Dorcas. Put a little tent in.

But it was pretty good and but it just cooled off late -- late evening. And then I start walking to that little bank side, it wasn’t too far away, about as far as the old roadside.

There’s a mount there -- real flat top. So I start walking and then I go right on top.

Yeah, I could see the ocean ice right down below me. I was happy then.

So I walked back and tell them we were almost out to the ocean if we go to this direction. Some part of the snow was pretty well melted, too.

And then we took off after lunch. We tried to follow that little creek along the edge of it through the bank side but it was pretty soft and kind of a little slanted too, behind that little creek.

So we go down to that -- follow that little creek down right along side of it, so we get down to the ocean.

I wanted to camp out as soon as we get down there. It was pretty calm, nice weather and Dorcas didn’t want to camp out. She wanted to just keep going.

And put up the smaller kids to the sled and cover them up with the sled cover, put them in the part of them in the blankets or sleeping bags, to keep them warm.

They were kind of sleepy, too. So we took off travel, late evening.

And so we get up to Pikmigiaq, yeah. That’s where we -- go as far as there. And we camped out right in that sand bar right below the cabin, put up tent.

Next morning was beautiful, calm, sunshine, clear. And then next day, we took off again.

And we camped out a little south side of Cape Beaufort, the winds start picking up again.

ED HALL: Didn’t go very far then?

WARREN NEAKOK: No didn’t go very far. Somewhere. That little -- got a little creek, I think that’s what it is there. The last little creek like that, other side of Cape Beaufort. ED HALL: That’s what it is.

WARREN NEAKOK: Somewhere, somewhere right there. And then from there -- from there we travel all the way to Kuutchiaq.

The wind was pretty well blowing. And the water was running and flowing right in that Kuutchiaq Creek and the water goes out to the ocean.

I thought we would never make it but right where it’s draining, it was -- it was about this wide. ED HALL: Three feet.

WARREN NEAKOK: Enough to go across the slit, just make a big, heavy stream there. Come down. Oh, we can make it right -- right through that little creek.

So we made it. Water all over down below that Amaaqtusuq, that's where it runs out both ways.

And then from there -- DAVE LIBBEY: Fourth camp -- is that right?

WARREN NEAKOK: -- we camped out at Kuutchiaq. ED HALL: Oh you did camp there. WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah. ED HALL: Oh, okay.

WARREN NEAKOK: Right below that little bank. Just snow blocks around it and put up a tent on it.

Just before we reached that Kuutchiaq old cabin, saw caribou for the first time and my son-in-law, we get about six -- six caribou.

We were hungry for it, too. The kids were sure glad and everybody, all of us.

And then right after we put up our little tent, my son-in-law and I start hauling the --

the two boys start hauling the caribou, what we get, they haul them there in our little camp and start skinning them.

And next day, start taking -- taking some meat up to Point Lay, after they froze.

It was kind of cold up there, lot different -- we don't see no running water up there from Cape Beaufort up here.

It was pretty good, snow all over everywhere. Took a sled load of caribou and put them in the school storage, that’s for the summer meat.

And there was a tent there, at Kuuchauraq, yeah, that old man -- that old man and his wife and their adopt -- two adopted kids.

Oh, they did some hunting down there, caribou hunting. They were camping right on the beach side.

I stopped there, have some little coffee, something to eat. Took off for Point Lay.

ED HALL: So you came in like this, to Kuuchauraq on the way back and then did you go back along the spit?

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, I follow the beach all the way up the spit. And next morning after I do some little shopping, some little groceries,

head back in early after¬noon. I had to go back through the mainland side all the way.

ED HALL: So you took some meat up for the cold storage and brought some supplies back down.

WARREN NEAKOK: And we stayed there for a while, about three or four days, till the wind calmed down.

As soon as the wind calmed down another team go down, came down from Point Lay; that was Willie's older -- oldest brother, he go down to pick us up.

DAVE LIBBEY: Willie Tukrook? His older brother?

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, so we came up and started living there at Point Lay again. That's the end of my trail.

DAVE LIBBEY: Yeah, but did you -- you went down to Point Hope to get maqtaq?

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, that’s why we had a heavy load, maqtaq and meat.

ED HALL: But you went out whaling while you were there -- on Lenny Lane's crew?

WARREN NEAKOK: As soon as I got there they tried to hire me. This one old lady, she’s got more power, she really want me. Old man, I think so.

ED HALL: That wasn’t the first time you’d been whaling, though?

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah -- no, but when they used to do whaling there, I used to be out, but I was pretty young.

But I’d never been there when they -- when they shot a whale, or kill a whale or something.

Just go out there once in a while when I get big enough to haul some groceries, what they want and take them out, just travel back and forth once in a while.

ED HALL: From -- from here? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah

ED HALL: So there was two teams that went all the way down and two that came all the way back?

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, these -- these two teams came from Point Hope to pick up Tuckfields, Charlie Tuckfields parents.

That was my bro -- Dorcas’ younger brother and her brother-in-law, they came up by dog team to pick up Tuckfields from Point Hope to Point Lay and we go same time with them.

That is, they were moving to Point Hope for good after they lived here for years.

DAVE LIBBEY: Who were they? Who were the Tuckfields?

WARREN NEAKOK: Tuckfields, old man Tuckfields and his wife and his family. They came up by -- by boat in summertime, that was around early years ‘40’s, maybe ’39 somewhere.

They came up by boat in summertime. And they remained there for how many years, for quite a while.

ED HALL: Well, you made this trip in the 40’s, right?

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, I think we got in ’46. No I was wrong. Early year ’50. Yeah that’s the time.

ED HALL: 19 -- 1950.

DAVE LIBBEY: Must be just about the time you were working for -- just about the time you were working on that coast survey?

Warren Neakok: Yeah, that’s the time, ’48. Same year, soon as I get back. As soon as I get back start working there, for Geodetic Survey. Year ‘48 ED HALL: ‘48. Warren Neakok: Yeah.

ED HALL: Was that a big whale?

Warren Neakok: Oh yeah, sounds like. Oh, about 50 -- 50 feet or so.

ED HALL: Must have been exciting.

Warren Neakok: Yeah, I think after we got home, get about three more or five more, some other crews.

We get some ptarmigans once in a while, the kids keep hunting ptarmigans.

ED HALL: Oh when you were traveling?

Warren Neakok: Yeah, when we travel on the way back, one wolverine, one brown bear, a little one. That was used for dog food. DAVE LIBBEY: Oh, you got a wolverine, huh? One wolverine?

Warren Neakok: A wolverine, but it was kind of reddish color. I thought it was a bear, right between the ice piles,

we were traveling out side of a big pile, ice pile, right close to the beach. While we were traveling, saw some kind of a head looking at us, right between the big iceberg.

I thought it was a bear so, we stopped, grabbed my rifle and shot at it. It took off.

I ran up there, go up on top the ice pile. Look at it, see that wolverine just roll down the side. A big sized one, too.

DAVE LIBBEY: Where abouts was that? Where abouts was that along the trail?

Warren Neakok: That was a little -- little on this side of Cape Beaufort.

ED HALL: How many dogs did you have, Warren? Warren Neakok: Oh about eight, eight dogs.

ED HALL: On your team and was there eight on the other one, too? Warren Neakok: Yeah

ED HALL: So you had lots of hungry dogs.

Warren Neakok: My uncle down at Point Hope, he gave us that little short sled, that little basket sled.

So that give us more room, three kids drive it with three dogs and we use five dogs because the snow get kind of melt a little bit, you know, the sled just go real easy.

ED HALL: Even with a heavy load.

Warren Neakok: Yeah, even with a heavy load.

DAVE LIBBEY: So, coming back you had two sleds? ED HALL: Three sleds.

DAVE LIBBEY: Yeah, of your own, though.

Warren Neakok: On the way down, we didn’t have much load, just enough our groceries and enough for the dogs. See how many, how long -- stay overnight or so.

ED HALL: You remember at that coal mine you said one time you stayed in that shelter cabin, maybe that we found at the coal mine?

When was that? Remember you said -- you said you went up this creek and around?

Warren Neakok: Oh when I first come by?

ED HALL: Yeah, no I don’t know when it -- yeah.

WARREN NEAKOK: Let’s see what year? ’47. Early year ’47.

ED HALL: Where were you going then?

WARREN NEAKOK: Point Hope. That guy wanted to take me along. [Samuel Dives] He traveled by himself from Barrow, all the way.

And then he wanted to take me along. Go along with him.

He said that he gets tired of traveling all by himself in the big storm, too. So I did.

So we followed that and after we took off from that old shelter cabin, travel right around. About a mile off, about a half a mile or a mile off from the beach side, because we can’t travel through there,

pretty rough and then we get down to the spit right ahead of the lagoon. And just travel there.

ED HALL: So that was an earlier trip that you made to Point Hope?

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, that-- that was my first trip. DAVE LIBBEY: That was just the year before? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, my first trip.

ED HALL: Did you just go right down and come right back?

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, no, for the other year. No, I just go down and come back up.

We camped out at Cape Lisburne, that’s from Pikmigiaq, all the way.

And then we holed up there for two days, the wind was blowing pretty good, east wind.

And then late evening, we took off, we go right over there somewhere, go down -- down to Akalolik, just a little this side of that campsite where Cape Lisburne is.

He knows the trail, go right over the mountains.

ED HALL: Yeah, I guess it looks like you could come down through here.

WARREN NEAKOK: Get down to that Akalolik.

That was the only place where they could go down to Akalolik Creek, is pretty steep.

Finally, we hit that same spot where he used to go down. Because these mountains are pretty -- pretty high.

And then when we come up, we followed that little creek a little ways in and there's a little kind of lower spot but it's pretty high and pretty rocky, too.

We got enough dogs, we got about 17 dogs. Yeah, we had a tough time, some rocks all over, no snow and it was pretty steep, too.

And we got stuck once in a while, and my partner there, he had to walk up way ahead of his dogs. I was behind the sled handle.

So he start to whistle at them and all the dogs starting crawling up so we go right up, stop once in a while, finally we get to the top.

Soon as we get up to the top the wind was pretty well blowing. Boy, we had a hard time once in a while to trying to handle our sled, the dogs kept going like everything, 17 dogs.

ED HALL: One sled?

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, one little basket sled. It wasn't too big, maybe about this long --

ED HALL: 10 feet long

WARREN NEAKOK: About this wide and kind of narrow too. Got a big load, too.

ED HALL: What was he traveling for?

Warren Neakok: Oh he took somebody, the white guy up from Pt. Hope or Kotzebue all the way to Barrow. I don’t know what he was.

ED HALL: And then he was just coming back? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah.

ED HALL: Who was that? Who was that guy you were traveling with? Warren Neakok: Oh, Samuel Dives.

ED HALL: And then how did you get back to Point Lay?

WARREN NEAKOK: After three or four days, when the wind died down, but it was still blowing pretty good but it was better.

And he hired, the other guy wants to take me home, as far as Pikmigiaq. Because I don't know the trail, over these mountains.

I didn’t really know which way I'm going, because we’d been traveling in dark -- dark weather, too.

That was in November, just before Thanksgiving. And he took me up and camped out right in the mountains somewhere.

I don’t even see what, we followed the Kukpak for the way in. ED HALL: Kukpak.

WARREN NEAKOK: Kukpak, we go further up, and then just before dark we camped out.

And then from there, we camped out again somewhere.

And then from there, go down to Pikmigiaq. And next day, early in the morning, he took off, and I took off. Took off around seven o’clock in the morning, before daylight.

From there, from Pikmigiaq, I camped out at Kuutchiaq. Hit a big storm again, north wind.

Stayed overnight and then left in the morning, all the way to Point Lay.

ED HALL: Did you ever make that trip again by dog team?

WARREN NEAKOK: Oh yeah, after I know which way to go, right over these mountains,

I think I made a couple of trips after that, springtime, the first part of April. One year and the other war, that is when they get a whale at Point Hope.

But with the other guy with me, I had no problems on the trail.

ED HALL: Have you made the same trip with a snow mobile?

WARREN NEAKOK: I haven’t -- I haven’t traveled with a snow mobile. Maybe I’ll get lost if I use a snow mobile. Not using my lead dog, too fast.

ED HALL: You would go that same way with a snow mobile, though? Even that steep way --

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, they follow that same trail by snowmachine. They come up once in a while by snowmachine -- ED HALL: Point Hopers?

WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, they travel. But it only takes them about a couple of days. ED HALL: Yeah, little different.