Gabby Gregory was interviewed on November 2, 1999 by Don Callaway and Bill Schneider in Kokhanok, Alaska. In this interview, Gabby talks about living a subsistence-based lifestye, including hunting bears, beaver, moose and caribou, fishing and trapping, and changes he has seen in the weather, environment and animal populations. He also talks about changing methods of transportation for access to hunting and trapping, including use of snowmachines and All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV), and local impacts from the establishment of Katmai National Park and Preserve.
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Where his parents are from and the local geography of Kokhanok
Learning about hunting, fishing, and trapping
Hunting bear in Kamishak Bay and route back to Kukaklek
Hunting bear, caribou, and moose in the area
Trapping in the Igiugig area, buying food, and fluctuations in fish prices
Changes in environment, animals, and weather
Changes in life and languages spoken by his father
Changes in animal movements and climate
Changes in weather and changes in transportation
The introduction and increase of vehicles in area
His first snowmachine and four-wheeler
Changes in travel and hunting and the effects of Katmai National Park and Preserve establishment
Reaction of people visiting Katmai National Park and Preserve to Gabby and his friends on motor vehicles
Sportsmen in Katmai National Park and Preserve and the areas where Gabby and his father trapped
Changes in bear and fish populations from Gabby's father's generation to his own
Seasonal modes of transportation to Bruin Bay
Reestablishing his cabin and hunting birds
The older people who still eat and store bear
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BS: OK, Today is November 2nd 1999 and uh we have the pleasure...I'm uh Bill Schneider, Don Callaway is here too, and we have the pleasure of doing an interview today with Gabby Gregory... GG: mmm hmm BS: And we're here in Kokhanok and he's got a great view um looking out his window here towards uh Gull Island...which is that uh island right out there. GG: Loon Island BS: Oh, I'm sorry, Loon Island. And what's that mountain over there to its right? GG: That's uh Roadhouse Mountain is what they called it. BS: mmm hmm and how 'bout if we go further to the left a little bit? GG: Newhalen Village or... BS: ah..Newhalen Village GG: Iliamna and Newhalen . And Nondalton on the other side. BS: Yeah, you have quite a...quite a view here. GG: mmm...thanks...now its hard to get by, there's too much snow, with a three-wheeler or four-wheeler of mine. Its only the snow-go that can make it up there now, lots of snow. BS: yeah GG: mmm hmm BS: You haul firewood? GG: Yeah, right now I'm using stove. BS: yeah GG: The only time use uh firewood when I have steambath. BS: uh huh...well, let's back up a little bit and tell us a little about your parents and where they were from and what part of this country they were living in. GG: The way I understand it from Branch River, then they move up to Kukaklek. I don't know what day that was. Back in 20s maybe...or earlier. Originally there from Alagnak area...some place down there..uh huh...then I was born up in Kukaklek. At that time I don't remember that place...I was...when I started remembering I remember here, Kokhanok. When we moved down back in earlier part of 1940s. '47 or '8 somewhere. Then I moved, we moved down to same place...back in 50s I guess. Then we moved back uh Kvichak River, stayed there for about four five years then we moved to Igiugig. Stayed there for about good ten, twelve years or so. Then, from there I move up here back to where I move in...remembering uh where I'm from. Originally I'm from Kukaklek. I was born there.
BS: Why did you move up here? GG: 'Cause it's cheaper to go Anchorage from here to town. Its about two thirty round trip from here to Anchorage. BS: Did you marry and raise a family here? GG: No, I've never been married. BS: Oh GG: I'm still single yet. BS: Let's see how this sounds. BS: Tell me how you learned about hunting, fishing and trapping. GG: Oh, I always learned from my dad, my brother, and some people that uh here...watch how they put up their traps and how to catch beaver and lynx and otter...all that uh gotta use bait. When you hunt beaver you gotta cut out the branch and put 'em in the water then when the beaver goes swim around it try to cut 'em or get caught in the snare or on the trap...put two sticks like that. Tie up the trap right there, about this much from the bottom of the ice or so...so their linked BS: Maybe a foot and a half off the bottom. GG: yeah maybe less than that too as long as a shovel. about this big. BS: mmm hmm GG: its how they put the trap on when they used to hunt beaver. When you put the snare too it don't have to be far...maybe about this far. BS: Maybe uh...eight inches. GG: huh..yeah...then put the stick right on uh...right in the middle of the hole. You want to have two...two sets rigged, one snare on each side. BS: uh huh Project Jukebox Home | Katmai Home | Kokhanok | Igiugig | Levelock | South Naknek | Copyright Information
GG: When they go around, beaver get caught. That's how they used to hunt beaver. Some of em they used to hunt with rifle like .22 in springtime . Then when they hunt bear in those days they didn't have no gasoline or nothing they hunt the bear for their fat and meat. . 'Cause my dad used to go hunt way over uh Kamishak Bay springtime or falltime to catch uh bear fat and meat and all that. They bring the whole thing they had no machine, they walk or drive dogs, let the dogs pack or some...in those days. Right from Kukaklek over to Kamishak Bay...right there. Right to... BS: What uh...was their a particular route they followed. GG: Well, I don't think they had particular route they follow. Their trail, I guess, right over the mountain or something or sometime they use go up to upper. They call it Place-Above-Kukaklek, Battle Lake or...let me see BS: We're looking at the map now and trying to... GG: Yeah, right here. We had fish camp right there, somewhere they go walk right over on this side somewhere. Kamishak Bay is not showing here huh? oh yeah, right there...that's uh...I don't know which way they walk.
BS: hmm...But your dad used to talk about that. GG: mmm hmm. They have canoe here and they come up with canoe then walk over. McNeil River that's about somewhere around here maybe, they don't go all the way down... BS: yeah GG: Go up . BS: And why were they hunting bear way over there? GG: Because there hardly any bears around those days around this area. BS: ah GG: Today...there is so many of 'em. We're uh...this creek right here, Moraine Creek, one of the creek that's all over out there. Lots of bears. That's where we go hunt sometime, right here. For caribou only out there. Sometime we go this way. BS: We're looking up in Funnel Creek area and... GG: yeah, Funnel Creek around... BS: Around Mirror Lake. GG: yeah, Mirror Lake on top somewhere and ...that's when you see them. Let's see now...in August and September, that's...that's the best time to hunt them back there. There's snow, you could see 'em. Then they go over there and hunt 'em right there. We usually hunt around here too. BS: We're looking at the upper part of the preserve boundary. GG: We got cabin down here, we don't have a cabin up there anymore, 'cause our fish camp was right here somewhere. BS: We're looking at Kukaklek Lake. GG: uh huh...right above there, right...that little point. BS: uh huh...around Narrow Cove, yeah. GG: That's where our fish camp used to be back in 1940's to...maybe early part of 40's...'20 to '30, then in '40s or 50s we don't, they don't put up fish there no more, they put up fish down there. Those days when they used to drive dogs.
BS: So as you were growing up uh your father would take you out and you'd learn from other people. GG: uh huh...yeah BS: Where did you establish your trapline? GG: umm...That's down Iguigig area, around down there. Kukaklek, Pecks Creek area, that's where I usually trapped after...and right here, behind Big Mountain. BS: And do you still use that trapping area down by Igiugig? GG: No, not for 20 years now, maybe. We don't trap after price went down. In those days, my folks they only live on trapping and...fishing and trapping, hunting. Course, there were no kind of jobs in the villages. Only place they get food from over there...Iliamna. Only one store those days. Back in uh...oh... '50s, '60s. Then after '60s, their life got a little bit easier to hunt...or I mean to get food from store. Those days the only place to get from there or down Naknek area to buy like food...like sugar and flour...what else...crackers, beans. They always buy enough for sometime, for to last all winter, those days...when after they go fishing down in the Bay, they never used to get too much money for the fish. They'd buy only...buy . My dad used to fish with those , I guess, those days. When I was start fishing they were around maybe less than fifty cents a fish, when I started fishing. Then back in '70s they comin' up. Then...the price was good then from '70s down to '80. They were paying dollar something a pound...canneries did. Then after that, they collapse down to less than dollar a pound. I don't know kinda price will they get next year. I thought we'll get no dollar a pound this year when we were fishin' with my nephew. We only get maybe 70, 80 cents a pound, fish. But we's...we make enough money to pay for his loans or something. We make enough money to survive little bit.
BS: Let me ask you about some of the changes you've seen in the environment, in the animals and in the weather around here. GG: Around here there..to me...especially on this side there's hardly any caribou around, but lots of moose, lots of bears and...lots of ptarmigan...ptarmigans and rabbits around here too. But caribou, they...when there's lots of snow they move way towards Iguigig area or other side. BS: The caribou do. GG: uh huh. In wintertime there hardly much caribou, only summertime they come up...July, during July or June. That's when I would see it back there. Once in awhile they...wintertime, they come up. They go back down, caribou. They don't stay up here too well. BS: And that's because... GG: I don't know...too much snow maybe or not enough to eat. They gotta move around to go look for their food somewhere. Its pretty hard to live here, especially in wintertime. Gotta depend on moose only. Winter right now, moose and some other game like beaver, sometime porcupine, rabbits, spruce hen, ptarmigan get it for food like porcupine. I can't pass porcupine when I see it . Gotta get it... BS: mmm hmm GG: That's where I learn my hunting that kind of game, mostly porcupine. My dad told me, he said they don't pass it, he gotta get it for food.
BS: uh huh. But going back to um the early years, did your dad talk about changes in the animal population. GG: Oh, they talk about mostly they talked about would live and uh they more stricter game laws and stuff like that before he passed away, he told us that. It's true...its gettin' that way. Course, more people there doin'...especially summertime there's... BS: Hang on a sec here. GG: Wanna turn it off? Just press... BS: OK...were back on GG: ooops..heh BS: with...talking a little bit about what your father said. GG: oh...yeah. He told me that the uh the life of the people will be changed how we used to live then. It is changing a lot. Cause when I was growing up we didn't have no school until early part of '50's, then I . But my dad was...he never even go to school here. BS: hmm GG: And he was pretty good. He speak Russian, read Russian. I don't know how speak Russian, never taught me how. . Yeah, he was a reader then, in church. He could speak Slavonic, Russian language, do service in Slavonic like Russian and Yup'ik same way...spoken English language when he tried to retire...English is kinda broken up a little bit but maybe he learn some someplace when he was young... BS: yeah GG: And mostly Russians
BS: But what we were interested in is changes in animal movements in and out of the area. GG: Oh, to me, seem like more , more animals then when I used to hunt. Like caribous are more, moose are more, bears are more...but fish are kinda going down, like salmon. Sometime they have hard times where they had poor years for a couple years. So the game that's going...seem like its going down or something, during summertime fishing. BS: Do you know why that is? GG: No. They told me sometime they used to be like that during my dad's time, sometimes seasons are poor for fishing. Sometimes its up and down for fishing sockeyes. But now there's quite a few fish, like little trouts they fish...we hardly fished them with . Red salmon, when they come up, they put 'em up, put away for the winter. BS: And where did you get the red salmon? GG: Oh, right in the river. Down there by mouth of Gibraltar or even out there. Right now they're all spawned out I guess. BS: What about changes in the uh climate? Temperature, snowfall, rain...things like that. GG: To me its uh...wind is kinda gettin' more and...but bout the weather . It don't get too cold much to me. Like when I was growing up, it used to freeze this time of year.... Now it been freezing since...January, they start freezing the lake. It used the freeze around this time, middle of it, when I was young. Everybody run around out there on the ice. Not today.
BS: Danny was talking about wind too. He said there is more wind today. GG: Yeah, it is more wind today than early about time. Look, seems to be more snow. BS: More snow? GG: For a couple of years we had this much snow...beginning. But when I was younger sometimes we get lots of snow and sometimes hardly any all winter. BS: Well, that's one of the things we been asking people about is traveling, particularly up into the preserve area. Can you talk about the history of travel, in the old days there were boats and snow...and uh dog teams. GG: Old days they used to walk mostly in summertime. Take their dogs, put pack to em or when they move to the place where they wanted to stay their 'till this time year maybe when lake started freezing they came back to their village. They go hunt or something, hunt game and trap where the fur are maybe. Those days we gotta hunt quite a ways for beaver...cause they were scarce. Today's laws, nobody hunts 'em no more. Lots of beaver all over. 'Cause the price went down too...too much maybe that's why nobody want to hunt them. Fur buyers don't want to buy none either, some of 'em. BS: What about changes in transportation? GG: hmm BS: In the old days, people walked... GG: yeah BS: and some had dog teams... GG: uh huh BS: boats, some of the time. GG: Summertime they used canoe...some of 'em did. 'Course they did not know outboard since early part of '50s maybe now around here. Most of em had...didn't have much motors and machines.
BS: Well, what about the earliest wheeled vehicles you saw comin'' in? GG: Oh, happened around middle part of '60s to 70's. After 70's, uh three-wheeler and stuff come...and...what else? Lot more airplanes. BS: Did people ever use uh old trucks or Jeeps for hunting? GG: No...not around here, not that I know of. BS: huh...and on the introduction of three-wheelers and four-wheelers... GG: three-wheelers, four-wheelers, yeah cause if you hunt right now by I don't think anybody wanna do that. My mom, I mean dad, they used hunt from twenty miles them days. Pack the whole thing out. Take them about a week, couple of weeks to bring the whole meat back, everything, skin and all. Those days, today we just leave the skin, the guts, and the heads...take the meat. BS: When did you see your first snowmachine come in here? GG: Oh, that was in almost end of '50s, 'bout '58...'58 or '59. BS: And whose was that? GG: Oh, my uncle Nick had one, had wooden cage on it . ...those days. yeah... he the one that had first snowmachine I know of that . Old Ski-doo maybe. There's a frame around that in the old . Old Ski-doo frame... pick it up and put it away. BS: Where is it? GG: It's down on the beach somewhere, must be buried now. That's one , the one my uncle Nick had. BS: huh GG: First snowmachine that they built, was something like Ski-doo maybe.
BS: yeah...and when did you get your first snowmachine? GG: Oh, around middle part of '60s, '65 or so...somewhere. Then after I quit trapping I don't use them no more. Only three-wheelers and four-wheelers. First one I had is around seventy some...'75 or '74 maybe, first four-wheeler I had. BS: Why did you get a four-wheeler? GG: ...cause I liked the easy running, don't have to feed 'em . The first time you gotta buy parts, like after you used to drive dogs and you don't have to feed 'em ...only give 'em gas. BS: uh huh GG: those days. Yeah, when I was there I used to cook for maybe 20 dogs every day. That's how many dogs we had I guess between three families, four families. Last I drive dogs was maybe around '67, '67 last time we drive dogs...my old man, caribou over almost to Koktuli area. There were hardly any caribou around after that. After that, they were way out there all over...caribou. When I was growing up there were hardly any of 'em even out in Igiugig there were hardly any...they were over there. Over in Mulchatna area...was the caribou and reindeer. BS: hmmm
GG: Back that time, maybe '60s and '70s we used to catch reindeer. They were ah marked on there. There's... BS: From the old reindeer herd? GG: mmm hmm, yeah. Now you can't even that kind, maybe all gone. When we used to drive dogs too, those days, that's when we used to catch some...marked caribou, we call 'em. BS: marked caribou? GG: yeah...they were right there...I guess... BS: That's good...when you got your three-wheeler, were you using that for hunting or just running around the village? GG: Oh, mostly hunting and gather wood or... BS: yeah GG: haul your stuff around. BS: How did that change your travel when you were going out hunting? GG: Uh...a lot easier than getting tired of walking, packing your stuff or...right now you cant use em hardly. Gotta use snowmachine. Unless you got pack down trail, then you can with three-wheeler, four-wheeler. Like, mine out there, when I'm broke down now, this one I got is only two wheel drive its hard to drive it with out trail. Gotta have a trail already made then you can make it. BS: mmm hmm GG: yeah, coming up I go full board to get up here with two wheel drive. BS: You get going pretty fast, huh? GG: Yeah, if you go slow, you can't make it up the hill ..yeah BS: Well, how has your life changed with the establishment of the preserve? GG: Oh, its kinda scaresome sometime there. People...like hunters maybe out there. Hunters like white man hunters they complain when they see us up there trying to catch a caribou or something. We don't use it all the time, the only time we use it is that time like August, September. There is two months there for caribou only, back there. Sometime maybe bear, if you want bear. Of course we don't hunt...there's no moose back there much. Gotta be on the timber side to catch moose.
BS: But you said that uh people scare you when you're up there? GG: Oh, the lodge owners they sometime see people...they don't scare us, they tell us...tell park service people about it, I guess. That's how we...one time when we were up there at that creek area or was that Moraine Creek uh Funnel Creek area, yeah...that's Mirror Lake right there. That's where uh the airplanes always land and do fishing...sport fishing. BS: Mirror Lake GG: uh huh. Right in the park area, huh. BS: And what happened that time...do you remember? GG: Oh, they never do nothing. They just run. First time they ever see ...Hondas around there. There were three four of us going for...huntin' for caribou. We never see them, then run into the fishermens. Then they...one of them fishermen run down ...machines at that time, I guess. BS: Why did they run do you suppose? GG: I don't know. The first time ever seen machines in that area, I guess. Course they flew up to that area go fishing and...sport fishing. Hardly pass this mountain here somewhere. Sometime we had to go way up in those two little mountains. BS: Up by Emerald Lake there. GG: mmm hmmm BS: uh huh GG: Look at that lake, oh that's another one right there, that's the one we...got...that one lake right there. BS: uh... GG: That's the one.
BS: Spectacle Lake...so you think the establishment of the preserve has brought people into that area? Is that what you're saying? GG: uh...I don't know. I cant see why sportsmen go there and fish in the park area. BS: I don't know. GG: uh...That's the way...if we want to go fishing without hunting I guess we could... BS: Go fishing? GG: Or they can't be around...gotta walk or something...yeah uh I can't walk that far. Not today. BS: OK, we're back on... DC: Gabby uh tell us about uh your trapping with your dad around Kukaklek Lake. GG: uh hmm DC: When would you do it? What would you catch? GG: Oh, those days we catch beaver, when beaver season , mink season , hunt mink in those creeks there, below somewhere that little creek there. Mink and otter...and no wolf. DC: All around the south side of Kukaklek Lake... GG: Yeah, there and... DC: up by the Alagnak River, down Narrow Cove towards Battle Lake... GG: uh huh...and sometime he go Nanvianuk when its frozen with the dogs, go trap lynx or wolverine. DC: Let me show you this map here uh, Gabby. BS: We're looking at Judy Morris' Katmai National Park and Preserve Wild and Scenic River Alagnak. DC: So um you're trapping area would be the south side of uh Kukaklek and sometimes you go down to Nonvianuk. Would you ever go to the other side of Nonvianuk? GG: No DC: No GG: Not me, maybe my dad was...I don't... DC: uh OK.
DC: How bout uh any...this is uh I guess the uh Alagnak coming in here. You trapped there sometimes? GG: Yeah, I trapped there. My dad used to hunt those days with around '20s to '30s to hunt bear...the McNeil River area, to catch the bears though, those days. DC: oh GG: Course there were hardly any bear at my time when I were younger...hard to catch bear. Gotta go quite a ways to get bear those days. DC: How many fish would you catch in a year now, Gabby? And where would you catch them? And... GG: Oh in my young days they used to catch lots enough to feed the dogs for a whole winter and today we only catch around two three hundred fish to put away for eating...that's all...or freeze 'em. DC: Where would you catch these fish? These subsistence fish. GG: Oh, Gibraltar, we don't go way over there now as far as Gibraltar or uh...right there and right there sometime up uh below Pedro Bay. Right now there's some fish up there, right in this area. BS: How do you, how do you know there are fish up there and at this time of year and... GG: Right there...spawning out fish, where they spawned out and there some that don't die right away. Like up Gibraltar too, it don't die until maybe first part of December, when there's no...not much water up there. I don't know bout this year but there's too much water...maybe they're dying off now, after they spawn...the red fish.
DC: How bout uh do you in the last ten years or so have you gone over to Katchemak Bay...Kamishak Bay, I mean. GG: Well, I never been there. DC: Never been there. GG: All I've been up to Bruin Bay...and that's far as I go. Here or Amakdedori...the two places I been there. I never been that area, McNeil River. DC: How would you get there? Would you take a four-wheeler? BS: Bruin Bay GG: Wintertime or springtime with snow-go. You can't make it over there with a Honda...too rough. Snow-go. Dog team one time, pretty early...back in '60s maybe went to Bruin Bay, right there. Went over there for nothin', just go look. yeah, right there, with dogs. DC: Now on this map where do you take moose most of the time now? GG: Right now well we go Dennis Creek or behind Big Mountain or up here somewhere...yeah. Sometime you catch em right there, right around here. Around the timberline...like... DC: Do you catch any moose, I know you said you mostly got caribou in the northern part of the reserve. GG: I've been up there for I don't know how long, I never seen moose yet. The only place I see moose is around lower part of Kukaklek around here somewhere...summertime I...when I was up flying around with my buddy I was seeing some moose there. Fly around...Mirror Lake, Moraine Creek...probably the lower part, where the brush are. But this area got lots of bear. BS: Moraine Lake? GG: mmm hmm
DC: If you could reestablish your cabin, Gabby, what would you use it for? A fish camp or...? GG: Oh, maybe fish camp or...just scenery or something. DC: Place to stay. GG: uh huh...wintertime. DC: ah ha GG: yeah...summertime...now I wonder if I could put a cabin there in our fish camp. They used to have a mud cabin like, not real cabin.,.that kind that fell down. Our smokehouse too is...fell down. DC: Now you haven't trapped in 20 years you say? GG: yeah, about 20 years. DC: How bout birds? Where do you take uh birds? GG: Oh, we just go down Igiugig or springtime is only time we go hunt, there's hardly any birds like geese up here. Gotta go down Kvichak River, springtime. Go down with skiff, or fly down. Springtime...hunt geese. But you could catch a maybe mallard or two round here...yeah. There's hardly any geese. Once in a while they fly by...springtime you could catch them...not very many. They don't show off every day when they come in. They go way up there...out of reach . Same thing when they go back. They're way up there, could see 'em.
DC: Do you still eat bear, Gabby? GG: Yeah. DC: Do you hunt bear? GG: Near the springtime yeah...right now, never hunt bear yet. They all in hibernation. DC: How many people in the community still eat bear meat do you think? GG: Oh, quite a few. The older people like me, guess the guys who born with it. The young ones I don't think they eat 'em. They live on chicken and . DC: Do you use the bear fat to store? GG: uh huh. Bear fat for use it for something like fish. When you eat fish, you used to bear fat. But uh bear...bear meat's good with this fat on. We don't catch hardly any black bear around here. Gotta go up towards Pedro Bay. DC: uh huh