Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Mary Vent

I worked with Mary Vent during the mid-afternoon on July 22, 1992. She lived with her husband, Bobby, near the village store that was run by their, daughter Mabel. Mary was a very skilled bead worker. She also knitted beautifully, and when I was in Huslia she was busy making heavy socks for the upcoming potlatch. Working cooperatively with another woman, she was knitting the decorative tops for heavy winter socks and her friend was knitting the feet. Together they were turning out a pair of long socks every two days. I had just about completed the task of setting up the tape recorder next to the couch when someone came by with two good-sized King Salmon for Mary. She asked him to put the Kings in her shed. We recorded about half of the tape, then took a break while she cut the fish. I helped her hang the pieces to dry and clean up. Then we went back to the house and completed the taping. Mary's conversation ranged widely. She talked about how she grew up and what it was like to live out on the Huslia River as a child. Her account includes descriptions of various kinds of subsistence activities and an account of how they spent the Christmas holidays. She talked about her great grandmother whom I had never heard about before. She told several humorous stories about how people of her time had learned about white people's lifeways. In one of her funnier accounts she tells how the owner of a new wood stove built the fire in the oven instead of the firebox. Her tape concluded with an excellent description of how people used to play football, a game played on the ice with a skin ball stuffed with animal hair. Everyone played, adults, young people, children, elders, even women with babies on their backs. It was a favorite pastime. Her discussion of this topic may have been stimulated by some of the xeroxed copies of photos from the Episcopal Archives in Austin, Texas that we looked at before we began to tape.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 93-15-38

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Jul 22, 1992
Narrator(s): Mary Vent
Interviewer(s): Wendy Arundale
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

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


1) How her great grandpa's wife told stories about old days

2) Her great grandmother's humorous stories about changing times

3) How she grew up

4) Life at her family's cabin at Taaldzaakkaakk'at--slough below North Fork

5) Playing football as a kid

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

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


Section 1: Cook, Julia\ Pilot, Sally\ stories -- wintertime hunger\ snaring rabbits\ fishtraps -- blackfish\ sinew -- caribou skin\ hard times\ birchbark\ pottery -- clay and feathers\ cooking|

Section 2: great grandpa -- rich\ cook stove -- accidentally making fire in oven\ clock -- thinking the ticking was woodworms\ flour -- accidentally boiling it\ crackers -- first experience eating\ dry crackers\ canvas -- making dresses\ English -- few spoke it|

Section 3: Old Cutoff -- Huslia\ Dulbi -- store\ Huntington, Jim\ Huntington, Sydney\ Dubin, Sam -- storekeeper\ Koyukuk River -- hunting for rats in spring\ store -- father's\ Nulato -- outfit from\ Huslia River -- North Fork\ Taaldzaakkaakk'at -- wintering place\ Dulbi slough\ Taaldzaakkaakk'at -- above North Fork|

Section 4: fishing -- pike\ food storage -- cellar\ trapping -- marten, rabbits\ dead fall trap\ spring poles\ wood cutting\ cutting fish\ town -- stayed out of\ Cutoff -- Christmas\ rabbit skin parka\ caribou skin boots\ holiday potlatch\ dancing -- music|

Section 5: Kobuk\ Cook, Mrs. Tom\ Cook, Julia\ March\ football -- caribou skin stuffed with hair\ Keller, Pat -- preacher|