Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Mary Nelson, Part 1

Mary Nelson was interviewed on August 9, 1997 by Judith Morris in Kokhanok, Alaska. In this first part of a two part interview, Mary talks about her family background, her childhood in Kokhanok, living at fish camp, summer fishing activities, and learning about sewing, preparing food, and taking care of a household from her mother.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 1998-21-06

Project: Katmai National Park
Date of Interview: Aug 9, 1997
Narrator(s): Mary Nelson
Interviewer(s): Judith Morris
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
Slideshow
There is no slideshow for this person.

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

Sections

Her personal and family history in the area and what Kokhanok was like when she was a little girl

Living at fish camp down the lakeshore from Kokhanok

Fishing for different types of fish, traveling by dogteam, and going to school through the first grade

Things she did around the house as a girl, the types of food they ate, and her father going trapping

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.

Transcript

MS. JUDITH MORRIS: I'm with Mary Nelson. And this is Judith Morris, August 9th, Saturday. Mary, you live in Kokhanok now. Where were you born? MS. MARY NELSON: I born here in Kokhanok. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: You were born in Kokhanok? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: And who were your parents? MS. MARY NELSON: My parents were Mike -- Mike Newyaka and Mary Newyaka. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: And they were some of the first people in the village? MS. MARY NELSON: Huh? MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Your parents, were they the first people in Kokhanok? MS. MARY NELSON: I -- yeah. Down -- down -- down the beach some place. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: They lived on the beach? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Where was your dad from, do you know? MS. MARY NELSON: I do not know. He never tell me from -- probably from old Iliamna over there. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Old Iliamna? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Uh-hum. MS. MARY NELSON: And I remember here in Kokhanok and over there in Newhalen. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: And in Newhalen? MS. MARY NELSON: Other side. Other side of the river. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Other side of the river? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: What about your mom? Where was she from? MS. MARY NELSON: From old Iliamna. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: She was from old Iliamna? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: And what was -- and do you know what her family name was? MS. MARY NELSON: My grandma, I don't know. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: You don't know what your grandma's name was? MS. MARY NELSON: No. No. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: What year were you born? MS. MARY NELSON: I was born 19 -- this is what I heard -- nineteen thirt -- 1938. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: 1938? MS. MARY NELSON: February 19. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: In Kokhanok here? MS. MARY NELSON: Kokhanok here, down the beach someplace. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Down by fish camp or up here? MS. MARY NELSON: No, down here. Down village -- MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Down in the village. MS. MARY NELSON: Here in village, yeah. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Where the old houses used to be? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. Where the cleaner was. There used to be old high school down here. Down there some place. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Okay. When you were a little girl, how many people were living in the village? MS. MARY NELSON: Oh. I think -- we moved here, I remember I guess is what I heard, my dad told me, 1943 or '40 -- '42 or someplace. From Kok -- Newhalen to here. Then we leave down there, here, in Kokhanok, I remember down -- down where I always put up fish down around... MS. JUDITH MORRIS: At fish camp? MS. MARY NELSON: Fish camp at that point. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Uh-hum. MS. MARY NELSON: I remember there when I was about four -- four or five years old, my mamma was not feeling good so I helped her lots. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: You were helping her lots? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Because she wasn't feeling good? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum.

MS. MARY NELSON: First when we land down -- staying down where fish camp down there, on point, we used tent there. Cache. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: A cache? MS. MARY NELSON: Cache. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Was it built up -- MS. MARY NELSON: And smokehouse. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Was it off the ground? Was it high? MS. MARY NELSON: No. Just level on the ground. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Just on the ground? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: And a smokehouse? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Did your dad build those things for you? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Did you have a stove inside the tent, or -- MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah, we got the stove inside the tent. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: And did you guys have a skiff? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: With a motor? MS. MARY NELSON: No, we just use -- we use skiff with the oar. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: With oars? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: And how many brothers and sisters did you have? MS. MARY NELSON: Oh, I didn't even quite remember this, but I heard I got three brothers. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Three brothers? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: But you didn't grow up with them? MS. MARY NELSON: No. I had -- I think I got four -- four boy now. Me at once. I remember my parents was from somebody else, his name was Alec. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Named who? MS. MARY NELSON: Alec. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Alec? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. And Newyaka. And Andrew, I think. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Andrew and Newyaka? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. Andrew Newyaka. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: And what was your dad's last name? MS. MARY NELSON: Mike Newyaka. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Mike Newyaka. That's right. Was he chief? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah, he was chief here long time. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: For a long time? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: When you were living down at the beach, was anybody else living with you? MS. MARY NELSON: Where? MS. JUDITH MORRIS: With any other families? When you were at fish camp. MS. MARY NELSON: Oh, no, by myself with my kids. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Oh, with your kids is when you -- MS. MARY NELSON: Now? MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Oh, no, when you lived with -- when your mom and dad were living here. MS. MARY NELSON: Oh. Oh, oh, yeah. I lived with my mom and dad there. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Did any other families live down there? MS. MARY NELSON: Oh, we had a lot of staying down here, rest of people's catch. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: And you would stay in Kokhanok part of the year, and then you would move down to fish camp, is that what you did, or did you spend all year at fish camp? MS. MARY NELSON: Springtime we moved down, back and forth. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Back and forth? MS. MARY NELSON: Stay. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: You moved down in your skiff or would you walk? MS. MARY NELSON: Spring -- no, no, springtime -- springtime we would go down fish camp to put up fish. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Uh-huh. Spring fish? MS. MARY NELSON: All summer long, I mean. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Did you get trout down there, too? MS. MARY NELSON: Yes, we get lot of trout down there. All kind of. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Would you take them in a seine or a net or -- MS. MARY NELSON: No. Fish sometimes, net. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Net? Would you dry those fish? How would you take care of them? MS. MARY NELSON: My mom used to split fish for those. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Even the -- MS. MARY NELSON: Dry them up outside. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Even if it wasn't salmon, they split them? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah, they split it, too, yeah.

MS. JUDITH MORRIS: What other kinds of things can you remember your mother and dad getting? What other kinds of foods would they get for you to go with the fish? MS. MARY NELSON: Oh, just the different kind of fishes. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Different kind of fishes? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. Dolly Vardens. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Pike? MS. MARY NELSON: Pike. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Where would you get the pike? MS. MARY NELSON: Oh, Copper River long time ago, in the wintertime we would get it. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: In the wintertime you would go up to Copper River? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Would you take dogs to get up there? MS. MARY NELSON: Sure. We use a lot of dogs. Dog team all the time. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Uh-hum. Uh-hum. And would your whole family go? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Or just your mom and dad? MS. MARY NELSON: My mom -- us only family. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Just the family would take off? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: And would you stay in a tent or would you come back or -- MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. We -- we stay in our houses. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: You had a cabin up there? MS. MARY NELSON: I mean down here, down in -- MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Oh, here, you had a house? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Up at Copper River did you have a tent or a cabin or anything? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah, they use a -- I remember we did use a tent. Tent, yeah. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: You used a tent up there? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: They just left it there? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. 10 by 12. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: 10 by 12 tent? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: And you would go back and forth? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Anybody else use your tent? MS. MARY NELSON: Anybody else use tents, all the time, a long time ago. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Anybody who was there could just use the tent? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. Yeah. All other peoples. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Uh-hum. Uh-hum. And so when you were a young girl, was there a school here for you? MS. MARY NELSON: Hmm. I never go to school over there. First school I remember when I was going to school over in Newhalen. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: You went -- Newhalen. Did you live with your parents or did you live with somebody -- MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Your parents moved over, too? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah, before they moved from Newhalen. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Before they moved to New -- from Newhalen? MS. MARY NELSON: From here, yeah. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Uh-hum. MS. MARY NELSON: After that when I was, I didn't quite remember rest of my -- then we moved here. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: So then you moved over here so you quit going to school because there was no school? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. After that I never did go to school. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Were you -- MS. MARY NELSON: I remember I used to, uh, the first grade. I didn't -- after that, I go to school. I knew my name, my A, B, C's. 1, 2, 3's. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: You learned in English? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Not native? MS. MARY NELSON: Native a lot. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Your parents spoke only native? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. My dad would speak English. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: If he was chief, did he do services ever? Was he a reader in the church? MS. MARY NELSON: No. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: No? MS. MARY NELSON: Just working, just worked in the church. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Just worked in the church. MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: But he didn't hold services or anything? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: So did your mom know any English? MS. MARY NELSON: I guess so, you know, just a little bit. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: A little bit of English? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Did they do -- were they reindeer herders? MS. MARY NELSON: Reindeer? MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Did your parents do reindeer? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. I just didn't remember. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: You didn't remember, but you heard them say -- MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah, I heard them. They said they run the reindeer.

MS. MARY NELSON: The reindeer, it's like horse when you go. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: They would put it up to a sleigh? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: But you never saw that? MS. MARY NELSON: I -- I remember once they do that, just like a sled, big sled. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Uh-huh. MS. MARY NELSON: And horse. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: So where did you go? MS. MARY NELSON: I just had the fun just to sit down and watch the -- MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Oh, you just watched them. MS. MARY NELSON: -- reindeer. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Uh-hum. Uh-hum. When you were a little girl, what was your day like? MS. MARY NELSON: Huh? MS. JUDITH MORRIS: When you were a little girl, did you help your mom? Did you play? MS. MARY NELSON: Yes. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Or what -- what did you do? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. I play a lot. A lot of work. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: A lot of work? What kind of work did you have to do? MS. MARY NELSON: Many things. Clean up. Split fish. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Split fish? Did you ever -- did your mom teach you how to sew? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. I sew. I didn't -- I didn't even -- only sew, that's all. I didn't sew a mukluk and stuff. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: You didn't? MS. MARY NELSON: No. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: What did you sew? MS. MARY NELSON: Clothes. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: With the sewing machine or by hand? MS. MARY NELSON: I did -- only my mom would sew on the sewing machine. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: And so you sewed by hand? MS. MARY NELSON: Sometimes you sew by hand. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Uh-hum. Did you learn how to knit as a young girl? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. They show me how to knit, but I didn't get (indiscernible) after that. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: You didn't like it? MS. MARY NELSON: I like -- I like to knit, but it doesn't (indiscernible) some thing, you know. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Uh-hum. Uh-hum. What kind of food were you eating when you were a young girl? MS. MARY NELSON: Oh, all kind of food. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Fishes and -- MS. MARY NELSON: Fish. Meat. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Did you get lots of caribou when you were a young girl? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah. Uh-hum. Any kind. Beaver. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Beaver? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: What about moose? Were there moose around then? MS. MARY NELSON: Yeah, there's a lot of moose here. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: There were -- there are a lot of moose here? MS. MARY NELSON: Uh-hum. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: What about trapping? Did your mom and dad trap? MS. MARY NELSON: Oh, yeah. My dad was a trap -- a trapper. Fox trapper. MS. JUDITH MORRIS: Where was his trapping area? MS. MARY NELSON: Oh, I remember him -- he'd go trapping.